If you had recently arrived in an English-speaking country and were faced with having to learn to read and write the language, you would be faced with a monumental task. Words like "knight", and "knowledge" and "pheasant" would be enough to discourage even the most determined student. Consider yourself lucky that you have already learned the language! In English, each of the vowels and amny of the consonants have different ways of being pronounced and for just about any "rule" there are a half-a-dozen "exceptions". So, don't despair! Spanish is a cinch to read, write and pronounce. It is pronounced exactly as it is written and conversely, it is written just as it is pronounced. Perhaps that is why there are no torturous "spelling bees" in Spanish-speaking countries: if you can pronounce a word, you can spell it out correctly! You see, in Spanish, every letter is pronounced which is why it is so simple to convert vocal Spanish to written words.

The most important part of spoken Spanish is the pronunciation of the vowels. It is this one aspect of Spanish that separates the tourist from the native. If you pronounce the language correctly, it will encourage you to speak it confidently.

Spanish pronunciation of the vowels differs from that in English. You will need to rework your brain cells a bit in order to get it right but the good news is that in Spanish, like in English, there are only five vowels. The even better news is that they are always pronounced exactly the same way. Compared to English where, for example, the "a" must be pronounced differently for "apple" than it is for "acorn" or "awful", you will find that in Spanish is a snap!.

Although the clock is ticking,let's take a moment to have a look at this most important part of Spanish pronunciation. We will still have plenty of time left to learn the thousands upon thousands of Spanish words you were promised on the main page.

The Vowels

In Spanish, there are five vowels:
a, e, i, o, u
Learn these five sounds and you will be able to proounce any word in Spanish correctly.
"a" Pronounced "aah" as in "far" or "father"
"e" Pronounced "eh" as in "men" or "Mexico"
"i"Pronounced "ee" as in "free" or "see"
"o" Pronounced "oh" as on "coke". It is very curt sound. Place your mouth as if to pronounce "OH" but don't move you jaw or lips and force a quick, short grunt. It's like taking the "w" off of "mow".
"u" Pronounced "ooh" as in "moo" or "too". When preceded by a "q" (unless th "u" is followed by an "a") the "u" is silent. More on this later (see quirk #7).
Every language has its own intrinsicacies and Spanish is no exception. Apart from the pronunciation of the vowels, there are others characteristics that make Spanish different from English. Thankfully, as you will see in the next chapters, there also many things that make it the same. We will refer to these differences as quirks. They constitute an integral part of Spanish pronunciation and at some point you will need to learn them. However, there is no need to memorize them right now because in later chapters we will refer back to them whenever they appear. If you aren't in a race with the clock then, go ahead, take a look!

Quirk #1.
The Spanish stealth letter.

The "h" is silent (not pronounced) unless it is preceded by a "c", in which case it sounds like "ch" in English [i.e. chicken, Charlie]. Hercules is pronounced EHR-COO-LESS.

Quirk #2.
I smile when I'm jappy.

The "j" in Spanish is pronounced like an "h" in English [i.e. happy]. José (Joseph in Spanish) is pronounced HO-SEH. There is no "J" sound in Spanish. Instead, substitute "y" for "j" - Major, in Spanish is Mayor.

Quirk #3.
You could have phooled me!

There is no "ph" combination in Spanish. It sounds like an "f", it is an "f" [i.e. "phobia" in Spanish is "fobia"]. The same applies to other tricky English combinations like "kn", "pf", "pn", "gh", "wh" or "cz". Isn't that a relief?

Quirk #4.
Spanish is cimple.

As in English, the "c" sounds like a "k" unless it precedes an "i" or an "e", in which case it souns llike an "s". ("Taco" is pronounced TAH-KOE and "Gracias" is pronounced GRA-SEE-AHS which means thank you).

Quirk #5.
Fuel up at the Espanish gas estation.

Words that in English begin with "Sp", "Sc" or "St" in Spanish these are precede by an "E" [i.e. Special becomes Especial]. That's why is called Español!

Quirk #6.
A half-dozen, glazed thoughnuts.

You guessed it. The "d" in Spanish is pronounced like a soft "th", as in "those" (not as in "path") and a good reason for there not to be any double-d's in Español.

Quirk #7.
Antibiotics kill herms.

A "g", when followed by an "e" is pronounced like an "h" in English. Otherwise, it's just a "g", as in "garden".

Quirk #8.
Everything else is the zame.

The "z" in Spanish is always pronounced like an "s", as in "set". (Unless you are in Madrid where they pronounce it "th", as in lithp). Plain and zimple. OK. get ready, get zet, go!

Quirk #9.
Wilhem, Wasser & Wunderbar.

You will find it in the alphabet but there is no "w" in modern Spanish with the exception of some "foreign" words, mostly of German extraction. Some academicians call this letter the double-V and others insist that is the double-U. In either case, if you run across it in Spanish, pronounce it like you would in English. There is no "wh" combination in Spanish.

Quirk #10.
Mexico, Texas and Xochimilco.

The "x" in Spanish is a mess. When it is between two vowels it is pronounced like an "h" in English. ("Mexico" is pronounced MEH-HEE-COE). If it is followed by a consonant it is pronounced like an "x" ("texto", Spanish for "text" is pronounced TEXT -TOE). Sometimes, in words derived from native languages such as Náhuatl or Chichimecan, it is pronounced like an "s" or even as "sh".

Quirk #11.
The Grand Cañon.

In Spanish, there is an "ñ". Alphabetically, it follows the "n" but the pronunciation of this odd letter is different. In English, you would pronounce it EN-YEH and it is equivalent to the "ny" sound, as in "Canyon". There is a capital "Ñ" and a lower case "ñ". The Spanish word "niño" (boy) is pronounced NEEN-YO.

Quirk #12.
Tie it in a not. (Also see quirk #5).

There is no "k" in Spanish except in some "foreign" words like Koala, although it is in the alphabet. When you run across it, pronounce it like a "k" in English. The "K" sound is achieved in Spanish with the "Q" when it is followed by either "ue" or "ui". In both cases, the "u" is silent. "Que" is pronounced KEH and "Qui" is pronounced kee. When "Q" is followed by "UA" (qua), both vowels are pronounced. resulting KOO-AH. "Torque" in Spanish is also "Torque"

Quirk #13.
Of yams and llamas.

There are two ways of achieving the "y" sound in Spanish and essentially it is pronounced in Spanish as you would in English (as in Mayan). It's called "i griega" (Greek "i"). Some words achieve the "y" sound through the use of the double "L" ["LL"] which is also considered a single letter in the Spanish alphabet (following "L") and pronounced EH-YEH. The llama, that delightful Peruvian herbivore, is pronounced "LA-MA" by English-speaking folks but is pronounced "YAMA" in Spanish.

The Consonants

You will be delighted to learn that, except as noted in the quirks, the consonants are pronounced in Spanish just as you would in English. That is, a B, an M or a P are still just B, M and P and this applies to all the rest of the consonants. In Spanish words every letter is pronounced and you won't come across any strange stuff like "phlegm", "night", "chrome" or "gnat". As noted, if it sounds like an "f", it is an "f" and that goes for all those other strange letter combinations.

Also, with te exception of the double-L ("ll" - quirk #3), the double-c ("cc") and the double-r ("rr"), there are no repeated consonants in Spanish!

Out the window go the double F's, double G's, double M's, double N's, double P's, double S's and double T's that haunt English [i.e. afford, aggravate, emmanate, penny, apply, essay, attorney]. One "f", "g", "m", "n", "p", "s"or "t" is all that is needed.

So much for the consonants.

Stresses & Accents

Everything you ever wanted to know about accents (but were afraid to ask). You don't really need to know this yet but it will certainly help your pronunciation! There are no intelligible rules for stressing certain syllables in English words and you pretty well need to learn each word individually. In Spanish, however, it's either Rule 1, Rule 2 or neither of them. Look how simple it really is:

Rule 1: A word ending in N, S or a vowel receives stress onthe next to last Syllable (except words ending in ...ion).
Spanish   English
dentista (stress tis) dentist
posible (stress si) posible
argumento (stress men) argument
primitivo (stress ti) primitive
prudente (stress den) prudent
glorioso (stress rio) glorious
Rule 2: When a word does not end in N, S or a vowel, it receives stress on the last syllable:
Spanish   English
postal (stress tal) postal
cervical (stress cal) cervical
tractor (stress tor) tractor
circular (stress lar) circular
capital (stress tal) capital
espectacular (stress lar) spectacular
Rule 3: Any word that does not follow either RULE 1 or RULE 2 is an irregular word and therefor must have a written stress, that is, it must have an accent. Words ending in...ión receive an accent on the last syllable (always over the vowel).
Spanish   English
república re--bli-ca republic
nación na-ción nation
lógico -gi-co logic
fanático fa--ti-co fanatic
pasión pa-sión passion

That covers most of it. Don't panic! You will see as we go along that it isn't as difficult as it might appear .

A (tiny) bit of Grammar

We will get into more grammar later on in the book, once you have learned the thousands of words that you were promised. However, this curious fact you should know: Spanish is, in certain ways, a mirror-image of English.
In English, the adjective comes before the noun.
[i.e. "large house"]

In Spanish, the adjective comes after the noun.
[i.e. "casa grande"]

If you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of sense. You do not need to wait around for all the adjectives before knowing what it is you're talking about it.
i.e.: "I couldn't hold on to the squiggly, slimey, wriggling, jumping, slippery fish!"

The Spanish Alphabet

The Alphabet in Spanish is much like the alphabet in English. It's called the "ALFABETO", and includes the three extra letters we have reviewed (CH, LL and Ñ) Remember that, although the "K" and the "W" form part of the Alfabeto, there are very few words in Spanish that include these letters and most of these are "foreign" words.
This is what the Alfabeto looks like:


The Rules (How this book works)

A bit of History: English and Spanish share an enormous common ground. Both languages are derived from ancient languages, primarily what we will call here Indo-European. English was developed from many more derivatives of Indo-European than was Spanish, but both share a considerable influence of Latin, Hellenic, Arabic and other Mediterranean languages. The principle departure is Germanic, which has had much influence in modern English but very little in modern Spanish. However, it will astound you to learn just how many words in English are practically the same as their Spanish counterparts, with only a slight difference in spelling, and how many are exactly the same!
The Method: Words that are similar in two languages are technically known as cognates. These words might have slight differences in their spelling, usually in the ending of the words, but since they have derived from the same roots, the meaning is nearly always the same. There are thousands upon thousands of cognates in the English language and those which will occupy us here are English-Spanish cognates. In the pages ahead, you will find that by simply altering the ending of an English word, you will know the Spanish equivalent of that word. In some cases, even the ending is the same!
In order to catalog these endings in an easy-to-understand fashion, we have referred to these different word-endings as RULES and they appear roughly in the order of their accuracy. Some RULES are more accurate than others; that is, there are fewer exceptions. Also, some RULES apply to a much larger number of English words than do others. Those that apply to the largest number of words are listed here as MAJOR RULES and those haüng fewer number of English equivalents are listed as MINOR RULES.
The first fourteen RULES apply to far more than twenty thousand English words (hence the title of this book) and are known here as the MAJOR RULES. Thousands more word-endings are covered under the MINOR RULES. Since you already know the words, because you speak English, all you need to learn are the RULES!
This book is the result of considerable research and is intended to teach you - as promised- virtually thousands of words in Spanish by using your knowledge of English. If you are an average reader, you will "learn" hundreds of words per minute!. You will know common words and obscure ones as well, including nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. The extent of your English vocabulary is the only limitation to how many Spanish words you will know! It is not within the scope of this book to teach you grammatical usage beyond recognizing words genders, conjugating verbs, using articles, and forming simple sentences in Spanish. It ls intended to teach you enough useful words to be able to communicate in the language. When you finish this book, you should deservedly marvel at your new-found knowledge and you should want to pursue learning the language fluently.
You are ready now to learn some Español!

"The ice borrows its substances from the river, it is indeed the actual water of the river itself - and yet it is not the river. A child, seeing the ice, thinks that the river exists no more, that its course has been arrested. But this is only an ilusion. Under the layer of ice, the river continues to flow down to the plain. Should the ice break, one sees the water suddenly bubble up as it goes gushing and murmuring on its way. This is an image of the stream of language. The written tongue is the film of ice upon its waters; the stream which still flows under the ice that imprisons it is the popular and natural language; the cold which produces the ice and would fain restrain the flood is the stabilizing action exeñed by grammarians and pedagogues; and the sunbeam which gives language its liberty is the indomitable force of life, triumphing over rules, and breaking the fetters of tradition".