New words are easy to pronounce in Spanish thanks to their vowels. There are only 5 vowel phonemes (sounds) in Spanish and they are each only pronounced one way. English has the same 5 vowels, but they are pronounced 12 different ways (I live well. vs. I went to see a live show of that band.) Below, you will find the phoneme (outlined in /slant brackets/), an approximate pronunciation guide, and examples words.

Vowel Pronunciation

In general, all vowels are shorter in Spanish than in English. Take the letter "O" for example. When we say the letter "O" in English, it sounds a little like "Oooohwa." In Spanish, it is much shorter, almost like the sound a gorilla would make: "Oh." Keep this in mind when practicing your Spanish vowels. You’ll sound much more native with short vowels rather than long southern-belle vowels.

Spanish Vowel Sounds  English Example  Spanish Example
/a/ = "ah" father, saw papa, agua
/e/ = "eh" met, bed esperanza, bebe
/i/ = "ee" bee, leaf sí, chica
/o/ = "oh" low, know loco, bonito
/u/ = "oo" sue, do grupo, futuro


Now that you know the 5 basic vowel sounds, you can sound out any combination. When you see two vowels next to each other, one strong (a, e, o) and one weak (i, u) or two weak vowels, all you have to do is combine the two vowels you see into one syllable; this is called a diphthong. To practice pronouncing a diphthong, make the sound for the first vowel, and then the second one. Then repeat faster and faster until it sounds like one syllable.

Spanish Diphthongs Approximate Pronunciation Spanish Examples
au /a/ + /u/ = "ow!" au-la, aun-que
ai, ay /a/ + /i/ = "ay ay ay!" ai-re, hay
eu /e/ + /u/ = * this sound doesn't exist in English, but is kind of similar to "eeew!" Eu-ro-pa, neu-tro
ei, ey /e/ + /i/ = "hey" rei-na, rey
ia /i/ + /a/ = "yah!" pia-no, ha-cia
ie /i/ + /e/ = "yeck!" tie-rra, ser-pien-te
io /i/ + /o/ = "yo yo" ra-dio, u-nn
iu /i/ + /u/ = "you" viu-da, ciu-dad
oi, oy /o/ + /i/ = "toy" boi-na, hoy
ua /u/ + /a/ = "water" a-gua, cua-dro
ue /u/ + /e/ = "wet" fue-go, true-no
ui /u/ + /i/ = "wee!" fui-mos, huir
uo /u/ + /o/ = "whoa" cuo-ta, in-di-vi-duo

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Category: pronunciation | Keywords: diphthongs