Before you can even think about mastering Spanish grammar and Spanish vocabulary, you’ve got to learn the Spanish alphabet.
If you ever want to read or write letters, poems or text messages in Spanish, among all sorts of other written messages (spoiler: you do), the Spanish alphabet is your blueprint for success as you learn Spanish.
Knowing the Spanish alphabet is also important for understanding Spanish pronunciation. When you know what sound each letter makes, you can more easily read words out loud, and you can infer how words are spelled just by hearing them spoken.
Keep reading to learn more about the Spanish alphabet.
What Is The Spanish Alphabet?
The Spanish alphabet, called el alfabeto or el abecedario, is the collection of letters that make up the Spanish writing system. It uses a Latin script, the same used by speakers and writers of English and many other world languages.
Depending on whom you’re asking, the Spanish alphabet has anywhere between 27 and 30 letters — that’s the 26 letters of the English alphabet plus at least 1 (and some people include up to 4) extra characters. We’ve included the Spanish alphabet, including the four extra letters — well, all but one are actually pairs of letters — in the table below for your reference.
The Spanish Alphabet: Sounds And Letters
Here you can see all 30 letters of the Spanish alphabet, their Spanish names, and their English phonetic pronunciations.
The table above includes the four extra letters that are often included in the Spanish alphabet: ch, ll, ñ and rr. In some cases, only ñ is included in the Spanish alphabet because the other three characters are actually written as and considered combinations of other letters. However, these combinations have different sounds than the letters that make them up, so many Spanish-speakers include them as part of the Spanish alphabet. To be able to read and write words in Spanish, it’s essential to learn to pronounce these sounds anyways, even if you don’t technically include them in the Spanish alphabet.
Certain letters don’t appear naturally in the Spanish language but are included in the Spanish alphabet because they show up in loanwords from other languages. The Spanish letters k and w only appear in borrowed words like el whisky (“whisky”), making them rare to find in Spanish words.
The Pronunciation Of The Spanish Alphabet
Luckily for those learning Spanish, each letter of the Spanish alphabet typically has one and only one pronunciation, making Spanish spelling much more uniform than that of English, which can be inconsistent and downright nonsensical sometimes. (Think about how a non-English speaker might struggle with words like “cough,” “colonel” and “knight.”) That makes it easy to know how to say a Spanish word aloud just by looking at it.
Be aware that certain letters do change sounds, however, when combined with other particular letters. For example, the letter g before a, o, or u sounds like the hard g sound in the English “gate,” but it sounds like the h sound in English when before e or i in words like género or girafa.
For more examples and to learn in more detail about how the letters of the Spanish alphabet are pronounced — and other sounds in Spanish — check out our guide to pronunciation in Spanish.