Improve your Spanish pronunciation | Getting the sounds right: S & Z

“I want to improve my Spanish pronunciation!”. If you can agree with that statement, keep reading. Today, we continue our series in Spanish pronunciation. We’re going to take a look at one of the pair of sounds that causes more confusion in non-native speakers: S & Z.

La letra S

This is the easiest sound in Spanish right? Well, not always.

In English, there are two different types of s: the first one is like a snake, the second one is like a fly. To hear the difference, just notice what happens in your vocal chords when you pronounce these two words in English: sit, wise.

If you can’t tell the difference, put your hand on your throat and emphasize the “s” in each word. In the first one (sit), the vocal chords shouldn’t vibrate, kind of like the sound made by a snake. In the second one (wise), the chords should vibrate and sound more like a fly.

Well, in Spanish it is simpler: we only have one sound for the letter s. It is the S of the snake, without vibration.

Want to practice? Read this tongue twister aloud and compare with the recording:

La letra C

Next up, letter C. It has 2 distinct sounds in Spanish, which depend on the letter right after it.

CA/CO/CU: With these vowels, and any other consonant, the sound is /k/. For example:

CE/CI: With vowels E and I, the sound is different in Northern Spain in Latin America. In the North of Spain, it is pronounced as a strong /th/, like in thing. In Latin América, it is pronounced like a soft /s/, just like in sing.

In Northern Spain
In Southern Spain and Latin America

Dare to try this tongue twister?

In Northern Spain
In Southern Spain and Latin America

La letra Z

The sound of this letter is always the same. It’s pronunciation is the same as for ce/ci above. That’s why, it also depends on the country you’re from. In northern Spain, it will sound like /th/ in thing, in Latin America, it will sound like an S.

In Northern Spain
In Southern Spain and Latin America

Ready for the last test? Try reading this sentence as fast as you can:

In Northern Spain
In Southern Spain and Latin America

How did it go? Did it help you improve your Spanish pronunciation? Comment below and follow us on Instagram for more Spanish practice.


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