Posted by: janecronin | January 14, 2012

Spanish pronunciation for English speakers The letter H


Well for once I’ve got relatively little to say about the pronunciation of a Spanish letter, and this is because the letter H in Spanish is silent.  This is why our greeting “hola” sounds just like “ola”  and the well known verb to speak “hablar” likewise sounds like “ablar”.   This statement on my part is usually followed by someone asking – so why have an “h” at all then?  There is an answer to this but it’s all to do with the history and development of words from Latin and other languages.  The answer I prefer to give is that, if you think the silent H in Spanish is a problem, what about all those silent letters in English (lamb, debt, half, light, psychology) which don’t seem to follow any particular rule at all!  Also, isn’t it odd that in English sometimes we pronounce the H and sometimes we don’t, as in “hour”, but “how”.  Our class system even comes into this a bit, as some posh people still say “otel” while the rest of us say “hotel”.   English is a strange language.

So meanwhile back at the Spanish language, if the H is always silent, this applies in the middle of words as well as at the end.  A favourite word is alcohol which therefore sounds like “alcol”, and that wonderful word for carrot that everyone struggles with “zanahoria”, which sounds like “zanaoria”  (with the main beat of the word on the “o”).   You need to be able to ask for them, otherwise you might become vitamin deficient.

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