How to pronounce the h in Spanish?… Read the following story:
I’m enjoying a private Spanish lesson with one of my American students, and as I tell him a story in Spanish, words come and go helping the student increase and practice vocabulary…
The story that we are discussing talks about a pilot who buys a new helicopter.
I decide to make an easy question, so I say:
“¿Qué compró el piloto?”
My student knows the answer pretty well, it is obvious, and so he goes on and replies:
“El piloto compró un helicóptero.”
His pronunciation is good, though he makes a small mistake.
My student says the word “helicóptero” using the same sound that he uses for the h in English.
Before I help my student understand that the letter “h” sounds different in Spanish, I realize that I have given this explanation many times in the past.
How could I help more English speaking students to learn to use the “h” in Spanish?
That’s when I realized that I needed to write about this topic:
During this blog post, I’ll be talking about how to use the “h” in Spanish as well as some examples for you to practice at home.
How to pronounce the h: it is mute
I know in English the letter ‘H’ has a clear sound which indicates when this letter lives in a word.
This sound is the first one you make when you say words like:
Now in Spanish, the h is called “Hache”, and most of the time doesn’t sound in any way, for example:
Hacer = to do or to make.
- Habla”= To speak
- Helicóptero= helicopter
- Helado= Ice-cream
- Hielo = Ice
- Hijo = Son
- Héroe = Hero
- Hipócrita = Hypocrite
- Hueco = Hole
- Humilde = Humble
We also see the mute ‘H’, when it is in the middle of the word, here are some examples:
- Ahora = now
- Ahí = There
- Deshacer = Undo
- Alcohol = Alcohol
- Ahogar = To Drown
- Bohemio = Bohemian
- Ahorrar = To save
- Coherente = Coherent
- Exhaustiva = Exausted
- Anhelo = To desire
How to pronounce the h: La ‘Che’
There’s only one case where the ‘H’ has a sound in Spanish, it’s when there’s a “C” before the “H”, so it becomes the “CH”.
This combination is often called the “CHE”, and it sounds just like it does in English, with a little variation depending on the Spanish accent, but in general it sounds very similar.
Here are some examples:
- Chequear = To check
- Cheque = A check
- Bizcocho = Biscuit
- Hacha = Axe
- Antorcha = Torch
- Chelo = Cello
- Cucaracha = Cockroach
- Coche = Car
- Derrochar = To waste
- Chocolate = Chocolate
How will you master this?
What you just learned about the ‘h’ is very useful when you read in Spanish.
You can practice this by reading easy stories in Spanish, blog posts or looking for Spanish material to read.
However, pronunciation must be learned by using listening and lots of repetition.
You shouldn’t even be aware of the existence of the “H”.
Just listen and repeat the words.
Don’t read them: Just listen and repeat.
Think of you as a little child who is just learning to speak and listens to his parents speak all the time.
Of course, in your case, you won’t be hearing your parents, but you will be listening to real Spanish.
Bottom line is: focus on listening and you will master the pronunciation of any letter.
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