Learning the alphabet is the absolute basis to learning a language. In order to be able to read and write, you need to know how to pronounce different letters. Some languages, like English, have lots of different rules to memorize when it comes to pronunciation. In Spanish, every letter makes the same sound consistently, except for “g” and “c”, which sometimes sound different. Why is that? We’ll show you!
Spanish is a phonetic language
Spanish is what scholars call a phonetic language, meaning you can figure out how to pronounce words by just looking at it. That’s also why accent marks are so useful! They tell you exactly where stress needs to be on words that break the rules for stress patterns.
Of course, there always seems to be an exception, doesn’t there? All letters make the same sound, except the letters “c” and “g”, which have two different sounds.
“C” and “G” sound different in predictable ways
Don’t worry, even though these letters might make different sounds, there is a simple trick to be able to know what sound they make in any given context. Like most languages, Spanish has gone through lots of transformations over the years, and influence from different languages has caused these two letters to represent two sounds.
First, we need to make a distinction between soft and hard sounds. For the letter “c”, it’s soft when it sounds like an English “s”, and it’s hard when it makes a “k” sound. For the letter “G”, it’s soft when it makes an English “h” sound, and it’s hard when it makes an English “g” sound, as in “goat”.
Soft after e or i, hard after a, o, u
The sound “c” and “g” make depends on the letter that comes after. If they are followed by an i or an e, they make a soft sound, and when followed by an a, o or u, they make a hard sound. Let’s practice!
Try pronouncing these two words, paying attention to the rule we just learned:
Both of these words use the soft and hard version of the letters! “Gigante” sounds like “he-GAN-tay”, and “circo” sounds like “seer-co”.
Next time you come across a new word with a “c” or a “g”, remember these rules and you’ll be able to decode it like a pro!