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What is the strongest vowel?

Spanish Pronunciation Key

The vowels a , e , and o are «strong» vowels, and i and u are «weak». Where two vowels fall together, the following rules affect syllable division and accentuation:

  1. A weak + strong combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the strong vowel. ac e ite , ci e rra , c a usa .
  2. A weak + weak combination belongs to one syllable with the stress falling on the second vowel. vi u da , fu i mos , dilu i r
  3. A strong + strong combination is divided into two syllables. bom — be — ar , po — le — a , em — ple — o
  4. If the word has an accent mark, then that syllable is stressed. fl ú ido , d í a , enc í as


a — like the a in f a ther

e — for a syllable ending in a vowel, like the e in th e y ; for a syllable ending in a consonant, like the e in g e t

i — like the i in mach i ne

o — for a syllable ending in a vowel, like the o in v o te ; for a syllable ending in a consonant, like the o in p o t

u — like the u in r u le ; silent after q and in the groups gue and gui

y — When used as a vowel, such as in the words y and voy , it is pronounced like the Spanish i .


ai, ay — like the i in s i de

au — like the ou in f ou nd

ei, ey — like the ey in th ey

eu — like the vowel sounds in may-you

oi, oy — like the oy in b oy


i, y — like the y in y es . Examples: bien, hielo

u — like with w in w ell . Examples: huevo, fuente, agua


b, v — When found at the beginning of a word or following a consonant, these are pronounced like a b . Otherwise, they have a sound which falls somewhere inbetween the English b and v sounds.

c — before a consonant or a , o , or u , like the c in c at ; before e or i like an s

ch — like the ch in ch ur ch . Historically, the Spanish ch has been treated as a separate letter although this has recently been changed. Therefore, many dictionaries list words beginning with ch after the c ‘s and before the d ‘s.

d — like the English d except between vowels and following l or n where pronounced like the th in th is

f — like the f in f or

g — before e or i , like the Spanish j ; otherwise like the g in g et

j — like an h but stronger; silent when at the end of a word

ll — like the y in y ou

n — like an n ; except where it appears before a v , like an m

ñ — like the n in o n ion

q — like a k ; always followed by a silent u

r — pronounced with a strong trill at the beginning of a word and following an l , n , or s ; very little trill when at the end of a word; and medium trill in other positions

rr — strongly trilled

s — before consonants b , d , g , l , m , n , like a z ; otherwise like an s

w — usually like a v

x — when between vowels, like the x in bo x ; before a consonant, like an s

y — like the y in y es

What is the strongest vowel?


Teaching Strong & Weak Vowel Sounds

  1. Water guns! — Often in September we get some beautiful weather (here’s to hoping!) so let’s keep our learning outdoors! I created a sheet which I laminated and then the pupils had to ‘squirt’ the correct sounds as I said them. This provided lots of fun and can be adapted for a range of learning objectives.
  2. Using cars/fine motor skills activities to trace the different vowel letter sounds — The children loved the inductive toy car which traced our letters- not only did it help us with our vowel sounds by seeing who’s raced over the sound the quickest BUT it also supported our letter formations! Printing out letters or challenging the children to create the sounds you say using a range of materials. buttons/ Pom poms/ cut out pieces of paper. the list is endless.
  3. Play letter sound bumps — Children only sit down when you say the weak or strong vowel sounds. This can be adapted and developed into so many different ways.
  4. Connect Four — Children have to play together to take it in turns to connect four different vowel letter sounds.
  5. Build a flower — Children to build a flower with the petals all having a different picture on it of the strong/weak sounds. This can be adapted and involve challenges with some petals blank for children to create their own words/drawings to match in with the same sound.
  6. Letter vowel sounds- I Spy game — Fill a bottle with rice (could be coloured) and objects to encourage development by having objects which have weak and strong vowel sounds. Children can identify these.
  7. Sound hunt — Go on a sound hunt, this can incorporate directional language and map reading skills to find the correct ‘vowel sounds’.
  8. Creating a poster — I love this idea I developed from Nessy. I cut the letters out for the children and they then sort them into two groups- that is all the instructions I give them. At first some will sort the a’s in a group then the e’s then realise that won’t work as I only want two groups. It is interesting seeing the children challenge themselves and apply their reasoning skills to create two groups. Once this is complete I ask the children to place the letters alphabetical order which address many literacy and numeracy skills. Once they have done this we look at the weak sounds and the strong vowel sounds. To visually support us to memorise and recall the different sounds these vowel letters can make we put a ‘feather’ above the weak sounds and an ‘iron bar’ above the strong sounds. The children thoroughly enjoyed this activity!

Test Block 620

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© Sarah’s Tutoring 2023

What’s that sound? Diphthong (diptongo), hiatus (hiato), and understanding Spanish syllables

Spanish learning

Ever wonder why when you try to imitate native Spanish speakers it just doesn’t come out right? It might have something to do with syllables!

Vowels (vocales)

To begin, Spanish syllables are based on the behavior of the vowels, so let’s review those first: the basic vowels are a, e, i, o, u, like in English.

The vowels are divided into two categories, strong and weak.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 3.31.07 PM

Making syllables

Each vowel by itself counts, of course, as one syllable. Some examples:

(you) = 1 syllable (one vowel sound)

Pensar (to think) = 2 syllables (2 vowel sounds)

Importante (important) = 4 syllables (4 vowel sounds)

Do you notice anything about the order of vowels and consonants in these words?

All of these words contain only 1 vowel surrounded by consonants. But what about words like escritorio, caer, lengua, pueblo, cancn, aerolínea, and huipil with 2 consecutive vowels? How many syllables does each of these words have?

For this, we focus on the combinations of strong and weak vowels.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 3.32.06 PM

Let’s try the list of words above. escritorio, caer, lengua, pueblo, cancn, aerolínea, and huipil

First, determine how many syllables are in each listed combination, io, ae, ua, ue, io, ea, ui.

Second, count the total syllables in each word. (Hint: ignore the acentos for this—they won’t impact the syllable count.)

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 3.33.51 PM

Accent marks (acentos)

So, if these acentos don’t affect syllable count, why are they there?

1. They affect which syllable is stressed in pronunciation. More on this in a bit.

2. There are some acentos that will affect syllable count. Let’s talk about diphthong (diptongo) and hiatus (hiato). We’ll begin here.

Diphthongs we’ve actually already learned! Two vowels pronounced as one syllable is called a diphthong (diptongo). So, any strong + weak or weak + weak vowel combination (not strong + strong) is called a diphthong. This counts as 1 syllable. Escritorio, lengua, pueblo, cancn, and huipil contain diphthongs.

The opposite of a diphthong is hiatus (hiato), meaning turning a one-syllable vowel combination (i.e., a diphthong) into two syllables. This is done using an accent mark (acento). Examples of hiato include día (day, pronounced di + a, 2 syllables), oír (to hear, pronounced o + ir, 2 syllables), and búho (owl, pronounced bu + o *remember that the h is silent*, 2 syllables).

Why does this matter?

The basic rule of Spanish pronunciation is: the stressed syllable is always the penultimate (second to last) syllable ONLY WHEN the word ends in N, S, or any vowel. Otherwise, the stressed syllable is the last syllable. An acento indicates breaking that rule. For example, nación (nation) has the spoken stress on the last syllable, ción. The stressed syllable should be the first one, na, but breaking that rule (because that’s just how it’s pronounced) means putting an acento on the ción part. (Bonus: if we put the acento on the i instead of the o in cion, we would be left with a hiatus, cíon, breaking the i and o into 2 syllables, rather than the natural diphthong (io) with a stress change to the last syllable.) However, when we pluralize nación to naciones, we lose the acento because the ción, the stressed syllable, is now the penultimate syllable where the stress falls by default.

Practice! ¡A practicar!

To review, then: can you determine how many syllables each of these words has and which is the stressed syllable in each of these words? Can you determine which of these words has diptongo or hiato?

Abeja (bee), baúl (trunk), callejuela (alley), mío (mine), esperanza (hope), estoico (stoic), escalofríos (goosebumps), aéreo (aerial), zaguán (hallway), veía (saw, 3rd person singular), reaccionar (to react)

Clave (Answer key)

The stressed syllable is in bold.

Abeja: 3 syllables, neither diptongo nor hiato

Baúl: 2 syllables, hiato

Callejuela: 4 syllables, diptongo

Mío: 2 syllables, hiato

Esperanza: 4 syllables, neither diptongo nor hiato

Estoico: 3 syllables, diptongo

Escalofríos: 5 syllables, hiato

Aéreo: 4 syllables, neither diptongo nor hiato (remember that this is not diptongo because these are all strong vowels)

Zaguán: 2 syllables, diptongo

Veía: 3 syllables, hiato

Reaccionar: 4 syllables, diptongo (io, not ea)

What month do hydrangeas bloom?
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