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Basic Spanish for foreigners

Autor: Ricardo Roque Mateos
9,17/10 (12 opiniones) |3254 alumnos|Fecha publicaciýn: 17/03/2006
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Capýtulo 1:


There are around 400 million speakers of Spanish in the world, this is the people that use Spanish as their native

language. Here we have a list of the countries that have it as the official language.

  Mexico       104 millions              Colombia          42 millions                Spain             41 millions

  Argentina     36 millions               Peru                  27 millions               Venezuela      23 millions

  Cuba             11 millions              Guatemala         11 millions               Chile              15 millions

  Bolivia         8,5 millions              Nicaragua           5 millions               Puerto Rico      4 millions

  Costa Rica   3,8 millions              Panama               3 millions               Ec. Guinea    0.5 millions

  Uruguay       3,2 millions             R. Dominicana    8 millions             Paraguay            6 millions

Other territories where Spanish is Spoken:  

U.S.A     13% of the total population           Andorra   0.2 millions

Guayana, Belice, Philipines, West Sahara, Gibraltar, Israel and Turkey( Jews and Arab communities banished from Spain.)  

There is also a huge ammount of caribbean and Pacific islands where we will find dialects and different versions of the Spanish language. Not to mention Spanish/Hispanic communities of immigrants worldwide.

The number of people that learn Spanish as a second or third language is increasingly high, it will be easier  for you to find a Spanish speaker in Brazil or in the south of France than an english one.

Why do all these languages from Western Europe sound so similar?

The answer is in the common Latin roots. The roman empire stablished itself in all Europe, except for the cold lands of the North and East. As centuries went by Latin mixed with local languages creating what today we know as  Latin derived indoeuropean languages.

Between these languages we can find  French, Italian, Portuguese, Galician and of course Spanish.

Also in English we will find that all the difficult or elegant words to use in conversation will inevitably come from Latin.

  Why knowing all this will help me while learning Spanish?

We will be able to understand at least 30% of a conversation in Italian or Portuguese, we will be able to improve our English skills with words very common in Spanish, but that become stylish when we use them in English.

We will be seeing in chapter 2 how we can bring all the latin words that we know to our spanish speech with very simple rules.


In Spanish there are no mixture of vowels like in French for example, vowels are pure and open. If you write something you read it the same way, letters will never change depending on the accent or where it´s placed in the phrase.  Therefore we can say that Spanish is simpler to learn than other languages just because from the very beggining you will be reading as you should and writing as... well writing is another story... J.

A  E  I  O  U      normal, as in the word    CAN   TEN   SIN   COT   TULIP

 LL      This double L sounds ALWAYS like in the words  JOHN, JIM, JUICE   To pronounce this sound like an SH or like a normal   I  is considered an accent.

QU     In Spanish the Q goes ALWAYS followed by a after this combination of letters can only come an E or an I.   We pronounce it like   QUE= KE   QUI= KI. (U doesn´t sound)

G             this letter sounds normal with  A  O  U  (Galon, Gong, Gunther) and it changes into a strong sound with E and I (GE GI). The strong sound is the same we can find in Arab or Hebrew for the words Hoppa or Ahmed. Is the same sound we use when a fish bone is in our throat and we try to get it out, or when we are about to spit very strong (I apologize for the comparison, but the first priority is pronounciation)

G+U+E    G+U+I        To make the soft sound with G and the letters E and I we put a U in the middle, this U doesn´t sound.  Therefore  the verb "to get" in english, we would write it in Spanish like  TU GUET  "to give"  like  TU GUIV.

V       in Spanish nowadays sounds totally like a normal  B, it´s another mistake to pronounce it like an English V. Therefore  "Bill" and "Vilna" would sound  BIL, BILNA.

R       will sound soft only when it´s between two vowels, in the other cases will be strong (like the german R, as strong as you can pronounce it) Try to imitate how people from India or Russia says the R in the word America (very strong).

 Ñ     This letter  sounds like   NH in other languages (Piranha, Caipirinha,) or like the word Champagne but well pronounced.

J      Sounds always strong with all the vowels, (like G with GE and GI) exactly this spitting sound (I apologize once again).

sounds like  KA KO KU only with these letters (A, O, U)  and soft with CE CI, this soft sound is exactly the one in the words  "Thin" "Thought" "Thing"

goes only with the letters  A O U  so, ZA, ZO, ZU. Sounds like "Thin" or "Thanks" (Z will never go with E or I).

B,D,F,K,L,M,N,P,S,T and X  Sound totally normal, (L is normal like in the words "Lantern" "Lincoln" "Light".

H      in Spanish has absolutely no sound, just ignore it in the words. (except with CH, this sounds like in "China".

W    is used only for foreign words and it sounds exactly as in English "William"

-   Remember once again that all the letters must be clear and pure, specially vowels.


When we read Spanish, we will place the accent always in the second sillable by the end except if it´s marked by a graphic accent or if the word is a verb (Remember this when reading please).    GAto   CAsa  

 (cat, house)  Información= InformaciON.



 Hola=                                           Hello   (remember H doesn´t have any sound)                     

Adios=                                         Bye

Gracias=                                     Thanks                         

Por favor=                                   Please   (V sounds like B)   

Buenos dias=                             Good morning       

Buenas tardes=                          Good evening       

Buenas noches=                        Good night

Me llamo Francisco=                 I am called Francisco      

Soy Francisco=                           I am Francisco

Mi nombre es Francisco=         My name is Francisco

Encantado de conocerte=       Pleased to meet you

SI= YES - IF                                   NO= NO

Let´s analize:

    You should pronounce the C in Gracias as we showed you ("Thin" "Thought") 

Soy Francisco starts already with the verb, not with a pronoun (Yo soy Francisco), this is because in Spanish the verbs have endings and we know who is the subject of the action without the need of pronouns.

Mi nombre es,  Mi is the first posesive pronoun (My in english) .

Encantado= pleased  ADO and IDO are the past particles, like the english ending -ED (Played or Cooked)

Conocerte= To know YOU, The verb `To know" in infinitive is  CONOCER if we add this  TE at the end the action goes to YOU (To know YOU)

Bueno= Good,  Buenos= Good in plural. The adjectives in Spanish are formed  also in plural adding an -S

We saw in the alphabet  Gato (cat) and casa (House)  The plurals would be Gatos (cats) and Casas (houses).

Dias  means "days" (so literally Buenos dias= Good days!)

   Me llamo= LLAMAR would be the verb TO CALL  Yo llamo= I call, Yo me llamo= I call myself or I am called.

This explanations are meant to be a soft introduction, nobody expects you to understand the structure of the phrases in the very first class, so...don´t worry, go on reading without stress J.


In Spanish there are articles like in English for determined (The house) and undetermined (A house)  

The articles are:

UN  LIBRO   (A book)              UNOS LIBROS (Some books)        MASC.         INDETERMINED

UNA CASA    (A house)          UNAS CASAS  (Some houses)     FEM.

There is gender in Spanish for the words, Libro is masculine finishes in O, Casa is feminine finishes in A.

Almost all the words finishing in O are masculine, and almost all the words finishing in A are feminine.

EL  LIBRO    (The book)    LOS LIBROS   (The books)                    MASC.          DETERMINED

LA CASA      (The house)   LAS  CASAS   (The houses)               FEM.            

Try to put the articles to  "GATOS"  in a paper, go on reading to find the solution...


Me gusta=    I like  (it´s liked by me)     Me gustan= I like (for plural)     

Quiero=        I want        

Tengo=         I have

Debo=          I must        

The first person of regular verbs finish always in O (tengo, quiero etc.)

Los Gatos (determined)    Unos gatos ( indetermined)

Tengo una casa=  I have a house       

Quiero el libro en mi casa=  I want the book in my house

Me gusta mi casa= I like my house    

Me gusta mi nombre= I like my name

Tengo un dia complicado= I have a complicated day (we have seen already how -ED becomes  ADO or IDO.

Los libros son buenos= The books are good.  

Me gustan los libros=  I like the books

-To make the negative we add  NO always at the begining of the phrase

No me gustan los libros= I don´t like books     

No quiero llamar a Juan= I don´t want to call John

Capýtulo siguiente - First phrases

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