How Many Letters Are in the Spanish Alphabet?

Learning Spanish As A Child
A close-up shot of a parent and their children playing with letter blocks

As kids learn a new language, they go on a fun adventure of gaining valuable skills and appreciating diverse cultures. If your child is interested in the Spanish language, learning its alphabet lets them take the first step of an exciting journey.

Mastering the Spanish alphabet starts with its letters. In this blog post, we’ll guide you and your little learner through the number of letters used by Spanish speakers and how to read, write, and pronounce them.

How Many Letters Does the Spanish Alphabet Have?

Currently, the Spanish alphabet has 27 letters compared to English. It includes the 26 letters used in the English language and an extra letter called ñ, which is essentially the letter n with a tilde (accent mark) above it.

Here are the letters that you and your child will find in the Spanish alphabet:

Letter Name Word
A a Abuela (grandmother), abuelo (grandfather)
B be Bailar (to dance)
C ce Casa (home), ¿Cómo? (how?)
D de Delfín (Dolphin), Dormir (to sleep)
E e Elefante (elephant)
F efe Fuego (fire), Foca (seal)
G ge Gato (cat)
H hache Hablar (to talk), hermoso (beautiful)
I i Inteligente (smart)
J jota Joven (young), jugar (to play)
K ka Koala (koala)
L ele Libro (book), leer (to read)
M eme Madre (mother)
N ene Niños (children), norte (north)
Ñ eñe Ñandu (Rhea)
O o Otoño (Autumn)
P pe Pequeño (small)
Q cu Queso (cheese)
R erre Rosa (rose)
S ese Saltar (to jump), Sapo (frog)
T te Tierra (earth)
U u Único (unique)
V Uve, ve corta, ve chica, or ve baja Viejo (old), vaca (cow)
W Uve doble, doble uve, doble ve, or doble u Washington (Washington)
X equis Xilófono (xylophone)
Y ye Yema (yolk)
Z zeta Zapatos (shoes)

However, Spanish speakers are divided on the total number of letters in the Spanish alphabet. Some view the letter rr as distinct, while others exclude k and w because they’re often used in words present in other languages.

As a result, you may get a number between 25 (with ñ and without k or w) and 30 (the 26 letters in the English alphabet and ch, ll, ñ, and rr).

A Quick Guide to the Changes to the Spanish Alphabet

Spanish speakers used a 29-letter alphabet for years. But in 2010, the Real Academia Española removed ch (“che”) and ll (“doble ele”) from the official Spanish alphabet, bringing the number of letters down to 27.

Both letters are now considered digraphs, or two letters representing one sound. Think ee, ph, sh, or th in English. Rr is another digraph in the Spanish alphabet, which some consider an individual letter.

Also, the RAE changed the name of three letters: y, b, and v.

  • The y was named “y griega” or the “Greek y” to differentiate it from the i (“i latina or “Latin i”). When the RAE updated the Spanish alphabet, it changed y’s name to “ye.”
  • For b (“be”) and v (previously “ve”), the b kept its pronunciation, while the v’s pronunciation was changed to “uve.”

Some Helpful Notes for Your Young Spanish Learners

Now that we’ve covered the total number of letters in the Spanish alphabet, let’s look at how to read, write, and pronounce them.

Letters with Special Marks

Young Spanish learners will see some letters with diacritical marks in the Spanish alphabet. These symbols appear above, below, or next to a letter in a word to indicate how it’s pronounced and what it means.

The accent mark, dieresis, and tilde are the diacritical marks used in Spanish. Accent marks are often placed on vowels, emphasizing stressed syllables. Meanwhile, the dieresis is a symbol placed over the second vowel of two adjacent vowels, meaning they’re pronounced separately. It’s sometimes used on the letter u, which changes its sound to the English w.

Finally, the tilde helps differentiate n from ñ. It indicates the ñ’s “nyuh” pronunciation.

Pronouncing Specific Letters

Several letters in the Spanish alphabet are pronounced in specific ways, depending on the word they appear in.

  • Sometimes, the e is pronounced more like the e in “pet” if it’s at the beginning of a word or spoken fast.
  • A g before an e or i in a word is pronounced as a somewhat raspy h. But if the g comes before a, o, or u, it should sound like the English g.
  • When a word starts with r, the letter is trilled or rolled.
  • Many Spanish speakers pronounce z and c (when it’s before an e or i) differently. For instance, these letters are pronounced more like th in several regions of Spain.
  • The letter ch is pronounced as the English ch (“cheese” or “chocolate”).
  • Like c and z, ll has multiple pronunciation variations. While most Spanish speakers pronounce it as y, those living in parts of Mexico and Central and South America may pronounce it as a soft j or a sh.

Make Learning Spanish Fun for Your Kids

Learning Spanish helps your child communicate better with their peers while appreciating the diverse world around them. It’s a fantastic adventure that starts with the Spanish alphabet and understanding how it works.

Looking for more ways to encourage your kids to learn a new language? Get helpful tips from the Rayito de Sol blog today.

April 3, 2024