Just got to Uruguay and can’t make sense of what the locals are saying to you?

 This article is about the sounds of Spanish as it is spoken here in Uruguay, and should help those of you who are working on your pronunciation as well as those who are interested in the Uruguayan form of Spanish. I hope one of our colleagues in Spain can point out any significant differences between Uruguayan and Spanish pronunciation!

 

B and V

These two are known as “B larga” and “V corta” in Uruguay, and the two sound exactly the same. To an English speaker it’s something in between the English B and V: try making the B sound without totally closing your lips and a sort of vibrating B-V sound will come out.

D

The Spanish D is very very soft, almost like the English TH. You have to stick your tongue out a little bit, rather than tucking it behind your teeth like in English.

C and G

When C is followed by E or I, you pronounce it as S. Followed by any other letter, it’s a K sound. Similarly, if G is followed by E or I, you pronounce G as that coughing (!) sound, like in the Scottich “loch”. Followed by any other letter, it’s the same as the English G.

To remember this well, just chant “ca ce ci co cu” (which will sound like “ka se si ko ku”) or “ga ge gi go gu” a few times, remembering to make the right sound with ge and gi.

H

The H is always silent (unless you’re elderly and from Rocha).

J

That Scottish “loch” sound, just like GE or GI.

LL and Y

The most well known feature or River Plate Spanish is that these two, LL and Y, make the sound SH (as in sheep) or ZH (as in measure). The preference for SH and ZH seems to depend on the speaker’s age: the older generation go for ZH and the youngies for SH.

QU

Makes the sound K. Not the sound KW, like in English.

RR

Learning to roll your Rs is hard if your native language doesn’t feature them, but not impossible. This website has a good R-rolling tutorial.

S

Normally the same as the S in English, but if it appears within a word and is followed by another consonant, Uruguayans often “aspirate” the S (so it sounds more like an H). Words that contain this aspirated S include esto, mismo, casco, and mosquito. If you just make the normal S sound in these situations, it sounds fine. This is just for those who want to sound more authentically uruguayo.

W

Known as “doble ve” in Uruguay (I think the Spaniards call is “uve doble”, right?), this appears in very few words but when it does, it’s the same as the English W.

X

Like in English, it’s a KS sound, except in the word México, where it makes the Scottish “loch” sound.

Z

It is pretty much the same as S, whereas in English the two sound quite different.

I hope that has helped. Have you spotted any other pronunciation features in Uruguay or Argentina? Do you have any tricks for remembering or learning pronunciations? Share them with us!

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