Spanish languageDiptongos e hiato - Spanish Diphthongs and Hiatus

When a Spanish word has two vowels side by side, various pronunciation issues come into play: syllable division, diphthongs, and hiatus.

In terms of syllable division, Spanish vowels are divided into two categories: strong vowels (A, E, O) and weak vowels (I, U). To pronounce Spanish correctly, you need to understand strong and weak vowels and how they affect pronunciation.

1.  Two strong vowels empleado
Pronounced as a hiatus* with normal rules of word stress (see lesson)

2.  Strong vowel + weak vowel (most common) abierto
guasón ingenuo
Pronounced as a diphthong* with emphasis on the strong vowel.

3.  Two weak vowels
Pronounced as a diphthong with emphasis on the second vowel. suizo

4.  Exceptions asiático
When the pronunciation of a word does not follow these rules, an acute accent is placed on the stressed vowel.


Hiatus - Two vowels pronounced as two distinct syllables.

Diphthong - Two vowels pronounced as a single syllable. When this happens, the unstressed weak vowel has a special sound: the letter I sounds like Y (as in yet) and U sounds like W (as in will).

The letter U - When U's purpose in a word is to make a consonant hard rather than soft (see lesson) as in portugués and guisantes, it does not count as a vowel and thus the above rules do not apply.

Please note that this lesson is only a guideline for the Spanish that I know, which is Castilian Spanish. There are many regional variations in Spanish pronunciation.

The Mimic Method
Nothing beats a private tutor for working on your Spanish pronunciation, but when that's not possible, The Mimic Method is the next best thing. This music-based pronunciation training course combines the flexibility of the internet with personalized feedback, and the result is an interesting and useful way to drastically improve your Spanish pronunciation.

Spanish Pronunciation     Spanish for Beginners


e Learn Spanish Language

Additional Info

Subscribe to
the free 
e Learn Spanish Language
Spanish newsletter

Advertise on
e Learn Spanish Language
Options & Rates



LKL's sites
  Learn English
  Learn French
  Veggie Table
  LKL homepage