1. Las Reglas de Acento (Stress Rules)
The term "stress" refers to the natural emphasis put on the strongest syllable of a word.
In English, the word "father" is stressed on the first syllable: fah
In Spanish, there are three simple rules that always apply. Use these rules along with the pronunciation guide above to help you pronounce any Spanish word you encounter:
- If a word ends in a vowel, an "n," or an "s", the natural stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. Try: ho-la, li-bros, ha-bla, lla-mo, me-di-ci-na
- Otherwise, the natural stress falls on the last syllable. Try: ciu-dad, co-mer, ha-blar, pa-pel
- Any exceptions to these rules will carry a written accent where the stress should fall. Try: lá-piz, Jo-sé, a-le-grí-a
2. La Puntuación (Punctuation)
The following are some rules for punctuation in Spanish that are different than what you may be used to in English:
- Question marks and exclamation points are also written at the front of a sentence/phrase, but they are upside-down. For example: ¡Hola! ¿Cómo está usted?
- Accent marks are extremely important in Spanish since they tell us how to pronounce a word, and sometimes even tell us what a word means. For example: esta = this, but está = is.
- The accent mark/stress mark is always written the same way: ´
- Accent marks are written over question words such as "what" and "who": ¿Qué? ¿Quién?
- These words only carry the accent mark when they are used to ask questions, never when they are used to give information. For example: ¿Qué dice la madre? (What does the mother say?) Ella dice que tiene una hija. (She says that she a daughter.)
- When an accent mark is written over a word with only one syllable, it is to distinguish that word from another without an accent mark. For example: el = the, but él = he; si = if, but sí = yes.
In this lesson, you learned that there are several stress rules that always apply in the Spanish language and will help you determine which syllables you should emphasize in different words. You also learned about the various types of punctuation that you will encounter when reading the Spanish language.