Spanish Alphabet Changes: What Parents Should Know

Spanish Alphabet Changes: What Parents Should Know

The Spanish alphabet has had some changes made to it over the years. You may notice if you search for Spanish reading activities for your child that there are some differences in the materials you find.

Perhaps you’re a parent of a child in a Spanish immersion program and you don’t speak the language. Or maybe you haven’t studied Spanish since you took it in high school. You may wonder which alphabet is correct!

The Spanish alphabet used to include the letters ch, ll, and ñ. These extra letters (plus the same 26 as in English) made the alphabet 29 letters. Many songs, teaching materials, and other Spanish phonics resources still use this outdated alphabet.

However, the current Spanish alphabet only includes one extra letter: ñ. Keep reading to download the printable alphabet chart I made for you!

1. Ch & Ll

In 2010, the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) officially removed the letters ch and ll from the Spanish alphabet. The current alphabet has 27 letters.

Of course, countless words contain ch and ll. The change is that instead of letters, these are considered digraphs now, just like we have in English. Digraphs are two-letter combinations that have one sound (like th or sh in English). The five Spanish digraphs are ch, ll, gu, qu, and rr.

2. Letter Y

They also made some other important changes that parents and teachers should know. Before 2010, the letter y was called y griega (“Greek y“). The update officially changed the letter’s name to ye.

3. B & V

Also, the names for the letters b and v, pronounced be and ve, were updated. While we say these sounds differently in English, they are pronounced identically in Spanish. So, in order to distinguish between the two, the b letter is still called be but the v was changed to uve

4 Things You Should Know about the Spanish Alphabet

4. Diacritical Marks

Have you ever wondered about the extra marks over Spanish words? They’re actually called diacritical marks, and there are three types in Spanish.

  1. The first type is an accent. The accent helps the reader know which syllable to stress when saying the word, like in árbol (tree) or ratón (mouse).
  2. Another mark is a tilde. The tilde is a wavy line over the letter n, changing it from n to ñ. The letter ñ sounds like /ny/ as in the word mañana (morning) or piñata.
  3. The final diacritical mark in Spanish is the dieresis. The dieresis is placed over the letter u to change it to a /w/ sound, like in the words bilingüe (bilingual) or pingüino (penguin).
Calico Spanish Alphabet Song

Updated Alphabet Chart

For more information, read the New York Times’ 2010 news article here explaining the changes. Now you know! I hope the video by Calico Spanish can help your little one practice the Spanish alphabet! One note: while I used the name doble uve for letter w on my printable, this name can also be reversed to uve doble (as in the video).

Download the free printable alphabet chart by subscribing below! The bold and beautiful chart includes the letters and their English pronunciations for parents who may not speak Spanish.

Finally, do you need more Spanish phonics help for beginning readers? Teaching reading in two languages is my passion and specialty! I have resources like a set of Spanish letter-sound cards and beautiful watercolor alphabet letter cards for teaching beginning readers in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I hope you’ll take a look!

Stick around for more on bilingual parenting and Spanish resources:

12 thoughts on “Spanish Alphabet Changes: What Parents Should Know

  1. I love this explanation and the printable alphabet chart! It makes this accessible to every parent at home trying to help their kids. Great idea!

  2. Great article! There are so many Spanish teachers who still currently teach the letters removed from the alphabet. 🙁 I always let them know they existed and show them a dictionary with the letters in it. (One from college)

  3. Thank you so much for this very detailed explanation. This makes sense now, after so many years of teaching. Lol.. Learn something new everyday. Great article and great resources. Love it! 🙂

  4. Hi Jenna!

    Is there a way I can get a full copy of the image of the alphabet at the top of this page? It gets cut off at W and I can’t seem to find the full picture anywhere else either.

    Mil gracias 🙂

    1. Hi Danielle! Absolutely! When you subscribe to our email list with the blue subscriber box at the bottom of this post, you’ll get the full pdf of the printable sent straight to your inbox! I’m so glad you’ll use it. Thanks! Jenna

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