Do I Need to Teach Phonological Awareness in Spanish?


There are many questions about teaching phonological awareness in Spanish. 

Some of the most frequently asked questions are…

  • What are the differences in phonological awareness between Spanish and English?
  • What if I teach older students? Isn’t this only necessary for younger students?
  • Should I focus on specific skills?
  • How do I teach phonological awareness?

And last, but not least:

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is…

…the ability to recognize the sound system (of Spanish). 

This allows us to understand what we hear and speak correctly. It also allows us to manipulate sounds within words which builds fluency.

This brings us to the leading question,

Do I need to teach phonological awareness skills in Spanish?

¡Claro que sí!

Phonological awareness skills are essential for developing proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing for any language being learned.

If you’re into the science of language and the brain…

Many cognitive processes are involved in oral communication. Language students must adapt to the phonological features of the target language. The auditory processor inside the brain includes Broca’s area (produces speech), Heschel’s Gyrus (processes speech), and Wernicke’s area (comprehends speech).

This means that phonological awareness is important for speech recognition, production, and comprehension, so teaching these skills is necessary, especially for a new language.

Which brings us to our next question, 

What are the differences in phonological awareness between Spanish and English?

Spanish and English are distinct language systems. No surprises here!

Some of the major differences between English and Spanish sound systems are… 

  • Phonemic Inventory 
  • Syllable Structure
  • Phonological Rules
  • Orthographic System
  • Rhythm and Intonation

The phonological awareness skills are the same, but the different sound systems require different content.

Okay, so that brings up the next question…

What if I teach older students? Isn’t this only necessary for younger students?

Phonological awareness skills are helpful for students of all ages.

Phonological awareness activities should be considered a warmup activity. Phonological awareness is not the end goal but supports the path to Spanish fluency. 

Which phonological skills should I focus on for teaching Spanish?

There are several phonological awareness skills we can target. The subskills that fall under phonological awareness include…

Sentence Segmenting

Being able to break sentences into words is necessary while listening. It also supports comprehension skills and vocabulary expansion. More about sentence segmenting.

Auditory Discrimination

Spanish learners struggle to hear the difference between English and Spanish sounds. This can impact listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Syllable Blending

Syllable blending is the ability to string individual syllables together to make words. This is important to strengthen short-term working memory. 

Syllable Segmenting

Being able to break apart words into syllables helps students spell words and expand vocabulary.


Rhyming builds fluency and automaticity through discriminating and producing rhymes.

Sound Isolation

The ability to isolate sounds is helpful when students are trying to correct their word errors in listening and speaking. Phoneme Blending

Phoneme blending is an essential skill in speaking and writing Spanish. 

Phoneme Segmenting

Phoneme segmenting helps students recognize how many sounds are in their words. This allows students to write and expand their vocabulary.

Phoneme Manipulation

Phoneme manipulation allows students to add, delete, or swap out sounds to correct errors. 

You want to focus on skills that will improve student outcomes.

For example, if students struggle to separate words in spoken Spanish, practice sentence segmenting. If students are struggling to distinguish words have them practice syllable blending. 

How do I Teach Phonological Awareness Skills?

1 – Align your phonological awareness activities with your language lessons. This creates synergy in your instruction and helps students see how important phonological awareness is for learning to use their new language. 

2-  Warm up with phonological awareness activities before your listening practice. For example, before a learner writes a sentence they hear, ask them “How many words? How many syllables? How many sounds? Which sounds are vowel sounds?”

Overall, phonological awareness in any language equips students to process spoken language and develop fluency. It also encourages students to take the risk to speak and write confidently in their new language.

Got it? Good!

Now you know all about teaching phonological awareness in Spanish. 

Drop any additional questions in the comments below.

Grab our favorite activities to support phonological awareness in your lessons in our Activity Library.

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