Why Written Accents?

In Spanish, words are spelled just like they sound. This is not true in English.

The two English words “but” and “put” are each spelled with the vowel u, but they are pronounced very differently. There is no way to know how to pronounce these words simply by seeing them in their written form.

This lack of consistency between English spelling and pronunciation is not limited to the vowels. Notice the different phonetic connotations to the consonants “sc” in the words “scalp” and “scissors.” In Spanish, there is nearly perfect consistency between the way words are pronounced and the way words are spelled.

One of the reasons that this is possible is that Spanish uses written accents to tell the reader which syllable of the word has the greatest stress – that is, which syllable is pronounced the loudest.

So, the answer to the question, “Why are there written accents in Spanish?” is simple. As someone who is learning Spanish, the written accents are your friends. The written accents exist so that you, the reader, can know precisely how the word is pronounced.