I am aware that this question may be on the verge of Offtopicland, but I am very curious about something regarding these two numbers. Here's the story...

When I was learning Japanese (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away), my Japanese teacher told us that she had a hard time trying to tell apart the numbers "seis" and "siete" when she was learning Spanish, because both sounded quite similar to her. The whole class bursted in laughter (as that was her main purpose, to tell a funny story), and I do not know why I kept that anecdote in my mind.

Time passed and now I am a father with a two-year-old son, and every time he tries to count to ten, he always skips "siete" and goes from "seis" to "ocho", which reminded me what my Japanese teacher told us that day. Maybe he skips "siete" because of the phonetical similarity of the two numbers.

We (the Spanish speakers) are not aware of that (as far as I know), so I would like to ask any Spanish language learner present here: do "seis" and "siete" really have such a phonetical similarity as to pose a challenge to you?

Maybe this question is not addressed to those who speak a similar language. English also has "six" and "seven" with the same potential similarity, as have other close languages.

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    This is probably better suited for the new Language Learners or the Linguistics SE Jan 12, 2017 at 13:57
  • @guifa probably, but as it is specifically addressed to Spanish language learners I thought I could try here. I will remove the question if you think it is offtopic.
    – Charlie
    Jan 12, 2017 at 14:00
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    I don't think it's strictly off topic here, I just think you could get some better answers on there and it might be more on topic. On Spanish.SE it may end up attracting more opinion/anecdotal answers, although an objective one is possible, so it's not off-topic. The problem is worse in, for example, Brazilian portuguese where seis in many places is /sei∫/ and sete is /se.∫i/ — bad enough that when giving out phone numbers and such, people use meia (from meia dúzia, or half a dozen) and so in Linguistics you may find people that can talk more in depth in the phonetic issues with … Jan 12, 2017 at 14:08
  • … examples from other languages that may have similar issues (and probably have generally more objective versus subjective answers, though it's not guaranteed there either ha). Jan 12, 2017 at 14:09
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    Esto me recuerda el artículo 33 palabras en español que ningún extranjero es capaz de pronunciar.
    – fedorqui
    Jan 12, 2017 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


As a teacher of Spanish for Polish learners, I can tell you I have noticed they do make mistakes with seis and siete in A1 and A2 levels.

Then they make other mistakes like quinientos for cincuenta, etc., but I would consider this is another kind of "paradigm mistake".

Instead, the case with seis and siete seems to be a mistake produced by phonetical reasons, I would hypothesize. My guess: both begin with /s/ followed by a dyphthong.

But these are just my guesses based on my experience :)


I don't really know for sure because I am a native but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. I can say this because I always have problems trying to tell the difference between seis and sete in Portuguese because Brazilians pronounce sete very similarly to seis in Spanish.

I also have problems telling French numbers six (6) and seize (16) apart.

In Arab it is also very difficult for me to tell the difference between settah (6) and sabah (7). Luckily, they pronounce sabah very similarly to seven.

So, I would say that I'm not surprised. Surely this problem will improve with patience and practice.

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