One reason that spoken Spanish seems rapid to beginning speakers is that sometimes words are linked within a phrase as if they were one long word. Consider the following situations:
1. SINGLE CONSONANT BETWEEN VOWELS. When a single consonant sound appears between two vowels, it begins a new syllable. This rule also applies between words. The spoken words are linked, making individual words within them difficult for beginners to hear. It’s a big breakthrough for learners when they are able to distinguish all of the words in a spoken sentence.
El hombre está listo para recibir el oro. (The man is ready to receive the gold.)
The sounds within a sentence will take on slightly different stresses than they would as individual words, thus the above sentence is stressed in speech like this:
2. DIPTHONG. Linking also takes place when the last letter of a word and the first letter of the following word form a dipthong (a weak “i” or “u” combined with any vowel).
Examples with diphthongs:
Te imaginas importante. (You imagine yourself important.)
This occurs because the stress in “imaginas” is on the next-to-the-last syllable, making the initial “i” weak.
Su avión no vuela. (Your plane doesn’t fly.)
Note that this sentence has three diphthongs.
Example without diphthong:
Te iba bien. (It was going well for you.)
The next-to-the-last syllable in “iba” is stressed, making it a strong “i,” and the result is a syllable that does not link to “te.”
Tú estás enojada. (You are angry.)
The subject pronoun “tú” is accented, making the “u” strong, so there is no diphthong, thus forming two sounds.
3. THE LETTER “H.” The letter “h,” when it does not appear in “ch,” is silent and ignored for the purposes of the two situations above.
Mi hija está enferma. (My daughter is sick.)
The “h” in “hija” is ignored, and since the stress is on the first syllable of “hija,” there is no dipthong, thus forming two sounds.
Mi hijita está enferma. (My little daughter is sick.)
The stress is on the second syllable of “hiJIta,” and since the “h” is silent and the “i” that follows it is unstressed, “mi” links with the first syllable of “hijita” to become “mii-JI-ta.”