The elision of phonemes in conversational Spanish

In conversational Spanish, the following occurs phoneme elisionWhat is this?

(Listen to this entry as a "blogcast" or continue scrolling down to read it)

What we hear in a real conversation is not exactly what we write, nor, therefore, what you studied, memorized, or LISTENED to in Spanish classes.

Due to the speed of the speech and also because of the informal and relaxed tone of in this type of conversations there are some sounds that we don't pronounceThis means that, in a real conversation where:

... you do not recognize words and expressions that you know and know how they are spelled and, therefore, you do not understand part (or a large part) of the conversation (especially if it is stolen and recorded on a cell phone 🙄 Although you know we are working on it and soon the CRRs will be of better quality 😎 ).



As we were saying, in conversational Spanish we usually "eat sounds", that is, we do not pronounce sounds that in written language (and in the audio you are listening to in this post) do appear; this makes it very difficult to understand the message, in other words,


phoneme elision is also to blame for the fact that you find it hard to follow a real spontaneous conversation on the street.


Why do we do this? Why do we "eat" phonemes? Are we hungry?  😀 

One of the reasons is relaxation. We are so at ease that we relax and find it more difficult to move our mouths (vocalize) and we stop pronouncing some sounds because we know that, even so, we will be understood. In addition, we want to speak very fast, we want to say many things in a short time.


This means that you have to pay attention to two types of elisions or omissions:

  • The partial elisions of vowel phonemes that occur at put the words together
  • The complete elisions of vowel and consonant phonemes


So, let's try to summarize and explain to you the most common elisions:

  • The letter we like to eat the most is "d".especially if it is between vowels and at the end of the word. In words like "estudiado", "cansada", "bebido" the letter "d" is pronounced so weakly that it is often lost. This is even more common in southern Spanish speakers. Therefore, [ es tu \'ðja ðo ] would be pronounced [ es tu \'ðjao ], [kan \'sa ða] would be [kan \'sa] and [ be \'βi ðo ] would be [ be \'βi o ].


  • Phoneme elision at the end of a word is also quite common, so words like "university" [ u ni βer si \'ðað ], "you" [ us \'teð ], "walk" [ ka mi \'nar ] we say them like this: [ u ni βer si \'ða ], [ us \'te ], [ ka mi \'naa ], the latter, lengthening the last vowel a little.


  • We also eat others letters when preceding a stressed initial vowel. For example, enhorabuena [ e no ra \'βwe na ] would lose the "b" and become [ e no ra \'we na ].


  • Finally, the elision of other phonemes that totally transform some words is very common. Here are some of the most common ones:
    • [pa ] is PARA, [ pal ] is PARA EL. 
    • [pos ] is PUES.
    • [to ] is TODO (and, due to the first elision we told you about, TODA is [ toa ]).
    • [ta ] or [ sta ] is UNTIL, especially in UNTIL LATER
    • [ \'en ga ] is VENGA, especially when used in an interjection VENGA, VAMOS!
    • [ \'ku t∫a me ] is ESÚCHAME and [ tas ] is ESTÁS (we eat "es").



Now it's time to listen to a CRR, but first, we'll tell you what the conversation is about to put you in the picture:

Three people, fathers and mothers of two children, talk about the choice of traditional and alternative schools, the advantages and disadvantages, especially the disadvantages of traditional schools. 

This is the dialogue PREVIOUS to the conversation you are about to hear. You are NOT going to listen to this one, we write it so that you have a context before listening to the conversation. We recommend you to have the table of signs used in transcriptions

Man: To take him to an alternative school / if we don't have to drive 50 kilometers every day / no problem for me // But paid daycare centers / 300 or 400 € for that / well, we can't afford it // and besides, I'm a little skeptical about that↓.

Woman: Well, I'm more worried about the school than the daycare centers→ / I'm worried about the school↓ // Loli takes her son to the school I told you my brother wanted to take [Leo ↓].

Friend: [I don't know →] why did I think it would be that school / Ah because you told me they had an adaptation period // and it turns out that Loli one day told me / that I can't meet because we have the adaptation period at school // And I thought / adaptation period at school!!!?

Woman: § Yes / they have it / it would be nice to know how long and the name of the school ↓.

Friend: § [Of course] § [Of course]

Man: [Sure].


Before listen to the continuation of the conversation you have just read, we propose listen to some of the phrases included in the conversation.

In these audios you can hear, first, how the phrase sounds in the real stolen conversation (CRR); then, you will listen to it at a slower speed; then, in parts, so that listen to how the words come together and get lost, or are partially lost, some phonemesFinally, the sentence slowly and in the RRC.

-My brother told me that it was going to be difficult for Leo to be accepted because he was one of the most sought after lately.

-If in practice they work just as well / I'll be happy to (())) take you there

-and what are the results?

-Now it's like you have to save him all the-all the bad drinks.




Next we encourage you to do the same as you have heard in the audios with the following sentences. Try to hear in your head how the following sentences would sound, in slow motion and with the joining and elision of phonemes. You can also, of course, do this with the program Natural Reader. Phonemes that are usually omitted or partially omitted are marked in black. 

*It istoy pensando in aa school that encourages their creativity.d and do not kill your creativityd / que is what happeneda in la other.

*Yes, but you spend a few years there as-there / heard badges and copiando enunciadI just don't want too that forra Arón / if you cano avoidr

*Copia the enunciado / 50 times // listen to me / 50 minutes / yy 5 minutes para do your homework !vcheers man!


And, at last, the RRC is here! 🙂 🙂 


Listen to the following excerpt BUT DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF ITIt is not the right time yet.

Think that understanding conversational Spanish is a matter of time and practice. You are still in the passive listening role, you need more practice to understand enough to be able to participate in this type of conversation..

Therefore, for the time being, we propose ONLY two objectives:

  • Locate the 7 phrases we have selected above. Stop the audio when you hear them. 
  • Try to recognize 10 words or expressions In these words are there phoneme unions or phoneme elisions? 

How did it go this time? 


And... do you want to start speaking fluently, reduce your foreign accent or understand conversations?   

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