ASK A QUESTION "How can you understand Spanish when people talk so fast."
Hahaaa, do you really think so? I bet the Spanish natives feel the same about English. In any case, welcome to the forum. The best way to overcome that problem is to constantly try to listen to Spanish as you are learning. There are audio exercises here and also radio and television. ¡Buena suerte!
It's very simple. The answer is in your question. Don't translate. You'll never be able to keep up. You have to practice until you can just hear the Spanish and have the ideas form in your head without translating into English first. The same way with speaking. You have to form the ideas and have them come out in Spanish without thinking in English and translating into Spanish. Consciously try not to translate. Just hear the words and form pictures in your head of what they mean. It just takes a lot of practice. There's no shortcut.
I said it's simple. I didn't say it's easy.
They aren't speaking all that rapidly. Probably no more rapidly than you speak English. The trouble is you're trying to analyse it as it comes and that actually makes it harder to listen to. It flows and your brain is trying to break it into small chunks. The moment you do that the "flow" the thing you really want to grasp is broken.
Try to let the whole phrase wash over you. When the pause comes, now is an opportunity to figure out the nuances.
Trouble is.......... Here comes another one!
-- the only real solution is to listen to as much as you can stand, tv, radio, music and if at all possible get yourself out there on the streets and interact, that's the quickest method of all.
Keep listening, have Spanish radio on in the background while you are doing other things, any thing to hear Spanish sounds. To start with it all sounds like a gabble but slowly, and it is slowly, your brain will learn to separate out individual words, just like it does in English.
I'm by no means there yet but I am slowly starting to hear words instead of noise, and there are even a few I can understand.
From what I've heard so far, that's a common problem for everyone, but practice makes perfect. Keep listening.
There are several ways to improve your listening skills. Services like LoMas TV and FastLane Spanish provide you with video and audio of people speaking at normal pace (which seems fast to us) and the actual text so you can listen and follow along. This helps tremendously.
Also, watch Spanish movies with Spanish subtitles, what you can't hear you can see. Search for sites that offer dialogs along with their podcasts/audio files.
And most of all, keep listening. At first you may only get a word here and there, but if you continue your studies eventually you will start to catch more and more words.
Even when it's not slurred where words are hard to separate, I find it hard at times to discern individual words. Where I can do it best is when I know the words well. A good grasp of vocabulary is essential, including all the common individual verb conjugations.
Sometimes, it's just a matter that there are more syllables in one language than another, and we tire quickly when we don't know the words outright.
You say, "It's hard to translate ..." - It's important to know that once you learn more, you shouldn't be translating. You can never translate very fast. You can recognize and think in Spanish rather fast.
The more you listen, the faster you can do it.
The same way you speak English, fast, for English learners.
The ability to listen doesn't have to do anything with translating or not, just practice, the more you do it, the more you understand.
Speaking is the same way, the more you do it the better and more fluid you'll become, especially if you record yourself and listen to your "acent" and then consciously try to improve your pronunciation.
Forget about English or Spanish: when you learn a new language, the first thing every learner say is "Why do they speak so fast????" Welcome to reality.
Me too listening English!! Some native accents are too difficult to understand, it happens to me in my own language too.