ASK A QUESTION how do i understand spanish if people speak it so fast?
Some people speak spanish so fast I forget what they have said before and some times when spoken by someone fluent the words sound as if they're made up.... i seem to have never heard the words before... then once what they're saying is translated by a friend I'm surprised because i know exactly how to say it in spanish.
Depending where the speaker is from will influence how they talk, sometimes its a matter of accents that make it hard to understand, other times its a matter of commen dictaction in a given country. I know many of the countries in central america tend to leave off the ends of thier words, i.e. para = pa' (like the reggaeton songs) and other countries, like most of mexico just run all their words together so it sounds like one long word insted of a whole sentence, as far as speed of talk....that just takes knowing your vocab well and practicing listening and putting yourself in positions to hear things so that you get used to how they say it and at what speed. You can always ask people to repete or to slow down...when i was first learning spanish my favorite words to say to people were "dispacio por favor" or "¿mande?"
In addition to what toothpastech said, I believe the language lends itself to being spoken rapidly. Because of the many vowels, especially because many of the words end in vowels and often times with matching vowels, it is easy to mesh the words together. Also, for a speaker it makes it more difficult for the person you are speaking to recognize your pronunciation mistake which is often times caused by the rapidity of the speech. I also think that the area you are from or that you learn the language in affects the speed of speech as the Caribbean is most notorious for fast speech.
Since it's only by listening practice that you can really learn, I suggest searching Youtube for vlogs in Spanish, or search "acentos en español/castellano". You might find some interesting material.
Watching DVD movies with subtitles or voice over is also good. Start with simple, even stupid stuff. I don't know, Police Academy or some cartoons, first watch it in English, then in Spanish. Or telenovelas, if you can stand them.
I do not claim do be an expert in understanding Spanish spoken at a fast pace.. There are still many times when I don't understand what Heidi has said. lol
However, one of the most important keys is to understand the gist/the heart of what is being communicated rather than focus on trying to translate and understand word for word ie every word.that is being spoken.
I learnt that principle.many years ago when I was receiving lessons from a lady whose children I had helped to teach in a primary school.( She was married to a native Spaniard and she had a degree in Spanish and was giving me Spanish lessons in exchange for teaching her young daughter how to play the piano. ) You can develop this skill through listening to Spanishr TV. and radio but also through interacting with native speakers.
In addition to what I have just mentioned, other factors may influence your ability to understand them: the accent of the Spanish native, their own individual idiosyncrasies and their personality will influence their choice of vocabulary some of which may include unfamiliar idioms or regional expressions. All these can combine to challenge the non-native listener. I have even heard some native speakers from Spain admit they encountered difficulties in understanding natives from Argentina. In the region of Andalucia in southern Spain they are known to leave off the final sound of words such as pescado.