@nofearcavalier - re: ...making it one word. ...
Hola nofear. I think I understand where you're coming from when it comes to training your ear to hear Spanish spoken at speed.
When I hear Spanish spoken at speed I know that the sounds of some words will get blended together into the sounds of the followings words. I also know that these blended sounds may or may not sound like words that I've heard before. I try not to think of these sound blends as "new words".
I try to think of the string of words spoken at real speed as the way chucks of sentences should "feel" when articles, nouns and verbs have all been hitched together by a native speaker.
As far as the exercise example go, I've literally done these drills dozens of times.
Way back when all this was very new to me, I would listen to the playback voice and try my best to "hear" each word. (It's not possible of course because they are blended together.)
I found that the "slow" playback button did NOT actually slow the speed at which the examples were spoken. As you probably know the slow button merely has the playback voice enounciate each - word - individually.
That is no help at all for training the ear to hear Spanish spoken at speed. In fact it's not the "ear" that needs to be trained at all. It's the mind and the way it thinks. Check it out.
Now, (after doing these simple present tense exercises over and over and over...) I "hear" things a little diferently.
In the case of this exercise example, "El gato es un animal.", it actually sounds like, "elgatosunanimal.", to me. Just one big fat "word", if you will.
But here is how my mind breaks it down these days;
The first thing I literally "hear" is the definite singular article, "El". Right off the bat, my brain wants to know, "What specific singular thing?"
As fast as the words are being spoken I hear the word for singular (because my mind is going to make whatever it hears singular) cat ("gato"). But there is a blur of sounds to deal with after that and they are not clear to me at all.
I heard the rest of the statement as "sunanimal". The word "animal" clearly stands out in my mind and I "feel" it as a singular masculine noun.
My mind tears, "animal" off the end of "sunanimal". But my mind wants to know more about "animal". "Is it any animal or is it a specific animal?" It rips "un" off of the remaining "sun" sound that it heard. My mjnd has, "El gato -'s'- un animal."
"But where my verb?" My mind is demanding some kind of action word or at the least some state of being word. It can't be a very big verb because the only sound unaccounted for is, "s".
Suddenly my mind has made this, "s" sound mean "es" in order to satisfy itsself. "El gato es un animal."
My mind has assigned meaning to the fragments that it percieved in a different sequence then they were spoken and puzzled together the fragments into a statement that it can understand. But wait... there's more.
My mind retains that part envolving the sound, "sun" (which is just, "es un" spoken at speed) and gives it a fuzzy feeling like, "the sound of declaring some item or thing as a member of a larger set of things and that larger set of things has a masculine name."
With that fuzzy definition in mind as a "feeling" and not so much a "word", it will be easy to get the "feeling" right when I want to express things in Spanish like;
The '69 Camaro is a ponycar.
The '69 GTX is a muscle car.
Thanks for your well thought-out reply. Instinctively, I knew that what you're describing is what I'm experiencing. That being said, I like your break-down of article "cues" and anticipating plurality which hopefully, over time, will train my passive brain to do the rest of the work. Thanks, your words are encouraging!
I used to confuse her "pato" and "gato" if I was going a little too fast to actually listen. But I know her voice pretty good now. However, I could listen to her a million more times and I don't think I will ever be able to make two distinct words out of, "es un". I know it's, "es un" in my mind, but she blends them seamlessly.