This one should be easy, but I’ve heard so many learners of Spanish making this mistake that we should say something about it, just in case you’re making it too.
In Spanish, the letter ‹h› is mute. Period. We could finish the post here, but we’ll go on.
Native speakers of Germanic languages (i.e. English, German, Dutch, etc.) among others tend to aspirate every ‹h› they find, because they are aspirated in their language:
- “house” [haʊs] (English)
- Haus [haʊs] (German)
But this is not the case in Spanish. Spanish used to have an aspiration, mostly from initial Latin /f-/ (as in ferrum ‘iron’ > Spanish hierro), but this aspiration was already lost by the 16th century. And you don’t want to sound like a 500-year-old.
So let’s practice:
- hacia ‘to; toward’
- hasta ‘until’
- hacer ‘do; make’
- ahora ‘now’
- zanahoria ‘carrot’
How many times did you aspirate the ‹h›? The correct answer is: zero. It’s that simple. Again: ‹h› is mute in Spanish. We might just as well banish it (as the Italians did, by the way). It’s just a source of orthographic problems, but nothing else.
However, ‹h› is useful when immediately followed by ‹c›, resulting in the digraph ‹ch›, which is pronounced different than plain ‹c›, that is, ‹ch› is pronounced [tʃ], just as in “teach”! So let’s practice:
- ducha ‘shower’
- chino ‘Chinese’
- champú ‘shampoo’ (this one is funny, isn’t it?)
- chaleco ‘vest’
- chocolate ‘chocolate’
- chupar ‘suck’
It was easy. Perhaps you were doing this mistake. After all, it’s not easy to separate habits between one language an a new one, but it’s necessary if you want to stop sounding like a guiri (more on this word soon).