The phoneme /h/ isn’t difficult to do, but it doesn’t exist in Spanish. The main problem for Spanish speakers is that, whenever they find an h, they tend to produce the same sound they use in Spanish words like joven or gente (which is symbolized as /x/ in phonetics). The English /h/, however, is much, much softer, like the sound you make when you’re breathing hard in order to warm your hands.
(glottal, fricative, voiceless). /h/ is the only fricative sound which doesn’t have a voiced counterpart.
Spelling: h (horse, her, here), wh (who, whole)
Let’s compare the English /h/ with Spanish g and j to see the difference.
Now, here are some native speakers saying words which include the /h/.
Then, when it happened, really was like having an acid flashback to going back to school (Rupert Everett, BBC4).
And made it into a hauntingly beautiful film (Kirsty Lang, BBC4).
He was not helpful at all on that (Jeremy Irons, BBC4).
Who were the first punctuators? Who did it? (Michael Rosen, BBC4)
A seal’s flippers resemble our hands (A.S. Byatt, on BBC4).
When the h is dropped or silent.
The letter h is normally said as /h/, but in some cases it is not pronounced. Let’s see two different situations.
1. Some function words, especially pronouns, lose the /h/ when they are unaccented (which occurs very often). This phenomenon is called elision. Have a look at these examples.
Does he know the answer? ǀ dʌz i ˈnəʊ ði ˈɑːnsə ǀ
Please, let him go. ǀ ˈpliːz ǀ ˈlet ɪm ˈgəʊ ǀ
I missed her a lot. ǀ aɪ ˈmɪst ər ə ˈlɒtǀ
This doesn’t happen when the word is at the beginning of a sentence. Notice the difference between the first and the second he.
He doesn’t know, does he? ǀ ˈhi ˈdʌzn ˈnəʊ ǀ ˈdʌz i ǀ
2. The letter h is silent in a handful of words. Here are the most important ones.
hour honest honour heir shepherd vehicle annihilate
It is also silent in the name Graham The name of the famous British writer Graham Greene, therefore, is /ˌgreɪəm ˈgriːn/ , very different from what we usually say in Spanish. This stresses the importance of being aware of the pronunciation of proper names.