Learn English Listening Skills – How to understand native English speakers


Hello and welcome everyone. This is Minoo at Anglo-Link. Today’s video is all about listening comprehension. I have some interesting tips for you. This is particularly for those of you who still find it a little hard to understand native speakers or watching television in English or listen to the radio in English. I’ll be telling you about some specific aspects of the English sound system and some speech patterns that native speakers use that can make listening in English a little bit of a challenge by the end of this video, you will have a really good understanding of where the difficulties that you might be facing come from and what you can do to overcome them and really improve your listening comprehension. So, when you’re ready, lets begin! Right! Today I’d like to share 3 keys with you that will really improve your listening comprehension of native speakers. Let’s look at what these 3 keys are. the first thing is to understand is what
makes native speakers hard to understand. The second key is improving your own
pronunciation. And the third key to improving your listening comprehension is learning primarily with your ears rather than your eyes. Okay, lets start with understanding what makes native speakers hard to understand. They’re two main reasons for this. The first one is the great number of vowels and diphthongs in English. And some of these are very similar to
each other. They’re many words where the consonants
are exactly the same. And by changing the vowel sound the meaning changes. And when these vowel sounds are very
similar and especially if one or the other doesn’t exist in your own language. This can make it quite a challenge to understand a native speaker. Lets look at some examples. These are called minimal pairs by the way. Same consonants, different vowels. Minimal Pairs. Boat and Bought. Mad -Mud. Hurt Heart Men Main Than Then. Bit – Bet. Live Leave So, notice the only difference is the vowel or the diphthong and they can be very very similar. So, in
connected speech they’re not easy to tell apart. This is the first reason why listening to English native speakers can be challenging. Now, lets look at the second reason. The second reason is the way that native
speakers shorten and link sounds. Let’s give you a quick example. Look at this sentence: How is it going? You would hear from a native speaker: ‘how’zit going?’ There are three specific speech patterns that all native speakers use. And I’m going to take you through them
one by one. Speech pattern number one is
contractions. Contracted verbs and negatives. You’re pretty familiar with these. I’m He’s They’ll We’ve Won’t Can’t etc… What is important to remember is that native speakers always use these patterns when they
speak. Except when they want to stress a
point. That is why there’s a difference in
tone and meaning between ‘O.K. I’ll do it.’ and ‘I will do it.’ ‘Nothing can stop me.’ When we use the contraction there’s no
stress on the contracted form. There is no
particular emotion. The other example, when you’ve used the full form, ‘I will do it’. you want to show determination. So, as using contractions is the norm rather
than the exception in spoken English. I would recommend that you try and use
them as much as possible yourself. Firstly, you will sound more natural and secondly you’ll be able to hear them more easily
when native speakers use them. Just be careful not to use contractions in formal writing. When you’re writing a
letter, or a report, or an article. Always keep it to the full form. Keep the contractions for speaking. Moving onto speech pattern number two. Speech pattern number two is called week
forms. Grammatical words, such as modal verbs, possessive adjectives, prepositions, etc… are seldom fully pronounced in a
sentence. The vowel in them is reduced to a shorter vowel or disappears completely. Let’s look at some examples: Here we have the modal verb ‘can’. In the sentence, it can sound like ‘kn’. The vowel disappears. ‘I kn ski.’ Let’s look at another example: Possessive adjective: ‘my’, very clear, in isolation, ‘my’. But in the sentence it sounds ‘Here’s me book.’ You can hardly hear it. And another example: Preposition: for. In the sentence the vowel is reduced to ‘fa’. ‘It’s fa you’. Now, you don’t need to use these week
forms at all when you speak. As your message will be even clear without using them. However, you do need to be aware of them and anticipate them when listening to a native speaker. Let’s look at speech pattern three. Which is phonetic links. Generally any word that starts with a
vowel is linked to the previous word. And this makes it hard to hear each word distinctively. Let’s look at some examples: ‘He works as an engineer.’ You’ve got three words that begin with vowel. ‘as’, ‘an’ and ‘engineer’. In connected speech they all run into each other. ‘He works sazanen gineer’. Second example: Here you have four words that begin with vowel. is, interested, in, it and they all run into each other. ‘she(y)isinterestedinit.’ And there’s a semi vowel (y) that links the vowel at the end of ‘she’ to the vowel at the beginning of ‘is’. She(y)is. And our third example: Two words: one ending with a ‘t’, the next one starting with a ‘t’, they run into each other, and then to words starting with a vowel. ‘an amazing’. Once again all this section runs into each other. ‘They wentto(w)anamazing place.’ And once again you have the semi vowel (w) that connects the vowels ‘to’ and ‘an’ to each other. Once again you don’t necessarily need to use these
links when you speak as your message will be perfectly clear
without them. However, you do need to be aware of them and anticipate them when you listen to native speakers. Now often, you get at least two of these speech
patterns, sometimes even all three, in a row in a sentence. and that is when you can feel really challenged. Let’s look at an example: ‘He won’t accept it from me.’ You have the contraction ‘won’t’, you have two words beginning with a vowel; ‘accept’ and ‘it’, and you have the preposition ‘from’. So, in connected speech you will hear: ‘He won’tacceptit fromme.’ At this point you are probably asking
yourself; well what’s the best way to familiarize myself with the speech
patterns? I think the best way is transcribing audio files. If you already have a CD of dialogues, with transcripts, then listen to the dialogues and write them out and then compare what you have written with the transcript. If you do not have such CD’s, I recommend Anglo-Files 104 and 108 from Anglo-Link’s selection of audio files that you can access on our website. anglo-link.com These are selections of daily dialogues and business dialogues which you can listen to and transcribe, and then check what you’ve written against the
transcripts on the site. This will really improve your listening
comprehension of native speakers and at the same time will help you to activate loads of useful functional expressions. Now, if you have never studied the
English sound system, if you’ve never studied pronunciation on its own, I strongly recommend our Anglo-File 117. In this Anglo-File, you will have a complete list of all the
vowels, of all the diphthongs, all the consonants in English that you
can practice. It also has loads of minimal pair
exercises that will help you to distinguish vowel sounds that are similar from each
other. It also has a section on the speech patterns we’ve looked at.
You can listen to weak forms, contractions and phonetic links, and transcribe them. This will be really really helpfull if you have
not familiarised yourself with the English sound system yet. Now if you want, you can do a transcription exercise
now by clicking on this image. If you prefer to continue listening
to the presentation, you will have the chance at the end of
the presentation to do it then. Right. So, once you’ve familiarised yourself
with the English sound system and also know how native speakers shorten and link sounds. The next step is to improve your own pronunciation. Clearly, if you’re mispronouncing a word because
you learnt it by reading, and guessed how it was pronounced, Then it is likely that you will not catch
it when you hear it. There’re two common traps, if you have guessed the pronunciation of a word by by reading it. The first common pronunciation trap is… believing that two words with the same
spelling will have the same sound. Let’s give you an example: If you think that the combination letters ‘e’ and ‘a’ always sound like: /i:/ as in ‘jean’ then you will miss pronounce the following words: ‘Great’, ‘Hear’ ‘Learn’ ‘Instead’ This is the best example of the same
combination of letters ‘ea’ having five different sounds. Another tricky letter is the letter ‘u’. If you imagine that the letter ‘u’ always sounds like /u/ as in ‘put’. You will mispronounce the two following words: ‘Judge’ and ‘Furious’ because that the letter ‘u’ is sometimes /u/ many times … and occasionally … Okay, let’s look at the second comment
pronunciation trap. Which is: word stress. In many languages the strength of your voice is spread equally
among the syllables in a word. In English however, if you have more than one syllable in
your word, you have to decide which syllable or syllables take the stress of your voice. And which
ones are de-stressed. Let’s look at an example: Here’s a word with four syllables. Now, let’s decide which syllable takes the stress. Is it the first one: ‘DEvelopment’. Is it the second one: ‘deVElopment’. The third one: ‘deveLOPment’. Or the last syllable: ‘developMENT’. In this case it’s the second syllable ‘deVElopment’. Now, you couldn’t know that unless you
have heard the word many many times. Let’s look at the second example: Let’s look at these two words. They seem very similar in their spelling.
So, you would expect them to have the same rythms, the same music, the same word stress. However, in the first one, it’s the second syllable that’s stressed. And in the second one it’s the first syllable. And that changes the pronunciation completely. The first word is: ‘proPose’. And the second word is: ‘Purpose’. So, what is the conclusion of the
examples we’ve looked at? At the pronunciation traps we’ve looked
at? Well the conclusion is that you have to
avoid guessing how a word is pronounced. Always check the pronunciation of the
words that your learning. Either ask someone or use a talking dictionary. Talking dictionaries are now widely
available on the internet and you can listen to the word several
times and with some of them you can even record your own voice, and compare your pronunciation with a model, which is an excellent
exercise. Again, you don’t need to be a hundred
percent correct in your own pronunciation to be understood. But if you have not heard the correct pronunciation of a word
enough times your risk not catching it when it is spoken by a native speaker, in a stream of other words, with phonetic links and weak forms
surrounding it. So, do work on your own pronunciation.
It’s an important key to improving your listening comprehension. And finally to the third key, improving you’re listening comprehension. Learn primarily with your ears rather than your eyes. Now you have a better understanding of
why native speakers are not always easy to understand. Especially if you have learnt your English out of a book. It’s for the simple reason that what you see is not what they say. Therefore, the best way to learn new
words and expressions is by first hearing them then seeing them in writing. So, here are some final hints on how to use your ears instead of your eyes. Listen to audio books rather than read the printed version of
the book. Listen to the radio and watch programs and films in English as much as possible. Even if at first your understand very
little, this is a great exercise to tune your
ears into the sounds rhythm and music of the language. You will be surprised how quickly you
will start to hear and understand more and more. If you’re using a course-book, work more with the accompanying CD than the book itself. And finally, if you’re using a word you have
learnt by reading and have never heard it before, make sure you check the pronunciation. To give you more tools to improve your
listening comprehension and pronunciation, we have recorded all the grammar
exercises that you have access to on anglo-link.com These are available as audio files. And they ensure that you also learn the
correct pronunciation and intonation of the important structures and the useful expressions that we have included in our Anglo-Pedia. If you didn’t do the transcription exercise
ealier on, this is your chance to do it now. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this video on how to improve your
listening comprehension and found all the tips useful. thank you for watching, I look forward
to seeing you in our next video. Bye now!

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