Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles “I can only watch movies with subtitles. If I turn off the subtitles, I get so lost!” “Natives speak so fast!” “I can understand my Teacher, but when I listen to someone else, I don't understand anything!” “My listening is really bad.” “I get so frustrated when I have to ask someone to repeat what they said!” “How can I improve my listening?” If you ever said any of these phrases or something similar to them, you are not alone. Understanding fast English is one of the greatest challenges English learners face. Maybe you understand English when you read or when you speak to some people, but overall you feel like you need to improve your listening. In today's lesson, you will learn 5 listening secrets that will help you finally understand fast English. But first, if you're tired of trying boring and ineffective methods to learn English, you've come to the right place! Every week we release lessons to help intermediate and advanced learners just like you to speak English with confidence. So if you're new here, make sure you hit the subscribe button and bell down below so you don't miss any of our new lessons! Secret 1: Adjust your expectations Successful advanced learners understand the importance of managing their expectations. Before we get into practical things you can do and learn to understand fast English, it's important that you remember three basic things: 1. Don't try to understand every single word. If you try to understand every single word you hear, you will get frustrated and discouraged. Instead, focus on meaning and specific phrases. Start small, and keep improving. 2. Embrace the fact that some sounds in English might not exist in your first language. If you want to understand English better, you have to be willing to learn the most common sounds and pronunciation features of the English language. Those might not exist in your native language, so be open to learning them. 3. Don't expect to understand everything overnight. Developing your listening skills is a life-long process and it will take time. Be patient. Secret two: exposure. In order to understand fast English, you need constant, daily exposure to the language. Some ways to do that include watching movies, TV series and listening to podcasts. Maybe you feel comfortable listening to American English, but how about British, Scottish and Australian English, for example? Remember that the English language has many different accents and dialects. Make sure you have enough exposure to the different varieties. Also, did you know that most people who speak English in the world are non-native speakers? Listen to non-native speakers as well. This will make your experience learning English much richer. By the way, with our RealLife English app you can do just that. You can listen and talk to people from all over the world. You can also improve your listening skills with our podcast, which comes with transcripts and vocabulary notes for you to follow along. If you feel lost and insecure speaking English, we highly recommend you download our RealLife English app. You can download it for free at the Google Play or the Apple App Store. You can also find the link up here and down in the description below. Become a confident English speaker and join the global conversation by downloading the app now! Secret 3: Learn Connected Speech Have you ever stopped to think about what “fast English” really is? While it's common to believe that natives speak too fast, this is not technically true. Yes, some people do speak faster than others, but most of the time, the reason you can't understand is because natives have the habit of linking and reducing sounds, so it's important that you learn about connected speech. Let me give you an example. Notice that I'm speaking both ways at the same pace, not too fast, not too slow. But they still sound different, right? Why? Because in the second form I'm using connected speech. So let's analyze the connected speech in this sentence: When you have a word that ends in T or D and the next word starts with a consonant, we normally cut out the final T or D. In this example, notice that we have the T for “but” and the next word, “then”, also starts with a consonant. In this case, we don't pronounce the final T in “but”. Instead, we say “buh-then”. Also, we have the D for “had” and the next word, “to”, starts with a consonant. Again, we don't pronounce the D for “had”. Instead, we say “hAh-tuh”. The T in the word “to” is sometimes pronounced as a flap T and the “o” is usually reduced to a schwa sound, “uh”. It's very common for Americans to pronounce it “duh”. In England, you would probably hear “hAh-tuh” while in The US you would probably hear “hAh-duh”. It's also common to cut the H in the word “him”, so we would say “im”. If the next word that follows a final T or D is a vowel, we tend to pronounce the T or D with a flap T sound. This is especially true in American English. For example, “At eight o' clock” becomes “Adei-duh clock”. So when we put these connected speech elements together, we have something like: Notice that in England we tend to pronounce the letter T more often than Americans. That's why it's important for you to listen to many different accents. If you want to learn more about connected speech Ethan and I made two lessons with more examples. You can find the link to the lessons up here and I will also link them down in the description below. Make sure you watch them after this lesson! Secret 4: Know where to put the stress in the sentences “Sentence stress” is about knowing which words to emphasize in a sentence. In every sentence, we have two kinds of words: Content words and Function words. “Content words” are the words that carry the meaning of the sentence. They are usually nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. On the other hand, “Function words” are words that connect the main ideas in a phrase. While they carry a little bit of meaning, their main use is to put it all together. They are usually prepositions, auxiliary verbs and linking words. Let's look at some examples. You will see some sentences on the screen. First, I will give you some time to try and identify the words that would be stressed in pronunciation. The verb “study” and the adverb “a lot” are stressed here. “I must” is reduced to Imus and the article “a” is reduced to a schwa sound, huh. The verbs “made” and “called” are stressed, just like the noun “dinner”. The auxiliary “had” is abbreviated and the words “when she” are spoken continuously. The words “been”, “country” and “times” are stressed. “He has” is reduced to “He's” and the word “many” is pronounced quickly. However, notice that the phrase “in and out of the” gets really reduced, since it is formed by three prepositions (in/out/of), one linking word (and) and an article (the). So we say i-na-nouh-duv-thuh. As you can see, it's much more productive to focus on sentence stress rather than on individual sounds. However, there is one very special sound in English that you should pay attention to. This little sound, when applied correctly, can drastically improve your listening skills and your pronunciation. And this is actually the next and final secret we're going to talk about: Secret 5: The Schwa sound The “schwa” is the sound we make when we need time to think about what we're going to say next: uh. Almost all vowels that are not stressed in a word will be pronounced with an uh sound. Because of this, the schwa is the most frequent sound in spoken English. Since this sound is very common, if you work on producing the schwa every time it occurs in a word, not only will your pronunciation improve but also your listening comprehension will automatically get better. Let's understand this sound in a bit more detail. Take a look at the word “construction”. First, you need to identify the vowels. In this case, we have the vowels “o”, “u” and “io”. Now you need to determine which one of these vowels is stressed, or pronounced more strongly. In this case, it is the vowel “u”, as in “truc”. That means that the other vowels, “o” and “io” will have the exact same sound. Which sound is that? That's right, the schwa sound, uh. So we pronounce this word: Other examples include: Knowing about the schwa is really important, because when we apply connected speech elements in a sentence, unstressed vowels tend to have the sound uh. For example: Would you like us to create a lesson only about the schwa sound? Leave a comment saying “I'd like to learn more about the schwa sound”. If there are enough requests, we might just create one soon! To recap, here are the 5 secrets to understanding fast English: Secret 1: Have realistic expectations Don't expect to understand everything overnight. Secret 2: Listen to all kinds of English Have daily exposure to both native and non-native English. Secret 3: Learn Connected Speech Study how natives link and connect the sounds. Secret 4: Know where to put the stress in the sentences Practice identifying Content words and Function words in a phrase. Secret 5: The Schwa sound Study and implement the schwa sound in your English. I hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you want to keep learning, I highly recommend you watch this one next.