A2 Basic UK 2807 Folder Collection
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Hi, I'm Gina.
Welcome to Oxford Online English!
In this lesson, you can learn how to understand
native speakers in English.

Many English learners find it difficult to
understand native speakers, even after years

of study.
This can be frustrating and demotivating!
However, there are some simple things you
can do to improve your English listening and

make it easier to understand native English

In this lesson, you'll see five simple tips
you can use to understand native English speakers

more easily.
Look at this sentence:
I am from France.
Imagine you're talking to someone.
How would you say it?
Would you say this sentence with the contraction?
I'm from France.
Or would you say the full form?
I am from France.
Now, think about these sentences:
He has already told me.
I would like to see that film.
They will not be here until tomorrow.
All of these sentences can be contracted.
Can you see how?
He's already told me.
I'd like to see that film.
They won't be here until tomorrow.
Would you pronounce the contractions, or not?
Think about it, and be honest—it's not
a test!

Here's the problem:
Many English learners don't use enough contractions
when they speak.

They use the full form, for example he has
instead of he's.

If you don't use contractions when you speak,
it will be difficult to understand them when

you're listening.
Why is this a problem?
Native speakers almost always use contractions
when they're speaking.

If you find it difficult to understand contractions,
you'll always have problems when you're

trying to understand native speakers.
So what's the solution?
Very simple: use contractions more in your

To do this, choose a simple topic—for example,
your family—and record yourself speaking

for one minute.
Listen to the recording and try to find any
places where you could have used contractions,

but didn't.
Then, repeat the exercise, and try to use
more contractions.

Then, try again with a different topic.
If you use contractions yourself, it'll
become easier to understand them.

Here's a simple question in English which
is often difficult for English learners to

What are you doing
Why do so many people find it difficult to

hear this question correctly?
Let's look.
First of all, the letter 't' in the word
what is usually not pronounced.

It changes to a /d/ sound, or it's reduced
to a glottal 'stop' 't'.

Secondly, the word are is not pronounced /ɑː/.
It doesn't rhyme with 'car' or 'far'.
It changes to a very short sound: /ə/.
Next, the word you is not pronounced /jʊː/.
It doesn't rhyme with 'too' or 'do'.
It also becomes a very short sound: /jə/.
Finally, the words are not pronounced with
spaces in between.

The whole question is pronounced like one
long word.

So, the question which is written:
What are you doing?
Sounds like:
Of course, if you think are should be pronounced
/ɑː/, and you should be pronounced /jʊː/,

and so on, you'll expect to hear:
What are you doing?
And of course, you probably won't understand
the natural pronunciation:

What can you do about this?
Here are two suggestions:
One: learn about weak forms.
Weak forms are words which have a different
pronunciation in a sentence.

Learning about weak forms can show you that
there is some logic to English pronunciation,

even though you might not think so!
Two: pay attention to how people speak.
Don't think about what you read in your
English textbook.

Listen to how people pronounce words and sentences
in real life.

You'll realize that there's a big difference
between textbook English and natural English.

Another good exercise here is dictation: choose
something to listen to, like a podcast or

a YouTube video, which is not too difficult.
Listen to one minute, and try to write down
everything you hear.

Pause as often as you need to.
This way, you can train yourself to follow
native English speech.

Look at a question with a word missing.
What's the missing word?
________ you ready?
If you're an average English student, you
said that the missing word is are.

That's the correct answer, but it's also
not the best answer.

How can the correct answer not be the best

What are we talking about?
Actually, the best answer is that there are
no words missing.

You can just say,
You ready?
In spoken English, you don't need to say

In fact, you can make the question even shorter
and just say,

Native speakers very often leave out words
like this.

Again, if you're expecting to hear a full
question, these shorter questions can be confusing.

So when can you leave words out like this?
In yes/no questions which have the word you,
it's often possible to make the question

For example:
Have you finished?
Are you going?
Do you want to come?
All of these questions can be shortened:
You finished? or Finished?
You going? or Going?
You want to come? or Want to come?
So, what should you do?
Try to use these shortened questions when
you speak.

Like all of this advice, you need to use it

If you use it when you speak, it'll be easier
for you to understand others who speak in

this way.
Remember that native speakers very often shorten
questions like this.

Here's a question:
Do you need to understand every word to understand
what someone is saying?

What do you think?
Very often, English learners focus on the
parts they don't understand.

That's natural, but it's not always helpful.
To answer our question: no, you do not need
to hear and understand every word to understand

someone's message.
Imagine that you are in the kitchen with your
friend, who is cooking something.

Your friend asks you a question, and you hear:
Can you (mumble mumble)?
Okay, so you didn't hear or understand the
full question.

But that's often not a problem.
First of all, you heard the words can you.
So you know that your friend wants you to
do something.

Secondly, you're in the kitchen, cooking.
Whatever your friend wants, it's almost
certainly connected to that.

Probably, your friend needs you to help with
something, or give them something.

By using the context, you can often understand
someone without hearing every word.

But, but, but, you say, that's not really
understanding native speakers!

I want to understand native speakers, not
guess what they mean.

Actually, native speakers do this too.
You probably do it in your own language, so
there's no reason not to do it in English.

Don't think: “I don't know the word,
so I can't understand the sentence.”

It's not true.
And, if none of this works, use another simple
trick: ask!

Ask the person, “What did you say?” or,
“Can you say that again?”

Again, native speakers do this all the time.
There's no reason you shouldn't do it,

Often, English learners are afraid to ask
someone to repeat something, or to admit they

don't understand.
But, if you do this, you have no chance to
understand, and no chance to communicate.

Remember: no one understands everything everyone
says, and it's completely natural to ask

someone to say something again.
Let's look at one more important tip.
Here's a question: what does 'native English'
sound like?

Here's another question: do you prefer the
sound of British English, or American English?

Actually, those are both terrible questions,
which make no sense.

Do you know why?
The reason these are bad questions is: there's
no such thing as 'British English'.

If you think about 'British English',
you probably imagine someone speaking like

But most British people don't sound anything
like that.

It's the same for American English: people
from different places and different backgrounds

will speak in different ways.
Then, of course, there are many other countries
where English is officially the first language:

Ireland, Zambia, Australia, Kenya, Canada,
Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Belize, South

Africa, Singapore, and many more.
The world of English is much bigger than just
the UK and the US, and you'll be a better

English speaker (and listener) if you realise

Unfortunately, many English learners react
negatively when they hear a native speaker

speaking in a way that they're not used

They say things like,
“I don't like that person's pronunciation.”
“That person doesn't speak good English.
I prefer British English.”
(or: “I prefer American English.”)
“That person's English sounds wrong.
I can't understand.”
But, here's the thing: in a real-life situation,
like a job interview, a meeting, or a party,

you'll meet native speakers from different
places, with different accents.

It's your responsibility to understand them
and communicate with them; they aren't going

to change how they talk for you.
So, what can you do about this?
Don't just listen to one kind of English.
If you love the sound of 'classical' British
English, then fine, but listen to other voices,

You can train yourself to understand almost
anything, but you need time and practice.

Listen to a range of voices and accents regularly,
and you'll be able to understand more of

what native speakers say to you.
Before we finish, we have a question for you:
in which situations do you find it most difficult

to understand native English speakers?
Please let us know in the comments.
You can find more of our free English lessons
on our website: Oxford Online English dot

Thanks for watching!
See you next time!
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How to Understand Native English Speakers - Improve English Listening

2807 Folder Collection
Samuel published on May 4, 2018
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