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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How to Understand Fast-Talking Native English Speakers | English Listening Skills

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Hi there, and welcome.

In this video, Ill tell you the four reasons why you have trouble understanding fast-talking

native speakers of English.

And of course, Ill also tell you how to practice so that you can improve your listening

skills and understand what you hear in movies, on TV shows, and in real-life conversations.

So, lets jump into it.

The number one reason why native speakers are hard to understand is obviously speed.

Now, when you listen to me or another teacher, you probably understand most of what we say,

and thats because teachers speak slower.

We try to use simple language to make it easier for you.

But native speakers dont have that kind of consideration.

They talk for other native speakers, so they talk fast.

And what happens as a result is reductions, that is, words get reduced in fast speech.

For example, words likeshould have”, “could haveandwould havebecome

shoulda”, “couldaandwoulda”.

Kind ofbecomeskinda”, “going toandwant toget reduced togonna


Then we have contractions likeIll”, “youll”, “youre”, “were


Now, reductions are important and you oughta learn aboutem if you wanna be a good listener.

I know this stuff aint easy, but dont worry.

Youll get the hang of it if you keep workinon it.

Know what Im sayin’?

If youre a little confused about what I just said, its OK.

I used a lot of reductions there.

Heres what I said: “Reductions are important, and you oughta learn aboutem if you wanna

be a good listener.”

That is, “you ought to learn about them if you want to be a good listener.”

I know this stuff aint easy”, that is, “isnt easy”, “but dont worry.

You will hang of it if you keep working on it.”

Theggot dropped fromworkingthere.

And then I said, “Know what I am saying?” which is basically justDo you know what

I am saying?”

Its a slang expression that meansDo you understand?”

This is how native speakers often sound, especially if theyre speaking with a strong regional


So, let me share with you an exercise you can do to get more comfortable with fast speech.

I call this exercise 2x listening, that is, listening to audio at two times the natural


On YouTube, for example, if you go into the settings, youll see an option that lets

you speed up the video (and, of course, that will speed up the audio along with it).

You can also do this on media players on your computer or smartphone.

Now, you might be thinking, Im already having difficulty listening to speech at natural

speed; how am I going to listen at 2x?

Well, whenever you watch something on YouTube and you really like it, for example, an English

lesson, an instructional video, a TED talk, an interview, a podcast, a news item, whatever

it is, after you finish watching it one time at normal speed, go into the settings and

speed it up and listen again.

Now, you can just speed it up to 1.25 times (thatll be a little bit faster).

If you feel thats easy, go to the next speed, and so on all the way up to 2x.

It will be challenging, but you can turn on subtitles or get the transcript if you can

and follow along.

As you listen, try to catch every single word that you hear.

If you cannot catch a word or phrase, it might be getting reduced.

So, rewind five or ten seconds and listen again.

Do this until youre able to understand everything at 2x speed.

The purpose of this exercise is to train your ears to pick out words from fast speech.

If you make this a habit and do it a lot, youll get great results from it.

Nowadays, whenever I watch a YouTube video, I just start at 2x speed, and I only slow

down if I dont catch a word or a phrase.

This exercise is great for listening practice, and it saves you a lot of time too.

So, thats the 2x listening exercise.

Try it out.

Vocabulary is another important reason why listening can be difficult for you.

Even if you have great listening skills, and you can catch every word that you hear, its

no use if you dont actually know the meanings of the words, right?

Heres an example.

A friend of mine recently told me he had quit his job.

It was a well-paying job, and I thought he was happy with his career, so I asked him

why hed quit.

Heres the dramatic answer he gave me.

You notice that there are a few blanks in it.

Im going to say the answer, and I want you to identify the missing words (you can

either write them down or just make a mental note).


I quit my job because my dream is to be an entrepreneur.

I want to escape the monotony, the drudgery, and ultimately the mediocrity of the rat race.

I dont want to be just another cog in the wheel.

I want to chart my own course, pursue my dreams, be the master of my own destiny.

Did you catch all the words?

If you want, you can go back, listen once more and try again.

Alright, here are the missing words: “I quit my job because my dream is to be an entrepreneur.”

That means a person who starts his or her own business.

I want to escape the monotony”, that is, repetitive stuff with no variation, “the

drudgery”, (dull, boring work), “and ultimately, the mediocrity” (being average, not very

good), “the mediocrity of the rat race.”

The rat race is an idiom that refers to how people are working in jobs trying to compete

with each other for money and material things.

I dont want to be just another cog in the wheel” – thats another idiom which

means an unimportant part of something, like how in a machine in a factory there might

be many cogs; each one is necessary but can be replaced by another one.

I want to chart my own course,” that is, I want to choose my own path in life,

pursue my dreams, be the master of my own destiny.”

Destiny means where you go in life (the great things youre supposed to do), sort of like

your lifes destination.

Now, this passage shows you how important vocabulary is.

Working on your vocabulary is not a separate activity from improving your listening skills.

Having a good vocabulary translates to having good listening ability.

So, take vocabulary learning very seriously if you want to be a good listener.

Develop a reading habitread every day.

Yes, Im telling you to read to improve your listening.

Read the newspaper, read magazines, stories, novels, whatever interests you.

When you come across new words, look them up in a dictionary, note them down.

Over time, you will notice great improvements in your listening skills.

Grammar can also pose a challenge when it comes to listening.

If you hear sentence structures that youre not familiar with, you may not understand

what youre hearing even if you know the meanings all of the individual words.

Let me share a couple of examples with you: “We have a flight in two hours.

We had better get going.”

What does the second part mean here?

Well, “get goingmeans to leave; its an idiom.

But, the grammar item you should know about ishad better”.

It means the same thing asmustorhave to.”

So, it means, “we must leave now, otherwise something bad will happen.

Well miss our flight.”

If you didnt know that structurehad better”, then you wouldnt understand

the sentence.

Heres another one: “Id rather read a good book than surf the internet.”

What does it mean?

Well, it shows my preference.

Given two options: to read a good book or to surf (browse) the internet, I would choose

the first option.

I prefer to read a good book.

This preference is shown by the structurewould rather do A than B” – it means

I prefer A. One last example: “Not wanting to upset his hosts, he told them the food

was great.”

It means he did not want to upset his hosts, so he told them the food was great.

But, that means the food was not great, and he chose not to tell the truth because he

didnt want to hurt the feelings of the hosts.

Here, “not wanting to upset his hostsis a participle clause, and its often used

to present a reason-result combination.

Now, there are many more sentence structures in English.

So, I suggest that you get a good grammar workbook.

There are many grammar workbooks on the market, and many of them come in multiple volumes

for different levels like beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

So, you can get the levels that suit you best.

Working through grammar exercises will make you more familiar with the common sentence

structures in English, and you will find that both when you read and when you listen, you

start to recognize these new structures more.

So, work on your grammar to improve your listening skills.

And last but not least, the many accents of spoken English often make it difficult for

us to understand native speakers.

An accent is how people from a particular region pronounce the sounds of a language,

and with English being a global language, there are many different English accents around

the world.

Even within the United States, you have the so-called standard newscaster accent (the

kind you hear on CNN).

But then you have the Southern accents (with their distinct twang) in states like Texas

or Alabama, which sound quite different from the accents youd hear in New York or New


And dont even get me started on the UK.

I know its the birthplace of the English language, but some of the accents there are

so thick theyre subtitled for American viewers in TV shows.

So, if as a non-native speaker, you find keeping up with all these accents difficult, youre

totally excused.

Now, there is some good news.

Like I said before, its only the sounds that are pronounced differently in different


Other aspects of pronunciation like word stress, sentence stress and intonation are normally

consistent across accents.

For example, Americans saymɪ.səl/ while the British saymɪ.saɪl/, but notice

that the stress is on the first syllable in both.

Similarly, /ˈske.dʒuːl/ is the American pronunciation, while /ˈʃed.juːl/ is British;

again, the first syllable is stressed in both accents.

In the word /təˈmeɪ.toʊ/ (American) or /təˈmɑː.təʊ/ (British), the second syllable

is one thats stressed /mɑː/.

However, there are some words with differing stress patterns like /ɡəˈrɑːʒ/ in American

English (stress on second syllable), and /ˈɡæ.rɑːʒ/ in British English (stress on first syllable).

Ord.vərˈtaɪz.mənt/ (stress on third syllable – /taɪz/) anddˈvɜː.tɪs.mənt/

(stress on second syllable – /vɜː/).

So, the best thing for you to do is learn the correct pronunciation of words.

Whenever you come across a new word, or even when youre unsure of how to say a word

correctly, look it up in a dictionary.

I recommend that you pick a good dictionary like Cambridge, Oxford or Merriam-Webster,

and use the online version or the app.

These will let you listen to the correct pronunciation of any word you look up.

Theyll also give you the various pronunciations of the same word (like US vs. UK English),

so youll be aware of the differences.

Make it a habit to look up words in a dictionary and learn their correct pronunciation.

In the end, improving your listening skills is all about practice.

The more you listen, the more you feed your brain with listening material, the better

you will get at it.

So, use the tips in this lesson, practice listening a lot, and you will get great results.

If you liked this lesson, give it a thumbs up by hitting the like button.

Also, remember to subscribe to this channel by clicking the subscribe button to get my

latest lessons right here on YouTube.

Happy learning and I will see you in another lesson soon.

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