Listening to fast spoken English.
Here is a sound file of a short voicemail message / answering machine message for you to work with to improve your listening skills. If your goal is to be able to understand native speakers when they speak to you in fast natural conversation, then the best way to improve your listening skills is to actively listen to natural English spoken in a normal fast everyday pace. When you listen to this sound file it may sound very fast and initially be very hard to understand. Don’t worry!!
I am speaking in my “normal’ everyday English telephone voice, not my slower teacher voice. I want to explain to you why you can not hear all the words you are expecting to hear. Listening exercises like this get easier the more of them that you do. I am going to post a short exercise like this every week. The more natural speed English you listen to and study the easier it will get. If you listen to these exercises every week you will learn more about phrasal verbs, about connected speech used in British pronunciation and also colloquial expressions. Let me know in the comments if this exercise is helpful for you.
Listening exercise 1
The sound file is a voicemail message from me, your friend, who lives in a nearby town. I am phoning to say Happy New Year and to arrange to meet you next week.
To get the most out of this exercise follow the instructions below.
Listen to the message in the sound file without pausing and try and work out what the message is about. Don’t worry if you do not understand everything. Can you hear any of the words? Write down what words you can hear.
The sound file and transcript is at the bottom of this page BUT do not read the transcript yet.
Listen to the sound file again and see if you can hear any more words? Which parts are difficult? Which words are missing or difficult to hear?
Interesting language points.
Just has many different meaning but in this context, it can mean “only”.
Hi, just phoning to say
In natural informal spoken English, we often speak so quickly we miss words out of the sentence and so don’t use correct grammar. If this was to be spoken in a more formal style it would be “Hello, I am phoning to say“. In informal language the I am is often missing. The word just is used a lot in informal language and the subject and verb before just will be spoken very fast and will often not be heard as full words if they are spoken at all. If I am is spoken it will be contracted to I’m, sometimes only the m is heard and often both the I and the m are not heard. The other difficulties for non-native speakers listening to this fast natural speech are that the other words are connected up, t and g are often not pronounced and the other sounds are linked up and so sound like one mysterious word. Let’s look at an example of this.
In this next sound file I am going to be saying
I am just getting it.
I start off saying it unnaturally slowly, without contracting I am to I’m, then saying it faster so it sounds like mjustgetinit and then when spoken faster the t’s and g’s disappear until it turns into
In the voice mail message I use the word just three times and each time I do not use the subject or verb before the word just. This is very common in informal speech.
Just wondering if …. just phone me back
If you want to read a previous blog post with a listening exercise about the phrasal verb to phone back click here.
Here is the voicemail / answering machine message again with the transcript below for you read along and speak the words out loud at the same speed as I am talking.
Listening with transcript
click answer to read the transcript
Hi, just phoning to say Happy New Year, err sorry I’ve not been in touch over Christmas.. just wondering if you would like to meet up next week for a drink after work? ok just give us a ring back and we will speak soon hopefully Bye
Let me know in the comments on the web page or on facebook if you found this exercise useful. Are there other words in this message you found difficult to hear? Let me know and I will write another blog post about those words.