How to improve your listening skills.
(to really improve your listening skills you can listen to this blog post at the same time as reading it!)
Do you want to understand British native speakers when they are talking to you in social situations?
When you listen to native speakers do they sound fast and the words sound jumbled and joined together?
Are there many words you don’t hear pronounced fully?
Then when you look at the transcript do you think…..“He said that???? it did not sound like those words to me?? I know those words…. why did I not recognise them?”
Don’t worry if this sounds familiar. I can help.
The problem is that informal spoken English does not sound the same as it looks when written down.
If your goal is to understand everyday spoken English, then you need to spend more time LISTENING to native speakers using this informal spoken English.
How to understand fast spoken English.
This might sound obvious but…….
first of all you need to listen to English as it’s really spoken in real life situations. Not the clear slower English performed by actors that you often hear in text book dialogues.
In real life everyday English we use weak forms of common words when these words are not the main content words in the sentence. So for example MY often sounds like MEH as the vowels is changed to the lazy schwa sound eH. In the same way I often sounds like EH, and you sounds like YEH. The vowel in all these words is changed to the lazy schwa sound EH. In my resources I use BLUE to indicate words that are pronounced in the weak form.
The other common issue is that in informal British English it is VERY common to not pronounce the T at the end of words. We also don’t pronounce the G at the end of ing. I indicate these unpronounced letters by
a red strikethrough font
Listen to this – which one is easier to understand?
1 I’m getting the drinks in. I want to buy you a pint.
2 I‘m gettin
g the drinks in. I wana buy you a pint.
which one sounds more natural?
Number 2 I‘m gettin
g the drinks in. I wana buy you a pin t.
This sentence is more natural, but is maybe harder to understand.
In this sentence the main content words, the important words that need to be heard are:
The other words are unstressed and so we use the weak forms and we don’t pronounce the ends of the words fully especially if they end in T or G.
We also connect words together — drinks in — joins together following the rules of connected speech and sounds like: drinksin
We also use reductions and weak pronunciations so for example sometimes I want to becomes I wanna.
t to buy you a drink. might sound like I wanna buy you a drink.
You need to practice listening to real informal speech and get familiar with how this sounds.
You need to find short sound files of native speakers talking, but you need transcripts for you to read afterwards.
Where do you find such materials? You can search on youtube or other places but such materials often do not have accurate transcripts. This is why I make these resources.
I make resources like this to show you a wide range of British English accents. In particular, I focus on the accents from the North of England which you are less likely to find in textbook recordings.
I have given the transcript and have also highlighted in blue the words which are spoken using the weak form which is used when the word is unstressed. I highlight in
red the letters that are not pronounced.
To make the best use out of this material.
1 Listen to the whole video and work out what it is about. Do NOT read the transcript.
2 Listen in short sections – for this video listen to each question and how he answers it. Write down exactly what you can hear. What words can you hear? If you can not hear a full word write down what it sounds like. Even though it might not make sense write down the sounds you can hear. This will help later to discover why it was hard to hear the real words.
3 Listen to each section multiple times and write down exactly what you think you hear.
4 Each time you listen again, you might be able to write down one more word that you can hear.
5 After listening multiple times……. Now listen and read the transcript.
6 Compare this with what you have written down for each section.
7 Listen and read my explanation of the transcript. The parts with the blue weak forms. These words written in blue are the words which perhaps did not sound like you expected them to. Look at which sounds are in
8 If you let me know which parts were hard to hear I will help you to understand why this happened so that next time this will be easier.
9 If you want help with this write in the comments here which parts were hard to understand. Tell me what it sounded like.
If you want to discuss this further and to see the whole transcript written out with the blue weak forms and weak pronunciation detailed in blue, then come on over to my facebook group and join Helen’s Language Home Gathering.
If you want to be sent a short online course looking at Connected Speech then sign up to my mailing list.
I have more listening exercises looking at Manchester accent here.
There is another Listening Exercise using the voice of Liam Gallagher here.
Interviewer: What do you like and dislike about music today?
Liam: ermm, what do I like and dislike about it? No I like music man, I don’t dislike…I don’t dislike it.
Liam: ermm, wha
t do I like an d dislike abou t i t? No I like music man, I don’ t dislike…I don’ t dislike it.
Interviewer: What’s your favourite part of performing onstage?
Liam: favourite part of performing on stage is seeing the people…. and making them bounce.
Liam: fav’rite part of performin
g on stage is seein g the people…. an d makin g ‘em bounce.
Interviewer: and when your standing on stage you have such an iconic stance, how did that come about?
Liam: well I never wanted to be Mic Jaggar and I’m not into dancing, it’s not my scene and that so I just think, you know, you just stand like that and you get a bit more power behind, behind the vocals.
Liam: well I neve
r wanted to be Mic Jaggar an d I’m no t into dancin g, it’s no t my scene an d tha t so I jus-think, you know, you jus t stand like that an d you ge t a bit more powe r behin d, behin d the vocals.
Interviewer: What’s the most under-rated band of the 90’s?
Liam: ummm…… Oasis
Interviewer: How about the most over-rated band?
Interviewer: What was your favourite thing about the 90’s?
Liam: oh….favourite thing about the 90’s…..I reckon… there was no camera phones and people where just living in the moment.
Liam: oh….fav’rite thing abou
t the 90’s…..I reckon… the re was no camera phones an d people where jus t livin g in the momen t.
Interviewer: Do you miss that?
Interviewer: What was your least favourite thing about the 90’s?
Liam: least favourite thing about the 90’s…..I don’t have a…. I don’t have a least favourite thing about the 90’s…. the 90’s were beautiful
t fav’rite thing abou t the 90’s…..I don’ t ‘ave a.… I don’ t ‘ave a leas t t the 90’s…. the 90’s were beautiful
Interviewer: alright, I can’t have this interview with you without asking….What’s the best party you’ve ever been to in your life?
Liam: best party I’ve ever been to…
t party I’ve eve r been to…
Interviewer: you’ve seen some parties..
Liam: errr I can’t really think of the best one really, I’ve been to quite a few and that..
Liam: errr I can’
t really think of the bes t one really, I’ve been to qui te a few an d tha t.
interviewer: there’s got to be one right?
Liam: there has I guess..but I can’t think of one from the top of my head…
has I guess..bu t I can’ t think of one from the top of my head…
Interviewer: that’s ok, but do you have any hangover remedies?
Liam: oh…straight back to the pub……no messing about…… lager
t back to the pub……no messin g abou t.….. lager
Interviewer: yea hair of the dog…
Liam: don’t sit and dwell about hangovers just go straight back again….and it’ll work itself out.
Interviewer: er it’s been a few years since the 90’s, things are different, er what’s a wild night out for you these days?
Liam: Oh I don’t have wild nights out these days I have wild nights in.
Interviewer: If you were forced to sing one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
Interviewer: what would you say is the best lesson that your mother taught you?
Liam: to be myself and not give a F…….. what people think.
Interviewer: what’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from being a father?
Liam: being a father? ermm…..oh…oh…I don’t know about that…. I don’t know…..
Interviewer: Can you tell me something that your kids do better than you?
Liam: digest their food better than me…
Interviewer: there’s been a resurgence in Oasis fans over the past few years..what’s it been like seeing a new generation discovering your music?
Liam: yea.. now that’s been amazing, we’re very lucky to err be alive and have seen the youth at our gigs. There’s a lot of people and they pass away and they never get to experience that.
Interviewer: in the eighteen years that Oasis were together what specific moment makes you the most emotional?
Liam: ermm I just think getting a record deal…you know as boring as that kind of sounds, you know we’d done Knebworth and Main Road and all that…but I think getting a record deal and going into the studio and developing the songs and that was, that was the most important for me…
Interviewer: yea, I know..for sure…what’s your guilty pleasure
Liam: ewwww……. guilty pleasure…..Blur
Interviewer: has anyone ever left you feeling completely starstruck?
Liam: yea, Ringo Star….
Interviewer: Ringo… I can see that, he’s like a pretty good guy to hang out with yea?
Liam: yea he’s a dude. He’s my favourite
Interviewer: When your getting ready for a show what’s your pre-stage ritual?
Liam: pre-stage ritual…I drink a lot of honey and lemon and apple cider vinegar.
Interviewer: that actually sounds pleasant…
Interviewer: what a wonderful display of footwork… errm who is the most rock and roll player at Manchester City and why?
Liam: err well it used to be Mike Somerby in the 60’s and 70’s because he never wore shinpads and that, he rolled his socks down and he got stuck in. But these days….who would I say it is now?….er maybe Sergio Aguero
Interviewer: alright… who woud you like to see relegated from the premier league?
Liam: United, Manchester United