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Understanding Native Speaker Speed English

September 12, 2012 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Do you ever find it easy to listen to English in class or CDs from textbooks, but can’t keep up when a native speaker is actually talking to you?

If the answer is “yes”, then don’t feel bad. This is one of the most common problems people come to me with.

See, the CDs from textbooks are recorded with voice actors speaking very slowly. This makes it easier for learners, sure. A lot of English teachers do the same thing when they speak… but this isn’t good, because it’s just another “crutch”.

Luckily it’s a problem easily solved.

The first and most important thing to remember is of course – don’t worry.

This is the same with everything to do with learning English. The more you worry, the more nervous you will get, and the more nervous you get the harder speaking and listening will become.

But here are two tips to help you get used to FAST English, and also improve your overall English listening skills.

1) Native Speakers DON’T Speak in Words

My first tip for improving your listening in real conversation is: listen for the chunks.

Native speakers speak in CHUNKS, not individual words and grammar.

Watch this video if you’re not sure what this means:

This is important for two reasons.

First, individual words get crushed together, so something like “a lot of the” is actually pronounced, “alotvth”. Just knowing this (and getting good at recognising chunks) will make listening a lot easier. Also, again, because of the way we speak in chunks, English speakers naturally emphasise important keywords when speaking.

For example, the chunk, “at the end of the day” is pronounced:

“at the END of the DAY”

The key words are stronger. These words are important because we can understand what’s just been said just from these two words.

So basically, you only need to catch keywords.

2) Super Speed your English Listening Practise

If you want to listen to native-speed English easily practise listening to FASTER THAN NATIVE SPEED English.

I did this a lot when I was learning Japanese.

Find some audio in English, and play it at double speed. It’ll be really, really hard at first… but if you can get good at understanding at double speed? Natural speed will be easy.

Actually, I got this tip from Tim Ferris, who uses this technique for many things – check out this video of him practising Yabusame archery at high speed.


P.S. Do you speak English as well as you’d like? If the answer is “no…”, don’t worry – click here to watch my free 45-minute training.


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