Five tips, five secrets, five tricks to improving your listening comprehension skills! You can do this! Study how Americans speak to improve listening and pronunciation.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over five tips to improve your listening skills.
In this video, I’m going to go over five tips, five tricks, five secrets to improve your English listening comprehension skills. If you pay attention to all five and spend time every day – not long! Fifteen, twenty minutes, there’s no way you won’t improve dramatically. If you get bored working one way, try one of the other five tricks.
Studying pronunciation and listening skills go hand-in-hand. The more you understand how Americans speak and how to imitate that, the better you’ll be at both speaking and understanding conversational English, which can move at a pretty quick pace.
So the first trick to improving your listening skills is to study reductions. How is it that Americans speak so quickly? They reduce less important words. Let’s take for example this word: FOR. Fully pronounced, it’s FOR. But most of the time, in a sentence, Americans pronounce it ‘fer’. Really fast, with a reduced vowel, fer. So if you’re expecting to hear FOR, fully pronounced and clear, then you’re never going to hear ‘fer’.
This is for the meeting on Monday.
I’m going to be late for class.
There are quite a few very common words that, just like this, that Americans regularly reduce. Knowing what they are, studying them, practicing them, will help you identify them in the fast speaking of native English speakers. I’ve put together a playlist of videos that go over these common words that reduce. I’ll post that playlist at the end of the video.
The second trick to improving your listening skills is to study how Americans link words together.
American English speech is very smooth.
American English speech is very smooth.
Linking words together is another way that Americans are able to speak so quickly but still be clear. When you study linking and the ways Americans link words and sounds, it makes it easier to understand native speakers.
There are specific cases and rules. For example, when you’re linking a word that ends in the EE vowel, a very common ending sound in American English, to a word that begins with a vowel, it helps to put a Y sound in between the words.
Americans do this without thinking about it.
“He always”. Heeeeeyal-ya-ya-yyalways.
It sounds like ‘yalways’. He yalways. He always.
The Y is a glide consonant, so we can use it to smoothly glide between words.
I have a playlist of videos that goes over the cases and rules for linking, which I’ll put at the end of the video. Studying this will make Americans easier to understand, and make your English more beautifully American.
The third trick to improving your listening skills is to study the specifics of native speech. Great. Everyone wants to do that. HOW do you do that? I’ve come up with an exercise to study native speech that I call a ‘Ben Franklin’ exercise. In these videos, I take a small segment of natural, conversational, native speech, and analyze every bit of it. We look at intonation, stress, words that reduce, linking. This set of Ben Franklin videos does it all for you so you can understand HOW to study the audio and video clips of native speakers, and how to get the most out of your studies.
Let’s look at a quick example.
Tom what did you do today?
Lots of interesting things happening here.
I noticed first of all that I’ve dropped the tea here.
What did you do? I’m also noticing I’m getting more of a J sound here.
Ju, ju, what didju, didju…
So the D and the Y here are combining to make the J sound so we have…
Wha – di – ju… Whadidju, whadidju, whadidju.
Tom what did you do today?
Today? Today. Today, I woke up…
So, at the end of this video, I’m going to put a link to a playlist of these Ben Franklin exercises.
Trick number four: Find a short audio or video clip of a native speaker that has a transcript. I’ll give you ideas of where to find these at the end of the video. Before you look at the transcript, listen or watch and try to write down the transcript. Keep it short, like 10 or 20 seconds of video or audio. Listen several times and do your best to write down exactly what’s being said.
Then compare it with the transcript. What are the words and phrases you missed? Listen again and try to figure out why you missed them. Was the stress different than you thought? Was one of the words reduced so much you didn’t hear it? Was there a word you’ve never heard of before? When you figure out WHY you didn’t understand it, it’s going to help you get it next time. Keep track of those words and phrases you couldn’t understand, and use them with tip five.
Now this is really cool. The fifth trick for improving your listening skills is to listen to a variety of native speakers say the word or phrase that you have a hard time hearing. There’s a website called Youglish where you can plug in a word or a phrase and listen to hundreds of examples of native speakers using that word or phrase in conversational English. Let me show you what I mean.
I’m here on Youglish.com. Let’s say I didn’t understand the phrase “I want to do that” when I was working on a podcast listening comprehension exercise. I type it in, with quotes, and I select US here for American English. Now it loads a series of videos, all queued up to this phrase that I can listen to in a row. Use this button to skip to the next example.
“It takes me like an hour and 15 minutes to get here, I wanna do that and…”
“You’re gonna come and help me and you
say no I don’t really think I want to do that…”
“See others doing it and say, wow!
I want to do that with my own…”
“You know, I want to do that…”
“I’m going to do that and give you a call…”
“And I want to do that today…”
“I want to do that, just tell me how to do that…”
“If I want to do that, I need this series…”
“I remember thinking I want to do that.”
“I want to do that…”
“I want to do this, I want to do that…”
“I want to do it. Do I want to do that or do I wanna…”
Wow, everyone said wanna. As you hear one example, pause and imitate it.
Listen to 10, 15, 20 different people say your problem word or phrase and spend some time saying it out loud yourself. What do you notice? Is there a Stop T? Is there a reduction? The next time you hear it in conversation or a movie, you’re going to understand it.
There you have it. My five top secrets, my top tips for improving your listening comprehension. Aren’t you sort of excited to get started working on one of these tricks right now?
I want to give you a couple of resources for number 4 – videos and audios with transcripts. I love TED talks. Visit ted.com for thousands of videos on varied and interesting topics with transcripts. And just choose a 10 or 20 second section of the video to work on. Also, lots of podcasts post their transcript online. One of my favorite podcasts is This American Life. Check it out.
Here are all of those playlists I mentioned. Click here or in the description below. Pick one and watch it next. Start working on it right now. There’s no time like the present. Work with one of these tips everyday. Bookmark the playlists. You really can take charge of your listening skills. What other ways do you work on your listening comprehension? Put it in the comments below so that everyone can benefit from your ideas.
If you’re new to Rachel’s English, welcome. I have over 500 videos to help you speak better American English on my YouTube channel. Click here to visit my channel and subscribe. Or, see this playlist to get started with my videos. The link is also in the description below.
Also, I have a great ebook – 290 pages with two and a half hours of audio. This book details my method for learning American English pronunciation. It organizes hundreds of my online videos for a path, start to finish, to help you speak beautifully and naturally. Click here or in the description below for more information and to purchase a copy. You’ll get free updates of the book for life.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.