The other day I was in a social situation where there was a lot of background noise, and the person speaking to me, who had not been here long, had a very strong accent in English. I found it difficult to understand them, and thought that it must be the same for them in reverse. This  got me thinking about some tips for understanding English speakers, and being understood in situations where there is a lot of noise in the background, such as at a party or social function or even at a conference.

Tips To Understand English Speakers In A Noisy Situation

1) Move in a little closer to the speaker- obviously without overstepping the appropriate amount of personal space needed between you and them too much.

2) To understand English speakers better –Listen, Listen, Listen – ACTIVELY

Attune your ear. This will speed up your ability to understand English speakers generally, not just when you are  in a noisy situation.

Even if you are surrounded by English speakers in your everyday life, begin to actively listen to how they pronounce words and attune your ear by listening to podcasts of people speaking at a normal rate, or being interviewed, and begin to attune your ear to what they are saying when you can’t see them. You can also use our accent reduction courses for the same purpose. If you are surrounded by people using a British accent, you could attune your ear listening to our British conversations course as well.

Keep practising attuning your ear to understand English speakers so that when you’re in a party or social situation, you can understand better and feel more comfortable in the situation.

3) If it’s a conversation with just one or 2 people, suggest that you move to a quieter spot because of the noise around you. Even if they are native English speakers they’re probably having the similar difficulties as you because of the noise.

4) To understand English speakers, watch the speakers mouth. This at least gives you some extra visual cues to help you understand what they are saying. Sometimes we are busy feeling bad about not understanding what’s being said and forget to do this.

5) If you generally have a problem hearing what people are saying in a noisy environment, even when they are speaking your native or background language , you may need to have your hearing checked.

Tips So You Are Understood At Parties And Social Situations!

1) This one is a bit obvious- speak more loudly, but try not to strain your voice too much.

2) Move your mouth more. Make an extra special effort to pronounce your words more clearly, and part of this is to move your mouth more. You need to drop your jaw a little more and open your mouth a bit more than usual. You need to make sure you move your lips forward properly for the ‘oo’ or ‘or’ vowels in words or, make your ‘ee’ long enough and don’t cut it short and make an ‘i’ sound. Often students say they’ve noticed they have to move their mouth more than in their native language, to speak clearly in English.

3) Write out some things you might talk about, news topics, topics to do with common interests of the people at the party, or to do with the topic of the conference, or write out some lines regarding a compliment you might give someone about their clothing and ask where they got it, or practise some questions you might ask about their interests, or how they know the host etc. Not only does this break the ice ( gives you something to start the conversation with), but also you will have practised saying it clearly before hand.

4)  Use our accent reduction courses to practise speaking more clearly with the dialogs and hundreds of sentences available to practise with. Other English speakers can understand you better even if you only fix up one pronunciation error, and so you feel more confident and comfortable in the situation.

5) Don’t be afraid to speak slightly more slowly, as you would in your native or background language in the same situation.

I hope this has given you some ideas of how to feel more comfortable in social situations with your English speech, and especially as this was part of the reason we developed our accent reduction courses. As I mentioned, even changing one pronunciation error, already makes a difference to your speech clarity and confidence in English. Have a look here for more information.

Best wishes, Esther

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