4 Tips To Understand Native English Speakers

4 Tips To Understand Native English Speakers

Here are 4 tips to understand native English speakers!

 

Hi, Esther here. Welcome to this training video from Speak More Clearly. Glad you could make it!

In this training, I’m going to go over 4 tips to make it easier to understand or comprehend native English speakers.

Some of our students have said they have trouble understanding native English speakers, especially when they’re speaking quickly. Of course this is only natural at times. We all know that when we speak our mother tongue, especially when we ‘re speaking to friends or family, we tend to speak quickly and run words together, and even half say words. That’s just what we all do with our native tongue. 

Let’s have a look at this in English. 

 

Tip 1: The first tip to understand English speakers better is to learn about Linking and elision. 

To sound more flowing and fluent in English, speakers use linking and elision. 

When you understand how to do this, and practise using it yourself, not only will you speak more flowingly, but you’ll also understand English speakers better when they use it. You understand what’s happening and why words sound like they all run in together. 

Most of the time, when a word ends in a consonant, and the next word begins with a vowel in a sentence, we link them together like one long word instead of 2 or 3 separate words. 

For example:

If I say ’most of it was open.’ that sounds choppy. But if I use linking,  I will link the ‘st’ at the end of most  to the ‘o’ at the beginning of ‘of’ – mo stov ( the /f/ is saying /v/ in of – mo stov. 

Then I’ll link the  ‘v’ sound at the end of ‘of’ to the ‘i’ at the beginning of ‘it’.  ‘(O vit)

We take the final consonant of the first word, and attach it to the second word at the beginning. 

So instead of ‘ most of it’, each word said separately, it becomes ‘mostofit’ (said mo sto vit). Like one long word with no breaks in between.  (‘Mostovit’)

Let’s say it twice together. 

Mostovit   

Similarly, I’ll link ‘was open’ as well. This becomes ‘wasopen’  (said ‘wa zopen’). 

Let’s say it twice together.

Wasopen

 

Elision is when a word ends in a particular consonant and the next word begins with the same consonant, and so we elide or omit the consonant at the end of the first word. 

For example, ‘I got to see the play last night.’

Instead of saying ‘got to’ separately, I run the words together and leave off the ‘t’ at the end of ‘got’.    

‘Goto’   I goto see the play last night. 

Say it with me ‘I goto see’.

There are video training lessons in our American, British and Australian accent courses to teach how to do this, and there’s even a whole training video with many many phrases specifically designed for your mouth to practise linking. 

 

Tip 2

Did you notice when I said ‘I goto see’ I didn’t say ‘ I gotoo see?’

I actually said “I go t see’  

The ‘oo’ vowel in ‘to’ became the weak or de-stressed schwa vowel /ə /.   

Not as we normally say to,, but ‘tə’. Really, as if I was just saying the sound ‘t’. 

Got to /gotə/

 

Learning to hear and use the schwa vowel in English is vital to pronounce English clearly, to sound more like a native speaker if that is your goal, to use correct English stress patterns, and to of course comprehend English speakers better. 

Again, in our American, British and Australian accent courses we have training on how to pronounce the schwa vowel, and also training on how to ‘hear’ where it is in words. 

 

Tip 3: Listen for assimilation to improve your English comprehension. 

Speech assimilation is the process where sounds in separate words change, when  they are put together in speech to make it easier to say. . 

For example, I can say hand bag as two separate words – I have a hand bag. 

But usually in quick speech, handbag becomes ‘hambag’- ham bag.

The /d/ is omitted and the /n/ modifies to a lip together sound ‘m’ to make it easier to get to the /b/, which is also a sound made with lips together.

Hambag  /haembaeg/

I have a handbag (hambag).

 

Another example is /n/ followed by /k/. 

In the phrase ten cups – I can say I have ten cups, that’s fine, but when I’m speaking quickly ten with an /n/ at the end  becomes an ‘ng’ sound.       

teng /teŋ/ so,  teng cups 

I have teng cups. 

Because the ‘k’ is made with the back of the tongue raising up at the back of the mouth, the front nasal sound /n/ becomes a back nasal sound ‘ng’ to make it easier to get to the ‘k’ quickly. 

A common phrase people assimilate is would you -would you like to go- the /d/ followed by a ‘y’ /j/ combine to make a ‘j’ /dʒ/. It becomes wouja  /wʊdʒə/    The ‘oo’ in ‘you’ becomes the weak form schwa sound /ə/  

Would you = wouja  /wʊdʒə/

Would you like to go?

 

Tip 4: Listen to podcasts, movies, TV shows with people speaking in the accent you’re trying to understand.

Listen over and over. One way is to listen first without the caption or subtitles, and see how much you can understand. Then, listen again with the captioning, and then again without. This way you’re learning to attune your ear to the accent. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. And, keep in mind that you now know some of the elements you are listening for – linking, elision, use of the weak form schwa vowel and assimilation- these help you comprehend better. 

 

If you found this video helpful, please share it with someone who would benefit from it 🙂

For more pronunciation tips, check this video lesson on 3 great tips to speak English fluently.

 

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