Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fast Speech: How Students Can Understand it Better

Often times, my students tell me that native English speakers talk too quickly, and then I respond by saying that they listen to SLOWLY. We often laugh about this, but I try to help my students realize that the issue is that native English speakers often reduce some sounds in what is called relax speech, which is hard for students to understand.

In other words, although English has only 5 main vowels (a,e.i,o,u), we sometimes don't pronounce these clearly in unstressed syllables. In other languages with the same vowels, these sounds are almost always stressed. Here are a couple of examples in English:

  • I want to go to the party.
  • I wanna go ta the party.
  • I have to call him tonight.
  • I hafta call 'im tanight.

Keep in mind that faster speech doesn't mean better communication skills. I've created a Web site to help students called http://www.trainyouraccent.com/. There are also a number of good books that help students improve their use and understanding of conversational English. One of them is Whaddaya Say: Guided Practice in Relaxed Speech. You can find more of my recommended books and electronic devices at:

Besides understanding fast speech, what other factors do you think affect a student's ability to understand a language? Share your thoughts on this topic.

Randall

7 comments:

  1. I believe there's no shortcut to learning how to understand spoken language.Also, there's no magic trick a teacher can perform in class to help his students improve their listening skills. What teachers can do to contribute to his students' performance is to expose them to real language in use through recordings of real conversations, movies, songs - just to name a few. Students should also do the same; i.e, to somehow be immersed in the target language culture and take advantage of every opportunity to communicate in English - particularly with native speakers of the language. Today the Internet has provided students all over the world with opportunities to engage in real conversations with native speakers through chat rooms and the like. We just have to take advantage of it.

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  2. hi RANDALL!nice to meet u.I come from Hong Kong,You can call me "Vivianne".I'm very confused about the English.I've tried my best to improve the english,but i can't get better.Also I think English is a difficulf for me to learn and understand.It's because so many words,I don't know what they mean... I tried to do your's listening exercises and another grammar test recently.But still can't be good.How can I get better? Would u answer me? thanks u so much...

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  3. The best way to understand the fast speech is speak as much as possible with the native speaker.Living in a country where the offcial language is English is the best opportunity to pratice your listening skill.You will be able to communicate with who is born in there everyday.That is more helpful than you study in school.If you don't have a chance to live in there,you still have a chance to improve your skill like watching tv,movies,listen to songs,etc anything includes English can make your English better.

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  4. Vivianne,

    Feel free to use my sites to improve your English; unfortunately, I don't have time to correct the grammar or English of every single person who writes me, but I really to try to help when and where possible.

    Best,

    Randall

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  5. Randall,
    Hi,I have been staying in New Zealand to learn English for about 2.5 months.To be honour, I can understand them for appro.60% - 70%.(depends on the interlocuter) The problem I'm facing is that the foreigners occasionally can't understand what I mean. So do I. They would sometimes ask me "Pardon" or "Sorry". Secondly, they always speak to me with slang that I didn't understand at all.Furthermore,they tend to use some difficult vocabulary in the conversation, so that you can not follow. I continuously make use of your website so as to improve my listening and speaking skills.
    Josephine@Hong Kong

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  6. Hi, everybody. when you´re learning English, it is always important to use new words and try to speak as much as possible,but it is true, the use of fast speech is complicated for us like learners because we don´t have the same skills from the native speakers.However, we can improve our English level by listening the experts in it speaking and imitating them.

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  7. 1. his own mispronunciation of english words ( so as he is not able to pronounce it properly he cannot understand it when others pronounce it well)
    2. because he has no focus on someone's speech
    3. beginner
    4. drunken..))
    5. neglected part of english even he has pretty good english;

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Thanks for posting a comment. I appreciate your interesting in sharing your ideas.

Best,

Randall