Why You Don’t Understand Spoken English, Movies & TV Shows | Improve English Listening Skills

Lesson summary

Been learning English for many years but still can't understand native speakers? In today's video you will learn 3 reasons about why you can't understand spoken English and how to fix it.

Video transcript

Have you been learning English for many years but still can’t understand native speakers? Well today I tell you why that is and how to fix it. 

 

What’s up guys? My name is Shane and today we are talking about why you don’t understand English.

 

This is a very common problem that many of my students have. They understand me, they understand my YouTube videos but if they are listening to movies or the TV or native speakers on the street, they can’t understand anything.

 

And the main cause of this is that most students learn textbook English but they haven’t learned to speak English like a native speaker or to use phrases like a native speaker.

 

So today we look at 3 reasons why you don’t understand English and how to fix them. Okay, let’s get started! 

 

Reason #1

As I said in the intro, one of the main causes of English learners not being able to understand native speakers is because they learn textbook English. English that comes from a textbook, not English that is spoken by native speakers.

 

And part of learning English from a textbook is that English learners don’t learn about connected speech. Connected speech is when native speakers speak really quickly sometimes they add sounds, remove sounds or change sounds.

 

If you’ve been watching my channel for a while, the example I always give is:  What are you doing? What are you doing? This is how a nonnative speaker would say it.

 

But a native speaker would say:  Wodduyuhdowing?  Wodduyuhdowing? Wodduyuh, wodduyuh, wodduyuh, wodduyuhdowing? All the sounds come together.  Wodduyuhdowing?

 

When you’ve been learning English, you’ve probably learned to say: what are you doing? What are you doing? But then, a native speaker says to you:  Wodduyuhdowing?  Wodduyuhdowing? And you’re really confused.  You don’t understand. Huh!? What? Wodduyuhdowing?  What does this mean?

 

But you actually know this phrase already. You understand but you just haven’t learned to say it like a native speaker.

 

A few more common examples could be:  This is a book. This is a book. Could you get me a coffee?  Could you get me a coffee?  And … what do you do? What do you do? What do you do?

 

So how can we fix this problem? Well the first thing you can do is start watching my videos. Because on most of my videos that are about pronunciation or new phrases, I show you how to pronounce these phrases like a native speaker.

 

Let me show you an example of a clip I just put out recently.

 

And when we say this really quickly,  it sounds like this: Djyuh hava table for two free? Djyuh hava table for two free? We don’t say do you. We don’t say have a. We say djyuh hava. Djyuh hava. Djyuh hava table for two free?

 

Now you try. Djyuh hava table for two free?

 

Welcome back!  So now the second thing you can start doing is:  to listen to native speakers at every opportunity you can.

 

And really really listen.  Listen to how they talk. Listen to what sounds they join together and listen to which sounds they don’t join together. Watch tv. Listen to YouTube. Listen to the radio. Watch movies. Talk to native speakers in real life.

 

Use every resource you can and then start copying the native speakers. Start copying how they actually say phrases. And this will really help you to start to understand native speakers when they’re speaking really quickly. 

 

Reason #2

Chair.  What did I say? Share or chair?  Day.  What did I say?  They or day?

 

This is the second reason why you might not be able to understand English.  You can’t hear different sounds in English.

 

For example, the first two words were made with ch and sh. These are very common sounds in English and if you can’t hear them, then when a native speaker is speaking to you, you probably won’t understand what he is saying. 

 

And in the second example, the first word was day. Day. With a d. the second word was they. They. With a voiced th sound. 

 

These sounds are very commonly confused by people learning English and if you can’t hear these sounds, if you can’t understand these sounds, how can you understand native speakers? You can’t. 

 

So how can you fix this problem? Well you can start to fix this problem by understanding pronunciation. And learning pronunciation is easy.  Because we all have a mouth, we have teeth and we have a tongue.

 

So we can all make the sounds that we have in English. You just have to say it correctly. 

 

I have a whole pronunciation series on this channel and it covers the very basic sounds in English. I show you how to pronounce these sounds, what your mouth should look like and where your tongue should be and much much more.

 

And when you start to understand pronunciation and how to make these sounds, this will help you to be able to hear the sounds correctly as well.

 

You should spend time on your pronunciation every day. Not just one day, not just a week, not just a month but every day.  You need to make your mouth used to speaking English.  Used to making English sounds. 

 

But when you are practicing, you need to be saying the sounds correctly. Because if you’re practicing and saying the sounds incorrectly, then you will get into a bad habit of saying these sounds incorrectly and you don’t want that. You want to be speaking English correctly from the start. 

 

Many students spend a lot of time on learning new words, new grammar, new phrases. But they don’t spend time on pronunciation.  And then they ask themselves why isn’t my pronunciation getting better?  It’s because you haven’t spent any time on it.

 

You need to spend time really learning pronunciation. And when you are learning pronunciation, don’t just listen, you need to speak and use your mouth as well. Pronunciation only gets better with practice. 

 

I actually just put out a video recently about pronunciation. 

 

This letter is called r. the sound it makes is rrr.  Rrr. When you make this sound, you need to put your lips like this. They should be round and your tongue should be like this.  Rrr. Rrr. An example word is rabbit. Rabbit.

 

Welcome back! And the second thing that you need to start doing every day is listening to native speakers so your ears can start learning to understand the sounds in English.

 

And the more you listen, the easier it will be for your ears to hear the sounds and understand the sounds. Especially sounds that are very similar. For example, sh and ch. 

 

And when I say listen, I mean really listen. You have to sit down and concentrate on what the native speakers are saying.

 

And when you’re listening, try and think about where are the sounds coming from in the native speaker’s mouth. Are they coming from more the front of the mouth or is it more at the back of the mouth?

 

So if you understand your pronunciation, you will know where all of the sounds come from in English and how to make them yourself. 

 

Let’s pretend you ask someone a question and they say I don’t know. You understand this, right? But what happens if you ask someone a question and they say beats me? What does this mean? Do you understand the meaning? 

 

Reason #3

This is the third reason why you might not understand native speakers and it’s because you only know very basic phrases in English like I don’t know or I’m sorry. And these are good phrases. You can use them in many situations. 

 

But sometimes there are better phrases you can use or phrases that are more appropriate to your situation.  For example, before I used the phrase beats me. 

 

This is a very common phrase we can use to say I don’t know.  So if you want to start learning to understand native speakers, you need to know many many different phrases that you can use in many many different situations to express yourself. 

 

So how can we fix this? Well the first thing you can do is start watching my videos. I have a few videos on this channel where I give you different ways to say basic phrases.

 

For example, I recently put out a video regarding different ways to say I’m sorry.  The second phrase is my apologies.  My apologies. This is also another formal phrase that we use in more serious situations. 

 

So let’s pretend that you work in a call center and you’re talking to a customer on the phone and he’s very very unhappy with the service he has received.

 

You could say to him: my apologies sir but we are trying to do everything we can to help you. Please be patient. Welcome back!  And the second thing you can do is start watching native speakers in many different situations and writing down the phrases they use in those situations.

 

So if you’re watching a native speaker speak to his boss at work, it’s very likely he won’t use I’m sorry. He will use a more formal phrase like I apologise. 

 

So stop trying to translate everything from your language to English and start watching what a native speaker would say in that situation instead. 

 

And that is the end of the video today. If you’re interested in learning about the right way to learn English, check out this video right here. If you haven’t subscribed already, make sure you subscribe right now so you don’t miss any video that can help you understand English like a native speaker.

 

And comment down below and tell me: what are your biggest problems when listening to native speakers? 

 

If you learned something today, please hit like and share this with your friends so they can start learning to understand English that is spoken by native speakers.   And for daily quizzes, and for weekly posts, videos and lessons, make sure you’re following me on Instagram and I will see you in the next video.  If you’re interested in watching a video regarding. A few more common examples of connected speech. 

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