Why are native speakers hard to understand?
Many English learners find it difficult to understand native speakers when we speak, especially when we are talking to other native speakers. Is it difficult for you also?
Let me share with you the two big reasons why it might be difficult for you to understand us when we talk. Then, I’ll share some tips to help you improve your listening skills!
The first reason it may be hard to understand native English speakers that when we talk we tend to connect some of our words together resulting in some changes to the sounds of the words. In addition, sometimes sounds are left out and sometimes others are added. It may seem like the difficulty is only that we are talking fast, and while that may be part of the problem, the connected speech we are using is probably making it hard for you too.
Here are a few common examples:
sounds more like
I need it
I nee dit
Would you like a sandwich?
Wouldja like a sanwich?
Are you familiar with the movie Ghostbusters? The famous line in the movie is “Who ya gonna call?”. Not “Who are you going to call?”. You can listen to it here, at the end of the trailer as the theme song starts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQCCPP8aZBY
Another common problem with understanding native speakers is that we use a lot of words that you may not have learned in a classroom. Slang, phrasal verbs, idioms, etc. are all commonly used in regular speech but many English learners don’t know these words and phrases yet. And that can make it very difficult to understand us.
For example the phrasal verb ‘fed up’ is made of two words. ‘Fed’, which is the past tense of the verb ‘to feed’ and the preposition ‘up’. But together as ‘fed up’, it has nothing to do with eating. It means to be angry or upset with someone because of something they have done or were supposed to do, usually something that has been bothering you for a long time. Here is a sample sentence:
I’m fed up with you, you never clean your room!
Common expressions and idioms can also be difficult to understand, such as:
You’re pulling my leg!
Someone might say this if they think that you are telling them something that is not true, not to be dishonest but maybe to be funny or that you really believe something that isn’t likely to be true.
In summary, if a native speaker is using a lot of connected speech you may know the words they are using, but don’t recognize them when pronounced by a native speaker. Or you may know all the words a person is using but the meaning may not make any sense to you. In that case, they are probably using slang, phrasal verbs or idioms that you are not familiar with yet.
What about you? Do you know many of the phrasal verbs and expressions used by native English speakers?
Here’s a video you can watch also, to hear more examples:
Remember, with hope anything is possible!
(I have a course about phrasal verbs and expressions, but not about understanding connected speech yet. If you think you might be interested in a course about connected speech, please let me know. If enough people are interested, I will make it a higher priority. )