A lot of you first learned English in a classroom, from a textbook, or maybe from a CD series. If that’s how you learned, then you’re going to have trouble with spoken English because they’re not the same thing! Here’s what’s different:
- People use different words and phrases in spoken English than they do in writing. They use slang. They say “um”, “hmm”, “ah”, “uh”, etc. They skip the word “that” when using relative clauses. Most classes and books teach “proper” English, which is used in writing and in formal speech. Here at PhraseMix, I try to teach casual English as well.
- Words are pronounced differently when you say them individually than when you say them together. This is called “connected speech”. If you only learn English in a classroom, you probably only hear very careful pronunciation. You won’t be prepared when someone asks you:
W’joominehand’nmethabagovethare? (“Would you mind handing me that bag over there?”)
- People talk about a lot of different topics. Some topics are very specialized and uncommon. Sometimes they talk about people you don’t know, or make a joke about a movie that you haven’t seen. An English class, textbook, or even a website like PhraseMix can’t prepare you for all of the possible topics in this world. So it’s important to realize that you don’t have to understand everything.
If we want to know or understand about spoken English, you have to improve your listening skill. So here’s my list of the 10 best ways to improve your English listening skill. These are listed in order.
- Live and work in a completely English-speaking environment.
- Do some kind of sports, hobbies, or other activities with a group of English speakers.
- Talk one-on-one with an English-speaking tutor a few times a week.
- Do a language exchange with an English speaker, in person or over Skype.
- Watch lots of hours of movies, TV shows, and videos in English, with English captions.
- Watch movies, TV, and videos with no subtitles.
- Watch movies, TV, and videos with subtitles in your own language.
- Listen to English podcasts on a topic that’s interesting to you (but not on the topic of learning English).
- Listen to English radio shows.
- Listen to audio English lessons.