Why is it so difficult to understand what the native speakers say?
You can understand English texts, you can follow your English teachers or even have achieved some accomplishments in the field of English listening and speaking, but one day, when you meet a native speaker, you can not figure out what he or she is talking about, not a single word! Is there something wrong with you? Or is there something wrong with the native speakers?
Before analyzing this issue, we have to confirm that you are not the only one who encounters this problem. So don’t panic, just take it easy. Most English learners have to go through this in their language-learning journey. And of course, we do have solutions for the problem.
In the following article, we will point out some reasons why you do not understand native speakers and suggest tips that can help you to deal with them.
We hope that after reading this post, you can find yourself a better way to practice English in the near future, and you can communicate with native speakers naturally and comfortably.
Now, let’s start!
- Lack of general knowledge.
When you listen to something and you can not determine the meaning of the sentences or the meaning of the words, you need to identify what the reason is. Is it because you do not know that word, even when others speak slowly and write it down for you or you simply can not catch up with the speed of the conversation?
If you are in the first situation, you have to reconsider yourself. We all advocate that it is obvious to find new words while listening. But if this happens frequently, you need to increase your overall skills. Below are things you can do to achieve your goal.
- Test yourself with subtitles
There are so many interesting films or videos in your target language that you can find on the Internet. If you can only grasp about fifty percent or lower of the program’s general ideas, don’t worry, try to put on subtitles. If you can understand much more than you were without subtitles, you should try to imitate the way people communicate with others and express their ideas. However, if your ability does not get better with subtitles, you should spend more time on the vocabulary field. An ideal choice for you is that you should challenge yourself with something easier, such as reading books, watching short films, short cartoons, or watching vlogs about things that you are excited about.
- Watch TV and listen to the radio.
You undoubtedly spend some hours watch TV daily. So, have you ever intended to watch English speaking channels? If you feel you are getting better at handling no-subtitle movies, you can switch to watching TV, especially major foreign channels like CNN and BBC. New bulletins are one of the best sources for you to widen your overall knowledge. They keep you up-to-date with what is happening in your city, state, country and the world. If you miss news bulletins for a day, watch weekly news roundups and news reviews for compensation. They provide excellent insights into latest events all over the world.
In your free time, don’t forget to watch diverting channels such as Discovery, National Geographic and History. They will bring you a relaxing time while absorbing basic knowledge.
You are a busy person and want to do multi-tasks while developing your general skills? I want to tell you that the radio is exactly what you are looking for. You do not need to glue your eyes to the screens or sit hours on end to keep yourself abreast. All you have to do is open the radio (sometimes they are apps on your phone) while doing housework or traveling from your home to office or school. Radio listening is an excellent pastime activity.
- Read newspapers
Reading newspapers is a good habit that can provide a great deal of information from many different fields such as politics, economy, entertainment, sports, business, industry, trade and commerce. With this habit, it will not only give you a wide range of general knowledge but also improve your language skills and vocabulary. Unfortunately, this habit is fading among young people.
Your family should buy English daily newspapers, spend a few minutes every day reading important news and current affairs around the world. In this way, you can also create the ability to store and process information, which is a handy skill for your future job.
- Join English websites and forums
In this era of information technology, it is simple to find basic general knowledge through the internet. Visiting English websites is a good idea, but you have to be careful since many sites are reporting fake news. To get rid of that, we highly recommend YouTube and Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is a multilingual online encyclopedia created and maintained as an open collaboration project by a community of volunteer editors, using a wiki-based editing system. It is the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web. Information on Wikipedia is accurate. It provides links and references for every critical piece of information on any subject.
There are countless channels for English learners on YouTube, but take your time for advantageous channels. BBC Learning English and TED are going to be good choices.
BBC Learning English is one of the best sites to learn and practice English, with live pronunciation videos, quizzes, and many grammar tips, etc. If you have doubts about grammar or pronunciation or use of certain expressions, you can comment or email them to ask. Meanwhile, TED covers a wide range of topics on Technology, Entertainment and Design – plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. The special thing about this channel is that it features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Their stories will not only provide you with valuable experience but also give you an endless inspiration to improve yourself.
- You are used to your daily English classrooms
Many of us have access to English through English classrooms. But there is a sad truth that the English classes may be the most dangerous for those who want to master English.
If you want to improve your writing skill, the English classroom is created for you. But if you want to be fluent in English, it is not. Because you are not exposed to real, natural English, you are going to be clumsy when dealing with it.
So, the only advice that we can give you for this obstacle is that get out of your classrooms, be brave and find yourself a chance to listen and speak with native speakers.
- Native speakers mumble and speak fast
Even when you reach a higher level that can understand most of what you read, you sometimes still can not get used to native speakers’ conversations. This can be explained by the fact that native speakers are so comfortable in their own language. They are not always careful and often mumble their way through the sentence and even skip some words or syllables altogether. There are some phrases that native speakers often abbreviate, and here are some examples:
+ Gonna = going to
+ Gotta = got to
+ Lemme = let me
+ Kinda = kind of
+ Dunno = don’t know
Another reason why you can not figure out what they are talking about is that they tend to connect all the words. Instead of splitting them up, they just put them up altogether as if one sentence is one big word. So, if you want to catch up with what they say, try to connect your sentences or listen to authentic English conversation to imitate them.
For example, when you say “what do you do?” you often read word by word, just like your teacher taught you. But the native speaker will connect all the words, which makes the sentence sound like “whudduhyud do?” It may be hard for you to get used to their style at first so you can try x0.25 or x0.5 speed while watching or listening before enjoy the real speed.
- Native speakers’ speaking style
The reason that you may not understand native speakers is that they speak differently depending on where they born, their ages, styles and experiences.
Many countries use English as their mother tongue, so it may be a bit difficult if you have to listen to an entirely new accent with different ways of speaking. But if in the learning or working process, your friends or co-workers’ English seem to be too fast for you, just ask them to speak slower. But remember, don’t rely too much on it. Try to spend more time listening to their English, your skill will be much better.
Communication between two generations can also lead to confusion since each generation use different slang words, have different styles of talking, etc.
The above are a few difficulties along with tips to help you improve your ability when communicating with others, especially English native speakers. Try to apply these tips in your learning process, you will be surprised at the result.