How to deal with fast English speech?

Hi everyone,

I would like to hear your suggestions how to deal with fast English speech? My one of the main problem with English is inability to understand persons who speaks extremely fast and not clearly.
I can understand pretty well Steve’s videos, AJ Hoge speaks very clearly I understand him very well. However when I watch movies is really hard to realize what the have said because of their fast speech, it’s not only movies of course in the real life sometimes I get struggle communicating with Irish also due to fast speech.
I hope you get my point and if you have any advice please share!
Thanks :wink:

There will always be words you don’t know (or heard very few times), new sentence structures and so on. Try listening with more “attention”. Alter the speed (Windows Media Player can do that, slow - medium - fast). Read at the same time. Do so for any audio+text you have (including audiobooks). Read aloud.

When you feel that you understand most of the content you have studied actively, listen to random podcasts, radio, tv programs to get accustomed to many types of voices, accents, speeds.

Related discussion:

I’ve never found that speeding up slow materials helps at all because when people are speaking fast, they don’t speak the in the same way. You have to get used to all the mushed together, skipped and even added sounds. The only way to do this is to listen, listen, listen to fast materials.

Movies are hard. Just keep going. It all takes time. i can see where the Irish would cause additional problems. Just keep exposing yourself to the language in all possible ways and your comprehension will improve. Keep a positive attitude.

I agree with Imyirtseshem - you just have to saturate your brain 24/7 with full native-speed content.

And remember this isn’t an English problem - it’s a language problem. I was initially floored by the difference between the seemingly easy-to-comprehend classroom Spanish and the rapid fire pace of native speakers. Every language does this and you just need to listen as much as you can. Don’t stress that you aren’t going to understand everything that’s spoken quickly right away and sounds will slowly become easier to distinguish and jump out at you more as time goes on.

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Them Irish are always causing problems! :smiley:

Now to actually answer with something hopefully useful, I had the exact same problem with movies. What I did was find the particulary hard to understand scenes from those movies on youtube, and I used to rip the audio from those youtube videos to an mp3. I then listened to them on my mp3 player, like listening to LingQ lessons. If I could find a transcript of the scene I would read through the text as well. If not, I would attempt to create a transcript myself, slowing down the audio using Audacity if necessary. If I still had no idea what they were saying at times I would ask a native speaker. I now had an mp3 player full of hours worth of (previously) hard to understand movie scenes for which I (for most of them) now had the transcript and just had to train my ear to understand the sounds.

Side note, if you can stand freestyle rap (I barely can, but have discovered that it is somewhat more tolerable in foreign languages) this can also be good listening practice because they are just basically talking really fast set to a background rhythm (which can also aid in vocabulary and phrase acquisition) and transcripts of lyrics are way easier to find than of movie scenes. Hope this helps.

I am sure odiernod’s suggestion works, but I must say I would never go to all that trouble. I have found that if you improve your ability to understand in general, by taking every opportunity to listen and read as much as possible, and as you watch more and more films, hopefully enjoying them, your ability to understand films gradually improves, but gradually.

I watched a heap of Dutch movies - now I understand almost everything in Dutch movies. Sometimes the simplest answer is the least obvious one (to many).

The mp3 version works for me because most of my listening is done while I am not in front of a tv, this allows me to “train my movie ear” so I’m more able to understand and enjoy the movies when I finally have occasion to watch them.

Idiernod, I do remember talking to someone who ripped the audio track from movies and listened to them while commuting. Seemed to have worked fairly well for him.

Agreed, speeding up really slow audio won’t work for obvious reasons (just as slowing down really fast audio won’t work). I just thought that it’s a good idea getting used to various speeds. Assuming that a certain audio track is naturally fast, one could speed that up a little (the ‘fast’ setting in WMP is just a bit faster) - I usually do that when I’m listening to an audiobook on the computer. It doesn’t sound too unnatural.

Movie speech is another thing. It’s important to get used to the overall speed, but I haven’t thought of it since I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours in front of anglophone TV/movies over the years.

In my experience, I listen to what I like (usually clear slow content - Steve, AJ Hoge, Obama etc) and I am able to understand some movies as well. In my view, the key is to be relaxed and listen to content what you really like.

Like Odiernod, I use Audacity to help understand fast speech. But I don’t slow down the speech. I use Audacity to break it up into short segments and then loop each segment over and over until I understand it or go batty. Then it’s on to the next segment. Sometimes I read along, sometimes I just listen.
Movies are a different story for me. I generally find it easy to listen to a “foreign” movie that has been dubbed into French by native French speakers. As of now, though, I find it nearly impossible to understand the French spoken in movies originally made in French, after some 660 hours of listening to French.
However, I do trust the process and am certain that understanding will come.

Perhaps I should specify, I only slow down the speech if I need help creating the transcript. When I am doing listening practice, I never slow down the speech.

I use Audacity all the time to slow and speed up the rate of speech, totally without distortion. Change the TEMPO, and you won’t notice any distortion. Slowing down very fast Russian speech has helped immensely. After having listened to it a few times this way, I am able to separate and understand the words as I hear them. Then, returning the audio back to the normal speed(tempo), I can enjoy what I am listening to, because I understand what was being said.

Thanks for very worthwhile information…

In old Hollywood films – such as in the 1930’s through 1950’s – actors articulated clearly. Now the fashion is to sound natural, which means fast, idiomatic, and not articulated clearly. Try some old movie classics. They will speak fast but clearly.

Were I in your shoes, I would not try to master all English accents at this stage. There are an enormous variety within England itself, and quite a few in the U.S. Then you add Irish, Australian, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. A native speaker from one of those countries or regions takes time to adjust to the English of another English-speaking country. We have trouble with their movies as well, and sometimes need to turn on the subtitles for the hearing impaired!! :slight_smile:

Thank you for your input. There’s a simple conversation in Swedish in my (imported) course that I practically know by heart now - and still can’t understand while listening even with eyes closed and trying to concentrate really hard. I’m kind of stuck on this lesson but would like to move on because there’s nothing really new in there, just the fact that even after dozens of times listening I still don’t understand much more than key words. After reading this I will move on and just hope I’ll learn to understand fast speech one day.

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