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July 18, 2015

"I Can't Understand When Americans Talk Fast! Please Help!"

Have you been confused when listening to Americans speak English? 

Are you confused because listening to other Indians or others from your country speak English is easy, but listening to Americans is a big problem? 

For those who say yes, you may wonder, “How can I improve my listening comprehension of American English?”  

Others have asked, "How will I listen to and understand American language?" (American English) 

For those with limited interaction with native speakers, here are a few ideas:  

Hollywood movies 
Actually, I am not a big fan of using Hollywood movies to learn natural English conversation because movies, television shows and other programs are often highly rehearsed. They are not natural conversation. However, Hollywood movies can be helpful for shadowing exercises. For more on shadowing, click here. 

American Songs 
When I suggest American songs as an idea to improve comprehension, most 'freak out' thinking it will be way too tough. I do not suggest very fast songs, but songs where singers sing at a pace close to the pace people speak. Two songs you can try to listen to are "The Gambler" and "Operator." 

Actually, even better than Hollywood movies, which are rehearsed, I suggest podcasts of two or more people speaking in unrehearsed, conversational English. While there are many great English as Second Language teachers online who create podcasts, these podcasts are more instructional. I have noticed in my work in India, when I have used these kinds of podcasts, the learners I work with are impatient. They tend to prefer to listen to actual people talking (not in a class format), and see how much they understand and comprehend. 

Example of radio interviews that you may like to listen to: 
UST Global partners with Xerox to increase STEM graduates 
Tech Talks from 2015 - Another podcast  -  Follow on YouTube for latest episodes 
Car Talk  

Many radio shows (including the ones listed above) not only archive old shows, but live stream their programs in real time. I suggest to synchronize your clocks to listen to live streaming morning radio talk shows to the city or time zone that you will be moving to in the U.S. I talk more about that in the video below and share links to radio stations you can access online

Weather reports 
In the US, every area has two or more local tv stations. Find the local television stations of your area, usually NBC, CBS or ABC. Local news has a local weather segment. Usually this segment will introduce listeners to the local geography of the area as well as local ways of speaking.

Take a listen to the weather reports below. Listen, listen again, write the script, and send it to me, so that I can compare it against the actual script. Good luck.

Note, in the first video, Rich refers to "the fireworks." This was the July 4th weather report. July 4th is America's Independence Day. Learn more about it here.

To learn more about accent and clear speaking sessions, click here.

Related Posts:
How Understanding American Songs Helps in Understanding Fast Speech
Tone Expresses Confidence, Initiative and Assurance in American English (Video)
Common Questions Used in American Conversations (Video)  

Updated July 2015, April 2017

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We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.