Learn English Listening Skills


Hello and welcome everyone. This is Minoo at Anglo-Link.

Today's video is all about listening comprehension.

I have some interesting tips for you. This is particularly for those of you

who still find it a little hard to understand native speakers

or watching television in English

or listen to the radio in English.

I'll be telling you about some specific aspects of the English sound system

and some speech patterns that native speakers use

that can make listening in English

a little bit of a challenge

by the end of this video,

you will have a really good understanding of where the difficulties that you might be facing come from

and what you can do to overcome them

and really improve your listening comprehension.

So, when you're ready, lets begin!


Today I'd like to share

3 keys with you

that will really improve your listening comprehension of native speakers.

Let's look at what these 3 keys are.

the first thing is to understand is what makes native speakers hard to understand.

The second key is improving your own pronunciation.

And the third key to improving your listening comprehension is

learning primarily

with your ears

rather than your eyes.

Okay, lets start with understanding what makes native speakers

hard to understand.

They're two main reasons for this.

The first one

is the great number of vowels and diphthongs in English.

And some of these are very similar to each other.

They're many words where the consonants are exactly the same.

And by changing the vowel sound

the meaning changes.

And when these vowel sounds are very similar

and especially if one or the other

doesn't exist in your own language.

This can make it

quite a challenge

to understand a native speaker.

Lets look at some examples.

These are called minimal pairs by the way.

Same consonants,

different vowels.

Minimal Pairs.


and Bought. Mad -Mud.






Then. Bit - Bet. Live


So, notice

the only difference is the vowel

or the diphthong and

they can be very very similar. So, in connected speech they're not easy

to tell apart.

This is the first reason

why listening to English native speakers can be challenging.

Now, lets look at the second reason.

The second reason is the way that native speakers shorten

and link sounds.

Let's give you a quick example. Look at this sentence:

How is it going?

You would hear from a native speaker:

'how'zit going?'

There are three specific speech patterns

that all native speakers use.

And I'm going to take you through them one by one.

Speech pattern number one is contractions.

Contracted verbs and negatives.

You're pretty familiar with these.








What is important to remember

is that native speakers

always use these patterns when they speak.

Except when they want to stress a point.

That is why there's a difference in tone and meaning between

'O.K. I'll do it.'


'I will do it.'

'Nothing can stop me.'

When we use the contraction there's no stress

on the contracted form. There is no particular emotion.

The other example,

when you've used the full form,

'I will do it'.

you want to show determination.

So, as using contractions is the norm rather than the exception in spoken English.

I would recommend that you try and use them as much as possible yourself.

Firstly, you will sound more natural

and secondly

you'll be able to hear them more easily when native speakers use them.

Just be careful not to use contractions

in formal writing. When you're writing a letter, or a report,

or an article.


keep it to the full form.

Keep the contractions

for speaking.

Moving onto speech pattern number two.

Speech pattern number two is called week forms.

Grammatical words, such as modal verbs,

possessive adjectives,



are seldom fully pronounced in a sentence.

The vowel in them is reduced

to a shorter vowel


disappears completely.

Let's look at some examples:

Here we have the modal verb 'can'.

In the sentence,

it can sound like 'kn'.

The vowel disappears.

'I kn ski.'

Let's look at another example:

Possessive adjective:


very clear,

in isolation, 'my'.

But in the sentence

it sounds

'Here's me book.'

You can hardly hear it.

And another example:

Preposition: for.

In the sentence

the vowel is reduced to 'fa'.

'It's fa you'.

Now, you don't need to use these week forms at all when you speak.

As your message will be

even clear without using them.


you do need to be aware of them

and anticipate them

when listening to a native speaker.

Let's look at speech pattern three.

Which is phonetic links.

Generally any word that starts with a vowel

is linked to the previous word.

And this makes it

hard to hear

each word distinctively.

Let's look at some examples:

'He works

as an engineer.' You've got

three words that begin with vowel. 'as', 'an'

and 'engineer'.

In connected speech

they all run into each other.

'He works sazanen gineer'.

Second example:

Here you have

four words that begin with vowel.


interested, in, it

and they all run into each other.


And there's a semi vowel


that links

the vowel

at the end of 'she'

to the vowel at the beginning of 'is'. She(y)is.

And our third example:

Two words: one ending with a 't',

the next one starting with a 't',

they run into each other, and then

to words starting with a vowel.

'an amazing'.

Once again

all this section

runs into each other.

'They wentto(w)anamazing place.'

And once again you have the semi vowel (w)

that connects the vowels

'to' and 'an'

to each other.

Once again

you don't necessarily need to use these links when you speak

as your message will be perfectly clear without them.


you do need to be aware of them and anticipate them

when you listen

to native speakers.

Now often,

you get at least two of these speech patterns,

sometimes even all three,

in a row in a sentence.

and that is when you can feel really challenged.

Let's look at an example:

'He won't accept it from me.'

You have the contraction 'won't', you have

two words beginning with a vowel; 'accept' and 'it',

and you have the preposition 'from'.

So, in connected speech

you will hear:

'He won'tacceptit fromme.'

At this point you are probably asking yourself; well what's the best way to

familiarize myself with the speech patterns?

I think the best way

is transcribing audio files.

If you already have a CD of dialogues,

with transcripts,

then listen to the dialogues

and write them out

and then compare what you have written with the transcript.

If you do not have such CD's,

I recommend Anglo-Files

104 and 108

from Anglo-Link's selection of audio files that you can access

on our website.


These are selections of daily dialogues

and business dialogues

which you can listen to and transcribe, and then

check what you've written against the transcripts

on the site.

This will really improve your listening comprehension of native speakers

and at the same time

will help you to activate

loads of useful functional expressions.

Now, if you have never studied the English sound system, if you've never

studied pronunciation on its own,

I strongly recommend our Anglo-File


In this Anglo-File,

you will have a complete list of all the vowels, of all the diphthongs,

all the consonants in English that you can practice.

It also has loads of minimal pair exercises

that will help you to


vowel sounds that are similar from each other.

It also has a section

on the speech patterns we've looked at. You can listen to weak forms, contractions

and phonetic links, and transcribe them.

This will be really really helpfull if you have not familiarised yourself

with the English sound system yet.

Now if you want,

you can do a transcription exercise now

by clicking on this image.

If you prefer to continue listening to the presentation,

you will have the chance at the end of the presentation

to do it then.


So, once you've familiarised yourself with the English sound system

and also know how native speakers shorten

and link sounds.

The next step is to improve

your own pronunciation.


if you're mispronouncing a word because you learnt it by reading,

and guessed how it was pronounced,

Then it is likely that you will not catch it when you hear it.

There're two common traps,

if you have guessed

the pronunciation of a word

by by reading it.

The first common pronunciation trap


believing that two words with the same spelling

will have the same sound.

Let's give you an example:

If you think that the combination letters

'e' and 'a'

always sound like:


as in


then you will miss pronounce

the following words:

'Great', 'Hear'



This is the best example of the same combination of letters


having five

different sounds.

Another tricky letter is the letter 'u'.

If you imagine that the letter 'u' always sounds like /u/

as in 'put'.

You will mispronounce

the two following words:


and 'Furious'

because that the letter 'u' is sometimes /u/

many times ...

and occasionally ...

Okay, let's look at the second comment pronunciation trap.

Which is:

word stress.

In many languages

the strength of your voice is spread equally among the syllables in a word.

In English however,

if you have more than one syllable in your word, you have to decide

which syllable or syllables

take the stress of your voice. And which ones are


Let's look at an example:

Here's a word

with four syllables. Now, let's decide

which syllable

takes the stress.

Is it the first one:


Is it the second one:


The third one:


Or the last syllable:


In this case

it's the second syllable


Now, you couldn't know that unless you have heard the word

many many times.

Let's look at the second example:

Let's look at these two words.

They seem very similar in their spelling. So, you would expect them to have the

same rythms, the same music, the same word stress.

However, in the first one,

it's the second syllable that's stressed.

And in the second one

it's the first syllable.

And that changes the pronunciation


The first word is:


And the second word is:


So, what is the conclusion of the examples we've looked at?

At the pronunciation traps we've looked at?

Well the conclusion is that you have to avoid guessing how a word is pronounced.

Always check the pronunciation of the words that your learning.

Either ask someone

or use a talking dictionary.

Talking dictionaries are now widely available on the internet

and you can listen to the word several times and with some of them you can even

record your own voice, and compare your pronunciation

with a model, which is an excellent exercise.

Again, you don't need to be a hundred percent correct in your own

pronunciation to be understood.

But if you have not heard

the correct pronunciation of a word enough times

your risk not catching it

when it is spoken by a native speaker,

in a stream of other words,

with phonetic links and weak forms surrounding it.

So, do work on your own pronunciation. It's an important key

to improving

your listening comprehension.

And finally to the third key,

improving you're listening comprehension.

Learn primarily with your ears

rather than your eyes.

Now you have a better understanding of why native speakers

are not always easy to understand.

Especially if you have learnt your English

out of a book.

It's for the simple reason

that what you see

is not what they say.

Therefore, the best way to learn new words and expressions is by first

hearing them

then seeing them in writing.

So, here are some final hints

on how to use

your ears

instead of your eyes.

Listen to audio books

rather than read the printed version of the book.

Listen to the radio

and watch programs and films

in English as much as possible.

Even if at first your understand very little,

this is a great exercise to tune your ears into the sounds rhythm and

music of the language.

You will be surprised how quickly you will start to hear and understand more

and more.

If you're using a course-book,

work more with the accompanying CD

than the book itself.

And finally,

if you're using a word you have learnt by reading

and have never

heard it before,

make sure you check the pronunciation.

To give you more tools to improve your listening comprehension and pronunciation,

we have recorded all the grammar exercises that you have access to

on anglo-link.com

These are available as audio files.

And they ensure that you also learn the correct pronunciation and intonation

of the important structures

and the useful expressions

that we have included in our


If you didn't do the transcription exercise ealier on, this is your chance to do

it now.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this

video on how to improve your listening comprehension

and found all the tips useful.

thank you for watching, I look forward to seeing you in our next video.

Bye now!