AEE 1233: How to Hang On When Natives Speak Fast

Do you ever find it hard to understand natives when they speak fast in English?

Do you ever find that words are pronounced very differently than what you see and learn from a textbook?

Today we’re looking at features of connected speech–this is all about pronunciation and understanding what a native speaker is saying in conversation.

We’re going to show you that this is a very common part of speech and pronunciation, and the reason behind this.

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Here’s a question about this topic that can help.

Hi ladies,

I have a question when I learn English about linking sounds. I’ve been learning English for 20 years, and I feel like I do well with it. I can understand natives, but when they speak slowly. When I watch TV they usually speak very fast. Many words are linked together, and then I think it’s a new word when it’s not.

I try to use these linked words in conversation and then feel upset when I find that I’m using them wrong. Can you help me to make sense of this and to figure out how to understand natives? This is very hard when they are speaking fast, and it’s hard to keep up.

Thank you for your help,

Andrew and Joyce

Understanding Native Speakers

Why is it so hard to understand native speakers?

How can we stay ahead of this and try to understand what they are saying?

This can be particularly hard when the natives are speaking fast, which happens often.

There are reasons that it’s hard to understand natives, and you want to know what those are.

Oftentimes we don’t speak the way that we see written in a textbook.

You have to understand that the way that we speak is often due to necessity, convenience, or just simply a more natural flow.

Breaking Down Connected Speech

Everything that we say tends to blend together, and there are four ways that this happens.

What are natives doing when it seems like they are linking everything together?

It’s called “connected speech.”

Here are some rules that explain this:

  • Assimilation: It means the same, so here it says that some words sound the same and so it’s used in this way. The motivation for speaking in this way is that native speakers are lazy. The reason that we change certain sounds is that it’s easier to go from one letter to another in a sentence or with words. This has to do with tongue placement and speaking in a way that is easiest for your mouth to form the words. This can cause the most confusion because you know how to say it and what the pronunciation is, but then you hear it and it’s different. You would say a phrase like “how ya doing?” in a faster way where the words are connected because it just flows easier.
  • Elision: When the sound completely disappears because that’s the way that we talk. You won’t pronounce every single letter and sound because it doesn’t feel or sound natural. A perfect example of this is with the word “sandwich,” where you don’t say the “d.” This happens with a phrase that has the word “and” between words. It goes to a nasal sound of “n” such as in the example of “fish and chips.” You don’t say “and” there and so it just goes away.

What you see in a textbook is not going to be what you use in everyday life, and this is a perfect example of that.

These rules may seem hard to understand at first, but you will quickly find that you hear these used each and everyday.

This is truly an instance where the more that you learn it and then practice it, the more that you will make it your new norm.

Using This In Real Life

So how can you practice this?

Try using transcripts to help you in understanding and then mastering these skills.

Try using lessons to help you with listening to people talking.

A great idea is to use the Connected Communicator. You can go here get it.

In this course we outline and teach some of these rules to help you get started.

You have the knowledge and now you have to use it and cement it somehow.

As you’re listening to native speakers with our course, use the transcripts to really understand it.

Look and listen for examples of the two examples above, and it will help you to really recognize it.

Then talk through that transcript out loud to help you to really solidify these skills and see how it works firsthand.

Takeaway

This is one aspect of learning about pronunciation that can be rather difficult at first.

Connected speech may not be something that you logically think about when you talk, but you will come to understand why it’s so important.

This is a perfect example of speaking in real life versus what you would learn in a textbook.

Try to listen to examples and also get some transcripts to see how this works firsthand.

If you practice this then you will be able to talk to and understand natives on a totally different level.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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