Hi everyone! Coach Yuka here.
Hope the weather is treating you well.
It seems that this year the rainy season has ended with the record quickness! I don’t know if we should be celebrating or be worried …
Anyway, let’s get started with our topic of the day: “listening and pronunciation”
Also, below, I’d like to share some questions I received this week from two of my students. I think their situation with listening is very common in Japan and many of you can benefit from it.
But first, the podcast. Here is the episode Coach Chris and I did on the topic. Please give it a listen!
In this episode, we discussed two major points.
1. Listening material is not how normal people speak
Listening material in textbooks and exams are usually so accurate and by the book to the point it sounds unnatural. Although the recordings are done by native speakers, they often sound like some kind of official announcements. “Accurate” may not always be natural.
The English normal people speak is more fluid and flexible. So it is no surprise that some students have trouble understanding basic phrases such as “Hi, how are you?” spoken in real life.
2. Pronunciation is still underrated.
Many people want to improve their listening and our advice is to work on your pronunciation. Those two skills seem far apart but they have a lot to do with each other.
Also, it is worth noting that English has many more sounds than Japanese. It’s highly possible that you have trouble understanding spoken English because you are not hearing the sounds unique to the language.
If you can pronounce it, you’ll be able to hear it. So it’s worth practicing your pronunciation. The least you can do is to go over the sounds that do not exist in Japanese.
Here are the two questions I received from my students.
“I think I understand most of what’s being said but I’m never sure.”Student A
It’s totally okay and normal not to understand everything that’s being said.
No matter how advanced you might become, there will always be words that you don’t understand. Surely the number will decrease as you move up.
If a word is the key to the conversation, you can ask and clarify by repeating what you think you’ve understood.
Like, “You like ###?” “You live in New York City?”
If you were wrong, they will correct you.
But at the beginning of your English journey, the percentage of words you don’t fully understand is huge, and if you stop to clarify every time they come up, the conversation becomes an impossible task.
The key is: use your imagination.
Feel out the word. Is it something positive or negative? How does the speaker feel about it? Positive or negative? These things can be guessed through the tone of voice.
Despite it feeling a bit too basic, this can give you a good enough sense of what the conversation is about.
If what you think you understand makes sense to you, it’s very likely you’ve understood correctly. So get used to being comfortable with being not 100% sure and always use your imagination!
“I often get stuck with a word I don’t understand and that stops me from understanding the rest.”Student B
This student has a very high English skill. Just to give you an idea, he is studying for Eiken Grade 1.
His problem is that he gets stuck on one word that he does not understand and because of that he cannot concentrate on the rest of the conversation.
The reality is 1% is ruining the 99%. Don’t let this happen to you.
Again, the key is to be okay with not being perfect and to use your imagination. This is how children make sense of new words much of the time.
If you don’t train yourself to be okay with not being perfect, the same problem will haunt you even at the highest level, like this student.[日本語文へ]