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Improve English Speaking

Why spoken English is so hard to understand! [part 1]

English conversation practice

In this class, you’ll find out why spoken English is so hard to understand and you will improve English speaking as a result

Group of people speaking English

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Do you find it difficult to follow conversations in English?

In this lesson, we’re looking at why spoken English is so hard to understand. This is the first part in a mini-series which will really help with your English conversation practice.

So, why is spoken English so hard?

You may think it’s because you don’t know the words. But, actually, studies show that most people use around 5,000 very basic words when speaking… which isn’t a lot! And you probably know most of these words anyway.

Group of people speaking English

OK, so, if it isn’t the language, what is it? Well, one thing is that people rarely speak in grammatically perfect sentences. So, instead of saying this:

“I went to the beach for my holiday”,
They might say :

“I, erm, for my holiday, I, erm, I went to the, you know, the beach.”

Another thing is that people often use words or sounds that don’t mean anything, such as er, erm, like, you know…

People use these words and sounds as they’re trying to think what to say, or as they’re deciding how they want to say it.

OK, but why do people speak like this?

The thing is, people aren’t always sure what they want to say, how they’re going to express it, or even whether they should say it or not. So, they might start something and try to finish it, but then say something else completely different.

Of course, with writing, you can edit your text after you’ve written it, and keep editing it until it’s perfect. But with speaking, you have to edit yourself while you’re talking, and it’s rarely perfect! Naturally, all this can be very confusing for you the listener and language learner!

So, just to help you understand spoken English, we’re going to look at some of these features. This will really improve your speaking and listening skills. Simply knowing about these things, will help you follow conversations a lot more easily. Ready? OK, let’s go!

NOTE: we aren’t saying you need to use these sounds or words, but you might do naturally anyway!

Group of people speaking English

  1. Er / erm

Er and erm are conversation fillers that don’t mean anything – they’re just sounds that people use when they’re thinking of something to say:
“Er, what do you think?”

  1. like

This word is used to fill a gap in a conversation, or give you time to think:
“I’ve got, like, about two minutes to, lie, talk about it.”

  1. You know

This is used to check that the other person is following the conversation, or as a filler:
“If you want any help, just, you know, ask.”

  1. I mean

People use this expression to correct themselves:
“It’s really good, I mean, it isn’t bad.”

  1. Repetition

This is when people repeat words in a conversation. People often do this when they aren’t sure what they’re saying:
“It’s the first… first time I’ve ever heard it.”

  1. Interruption

This is when one speaker interrupts another. Sometimes, the speakers may even speak at the same time:

A Well, I was just walking down the street when…

B …which street?

Now you’re going to listen to a conversation.

Emma is talking to Andy about moving to another city. Listen once and answer these questions.

  1. What does Emma like about the idea of moving away?
  2. What does Andy like about staying where he is?

Quality English conversation practice is possible with our Skype classes and our fantastic eBook, Practise English conversation


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