This is a really big problem for a lot of English learners, but it is not as simple as it might seem. 

We have all been there, right? We understand our teachers and we understand other people around us who are also learning English but then you try to talk to native speakers and suddenly, you don’t understand anything! 

This hurts your confidence and makes you feel like your English sucks. Don’t panic! Let’s talk about it.

Listen to the podcast:

Why Can’t I Understand Native Speakers? – DanSensei English Podcast

Listening is a great way to improve your listening skills and your English in general because it will help you naturally pick up new language and grammar in context. It is a very important skill to develop and listening to podcasts is a great way to do that.

That’s one of the main reasons I started this podcast. I want to give English learners a chance to listen to a podcast that is designed for them and that is interesting and fun. No one wants to listen to a podcast about grammar, right?

In this episode, I talk about why I think everyone should learn a second language.

What is the problem?

Not being able to understand native speakers is a big problem, right?

There are a lot of reasons that you might not be able to understand native speakers.

Not all of these reasons are related to your English level. A lot of the times you can’t understand a native speaker might not even be your fault. There are some things that are happening that you might not have considered.

I can understand my teacher though…

That is because your teacher is not speaking naturally. 

Teachers learn to speak in a way that is easy for their students to understand and they don’t speak the same way they do with other native speakers. 

Think about it. If your teacher was really hard to understand, you wouldn’t be able to learn much English, would you?

That’s why teachers learn to speak slowly and clearly. They use simple grammar and choose words they expect that you will understand. They try to avoid difficult words, grammar and they don’t use slang, idioms and other stuff that native speakers love to use.

It’s a good thing because it helps you understand what they are saying and allows you to learn English, but it is a bad thing because you are not listening to natural English that native speakers use. 

So, it’s my teachers fault?

Not exactly. It is also down to the person you are speaking to.

Native speakers aren’t really paying attention to their English. They are just speaking how they would speak to other native speakers.

Most native speakers don’t really think about the way they speak English. They just communicate with everyone in the same way.

They use slang and idioms. They speak quickly and sometimes not so clearly. They use advanced words and grammar. They use natural intonation and contractions that might be hard for learners to catch.

They are not trying to be easy to understand. They are just using their natural English. 

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All native speakers don’t speak in the same way

This is something you need to understand…

People from the UK don’t speak in the same way as people from the USA. People in Australis speak differently to people in Canada.

Trying to understand all native speakers at the same time is not an easy task. They are all different, and sometimes they are very different. 

You can go one step further. In the UK, there are around 40 different accents. Which means that people in the same country don’t sound the same and they don’t speak in the same way. 

It comes down to experience. If you don’t have much experience with accents and dialects, it is going to be hard for you to understand. The same is true for native speakers too. 

What can i do about it?

There is a lot of things you can do to make it easier.

The main thing you need to do is understand what kind of native speakers you want to talk to and then listen to them… a lot.

If you are going to live in Manchester, there is not much point listening to American speakers because it will not help you understand how people from Manchester speak.

You should figure out what accent you want to get better at and find people with that accent that you can listen to. YouTube, podcasts, Netflix. These things are a goldmine for listening practice.

Try to block out other accents for a while so you can tune your ears and really focus on the accent you are trying to learn. Listen as much as you can and it will get easier over time.

If you don’t understand native speakers… say something!

So many learners do this…

Pretending you understand and just nodding is one of the worst things you can do. Learn to speak up when you don’t understand!

There is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t understand. In fact, it is NECESSARY! Don’t pretend you understand, instead say something.

We are not going to be upset if you don’t understand a word or you if we are speaking too fast for you. Just tell us what the problem is and we can work together to fix it.


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