Do you find that spoken English is sometimes difficult to understand?

Do you watch Friends on Netflix and feel like you’re understanding everything? Then suddenly you hear the background laugh of the studio audience – and you can’t figure out why they are laughing?

Do you ever have conversations in English where everything is ok – and then the other speaker says an entire sentence as if there were no spaces between the words?

Dog looking shocked

If this sounds familiar, then you’re in the right place!

In this guide we will explain why understanding spoken English is difficult, and how you can improve your listening comprehension.

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By Shirley Jones

Why is it easy to understand the difference between 13 and 30 when you read them, but it’s difficult when you hear them?

How often do you ask ‘is that three zero, or one three?’ Or ‘just send me an email’?

Have you noticed that in English some things about numbers are very different compared to your language? For example, how you say large numbers, or prices, or dates?

If you’re like the people I teach, you’ve probably had similar problems, no matter what your level of English.

Numbers in a collection of styles - copyright

This article will explain the biggest problems with using and understanding numbers in English, and how you can avoid and correct them.

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Is it really possible to learn a new language perfectly when you’re an adult? Why is it much harder now than when you were a child?

Sometimes it might seem impossible, but you really can learn to speak a new language fluently even as an adult.

It’s not that you need to work harder than a child to improve your English. Rather, you need to approach your learning differently.

The main reason why it’s more difficult for adults to learn a new language is that adult brains don’t learn as well implicitly – we don’t soak up information like a sponge, the way a child does.

Sponge training cartoon - copyright Itchy Feet

Not only that, but adults like to use logic.

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By TJ Taylor

You survived the three hour meeting. You desperately need a coffee before the next meeting begins.

You are enjoying your coffee in silence and you see John from the London office walking towards you.

You become nervous. You know what is about to happen. It has happened so many times before.

John: It’s a lovely day!
You: Yes, it’s very nice.
John: How are you?
You: Good, thanks. How are you?
John: Fine, thanks.
You: [silence]
John: [silence]

The pause feels like an eternity.

You: Erm…it rained a lot last week, didn’t it?

Awkward facial expression - copyright The Office

We’ve all been there – at a wedding, a work function, or even an awkward tinder date. Asking and answering the same predictable questions, socialising with new people and making the dreaded ‘small talk’.

Surely something with the word ‘small’ in shouldn’t create such a BIG feeling of fear and anxiety, right?

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Have you ever read a long, complicated sentence, but when you arrived at the end of it you forgot the beginning?

Have you read such sentences over and over again, trying to understand them?

More importantly, have you written sentences like this?

Maybe you thought that long, complicated sentences make a better impression of your English?

Some cultures consider that complicated sentences with complex vocabulary demonstrate the writer’s high level of education and knowledge.

Not in English.

Confused face - copyright

In Anglo-American culture clear, direct communication is highly valued. The reason is that short, clear sentences demonstrate respect for the reader’s time and attention.

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By JM Webster

Do you find conference calls difficult? Do you become stressed during the call? Do you freeze when you have to speak?

You’re not alone – many people find them difficult.

When you think about conference calls which of the following problems causes you anxiety:

• I don’t understand the accent of Mr McKay from Scotland / Mr Chopra from India.
• Too many people talk at the same time.
• If I don’t understand 1 or 2 words, I lose the meaning of the conversation.
• My English isn’t good enough / I freeze when I have to speak English
• The technology is difficult to use.

Sound familiar?

Common video call frustrations - copyright

This article will help you overcome these problems and provides some useful tips and common English phrases to help you with your next call.

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Do you ever feel lost or anxious when you’re in a meeting with other English speakers?

Even if you are comfortable speaking in front of others in your own language, expressing your thoughts effectively or leading a successful meeting in English can be difficult.

Illustration of a terrible meeting - copyright Amanda Schutz

This guide will provide you with example English phrases and useful tips that you can use at your next business meeting.

I will also help you to prepare for the most common situations that you will face, and what to avoid.

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It was 2 am and here I was, lying in bed awake, thinking about the presentation I had to make at 9 am.

I felt nervous. I wanted to sleep but I couldn’t.

My mind was obsessed with this presentation I had to make – it was my big opportunity to impress my European boss!

What could I do in my hotel room, waiting for the morning to come? Worry about the presentation? Agonize over the question session?

What would you have done? Have you ever felt like this?

Nervous about speaking - copyright Will Marlow

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What is the best teaching method for learning English?

According to academic research, linguists have demonstrated that there is not one single best method for everyone in all contexts, and that no one teaching method is inherently superior to the others.

Also, it is not always possible – or appropriate – to apply the same methodology to all learners, who have different objectives, environments and learning needs.

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Do you remember the last time you stood in front of an audience to speak English?

You memorized what you needed to say, but you felt nervous, and perhaps your voice was shaky at the start.

Afterwards, you scanned the room to see if anyone liked your presentation, looking for feedback from the faces around. Your boss makes eye contact and you hope he didn’t notice how anxious you were.

Does this sound like you? Maybe you were in the same position not long ago?

A very nervous baby - copyright Kevin Makice

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