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  1. #1
    Rennee Duval is offline Newbie
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    Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    I´m 33, originally from the Czech Republic. I started learning English at school when I was 13. I spent 5 years in the UK (when I was 22-27). I did my masters at a UK university. I´ve been teaching English in Brazil for 7 years now.

    Yet, when I watch British or American movies, if I was to make a transcript, I´d get only about 60-70% of the words spoken.

    When I listen to my students´ textbook recordings I understand practically everything, so there seems to be a significant gap between the textbooks´ English and the real spoken language.

    I really don´t know what to do. It makes me feel rather incompetent. I watch movies quite often, with and without subtitles, but there seems to be very little progress in my comprehension.

    Anybody has passed through the same experience? Any advice?

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Textbooks present a simplified tidy version of the language- the real thing is far messier and more complex. However, most native speakers would have to listen repeatedly to parts of a movie to make an accurate transcript.

  3. #3
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    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    I have done paid audio transcription before now and I always have to rewind and listen to parts of the audio several times before getting an accurate transcription. People speak very quickly and very colloquially in TV shows and films so, as Tdol said, many native speakers wouldn't get it all right straight away either! The languages we learn at school and at private lessons are very different from the languages spoken amongst native speakers. It takes a long time to get to the point where you can understand a language like a native speaker would.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  4. #4
    Esgaleth's Avatar
    Esgaleth is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Quote Originally Posted by Rennee Duval View Post
    Anybody has passed through the same experience? Any advice?
    Yes! And I think I could easily come up with a theory of my own. But how do you deal with listening in class in the first place? Are you happy with your students' progress in listening comprehension? And last, but not least, what might be the reason for watching films with subtitles? (is it really possible to combine watching with reading?)

  5. #5
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Quote Originally Posted by Esgaleth View Post
    Yes! And I think I could easily come up with a theory of my own. But how do you deal with listening in class in the first place? Are you happy with your students' progress in listening comprehension? And last, but not least, what might be the reason for watching films with subtitles? (is it really possible to combine watching with reading?)
    Of course it's possible to combine watching with reading! That is how deaf people watch films and it's how many of us watch films in a foreign language!
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  6. #6
    Esgaleth's Avatar
    Esgaleth is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    ..That is how deaf people watch films and it's how many of us watch films in a foreign language!
    Fair enough, but I doubt deaf people have learning a language in mind. It's also easy to imagine the joy of watching a film in a foreign language and being able to understand/guess what the whole thing is about. Rennee, imo, is more concerned about improving his/her listening skills, so I'd rather consider watching a film with subtitles from this angle. I take certain interest in teaching the language as well but what I cannot make out is how reading a simplified version of what is being said could help develop listening skills. My understanding is that Rennee doesn't believe it could help either. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  7. #7
    Rennee Duval is offline Newbie
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Thanks for your reply Esgaleth!

    Quote Originally Posted by Esgaleth View Post
    But how do you deal with listening in class in the first place? Are you happy with your students' progress in listening comprehension?
    I do not have problems comprehending the textbook audios/videos at any level and am able to help my students learn. The problem arises when me or my students try to watch real TV shows etc. The students complain they can barely understand a word and I do not know how to help them as even I am having the same problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Esgaleth View Post
    what might be the reason for watching films with subtitles?
    Sometimes I watch movies with subtitles. Especially when I feel I´m really struggling to understand. My intention is to at least assign the incomprehensible sounds to the words I know in the hope that next time I won´t struggle that much.

  8. #8
    jibrailhogan is offline Newbie
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    I think Renee is worrying too much - but the fact that the question arises and the fact that s/he is concerned at all is a very good sign. I am a native English speaker teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) here in London UK.

    In my class, sometimes I cannot understand students when they try and speak English, yet other some of the other students can understand them quite easily. That does not mean that my own English is lacking - it just means that I have not been exposed to the same accent, intonations and speech patterns that some of my students have been.

    I think maybe the same rule applies to Renee. It's just a question of familiarity with the language is really spoken (outside the classroom). It will always be difficult at first for new users of the language - but this will get much easier after a very short time of continuous exposure to particular accents and speaking patterns.

    Jibrail

  9. #9
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Quote Originally Posted by Esgaleth View Post
    I take certain interest in teaching the language as well but what I cannot make out is how reading a simplified version of what is being said could help develop listening skills.
    Why do you think that the subtitles would be a simplified version of what is being said? To a great extent these days, the subtitles are an exact transcript of what is being said.
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  10. #10
    Esgaleth's Avatar
    Esgaleth is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Non-native English teacher still unable to comprehend spoken English

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Why do you think that the subtitles would be a simplified version of what is being said? To a great extent these days, the subtitles are an exact transcript of what is being said.
    I couldn't agree more, ems! These days (might not be true about older films though), and obviously due to a greater demand among language learners, they are doing their job well enough. The point I am trying to make is about listening as a skill. Since we perceive considerably more information non-verbally, while watching films (without subtitles!) students will quite naturally link what they hear with what they see so that fairly often no translation is needed. Unlikely it could be possible while trying to discern the subtitles and missing the body language, mime, etc. And then, how would watching w/sustitles differ from the notorious "listen and follow the text"? There must be other ways to use subtitles to reinforce listening apart from just having them on the screen. Yet, there are films, and genres, and students...

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