Easy Listening

For both beginners and more advanced students it can be difficult to understand English when it’s spoken at a natural speed.

Problems can include:

  • speakers running words together (catenation) – ‘an apple’ becomes ‘anapple’
  • mumbling (speaking at a low volume)
  • intonation (the rise and fall of the voice when speaking – for example, some speakers add an upward inflection to phrases that aren’t questions)
  • mistaking one sound for another in a word (either a vowel sound or a consonant sound)

This last problem is very common with learners of English, and different nationalities can have difficulties with different sounds.

For example, Korean learners can have problems with long and short vowel sounds:

/i/ and /iː/ as in  chip and cheap

Spanish learners often mishear:

/dʒ/ and /j/ as in jot and yacht

We’ve put together a little exercise for you to see if you can tell which vowel sounds are being said. Print off this list, and underline the words you hear when you click on Exercise 1.

Now try the same thing with this list which has similar consonant sounds. Underline the words you hear when you click on Exercise 2.

How did you do? Here are the answers:

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

If you’d like more practice with minimal pairs, let us know in the comment box and we can add more exercises to our next newsletter. You can sign up for all our news here.

Keep in touch with us