Understanding English Movies

David   Monday, December 17, 2001, 13:58 GMT
I am non native English speaker .I have got a great trouble in understanding Hollywood movies. I feel the language is spoken faster and hence , a listener like me gets lost on what has been said . When i watch News or some documentaries the case is totally different and i could understand them to a T , because the words are given more stress and pronounced individually and slowly. I do understand that in casual rapid speech , native speakers connect words in a different way. I want to improve my listening skills. What could be done to this ?. Please , dont advice me to watch a lot of English movies. I have done enough of them and whats the point listening to something without understanding them. Should i practice English with some books which come along with Audio cassestes and Cd's?. If so which one should i go in for ? . I have found three appealing titles in a book store viz

1. American Accent training by Ann Cook (6 Audio Cd's)

2. Pronounce it perfectly by Jean yates (3 Cassetes)

3. American English Pronunciation Program by Barbara Raifsnider (6 Cassetes)

I am scratching my head ,totally in the dilemma on which one to go for. Can any one help me on this , and if some one has tried any of these , could u pls share your experiences . I want something which teaches English in the way they are spoken in Movies and not the one's which just simply "Call out" a set of sentences .
Kartic   Wednesday, December 19, 2001, 02:20 GMT
This is a good topic and could some one please post a reply on this. I am too sailing on the same boat with David and this poses a serious problem to me as well. How can one understand American Pronounciation ?. Please , can someone pour out some solution to this.
Tom   Wednesday, December 19, 2001, 18:23 GMT
In order to understand movies, you need to have a very large vocabulary, together with the pronunciations of words. You can use books to improve your vocabulary. BUT, if you want to improve your comprehension of movies especially effectively, I have the following advice:

Read a lot of movie scripts (you can find them on the Internet). Look up every new word or phrase in a dictionary. Pay attention to the phonetic transcription. Add sentences from the script to your SuperMemo collection (if you use SuperMemo) -- of course together with definition and pronunciations of difficult words.

That way you will learn the words and phrases which are typical of movies.

http://www.eslnotes.com is a website which has a lot of "movie guides" for English learners. The guides contain selected sentences from the film, together with explanations (unfortunately, there are no pronunciations - you have to rely on your dictionary). The guides have the following advantages over regular scripts:

- The explanations. If a phrase is unusual, the guide will tell you about it, so you won't have to worry about learning it. (Movies often have quite unnatural lines.)
- It is still interesting to watch the movie after you've read the guide. The sentences don't spoil the movie by revealing the plot, like a regular script.
- It is very pleasant to watch a movie and recognize the sentences you just learned.

We've written a little bit on the ESLnotes Guides in our article about movies:

BTW, I don't think American pronunciation is a special problem. British movies are just as hard to understand. ;-)

Hope this helps!
Kartic   Wednesday, December 19, 2001, 22:26 GMT
I am quite familiar with the website that gives the explanantion of the difficult phrases and words comin up in the movies. But the crux is , not what it means , but what is said. For instance , recently i happened upon a movie where a character says , "Start the engine". This is a simple phrase and though i viewed it several times , i became hard on me to figure out , whats being said. Later i ran my eye over the transcript and found this and a profound sigh from myself. It sounded like "aattheingne" to me . I am cock sure that only a book with cassetes and cd's , which explains , how the words are connected could help me out in this. So has any gone through any books of these sort. I heard that , " American accent training by Ann Cook" , has got great stuff and proves to be of immense help to students . Has any one tried this one ?.
Tom   Thursday, December 20, 2001, 01:27 GMT
to Kartic:

I don't know about the book you mentioned (I've never used any accent training book), but why don't you keep studying the pronunciation in movies? It seems to me you're totally on the right track!

If you keep listening to movies, you will learn how sentences are pronounced in natural English.

Take my example: I like transcribing English-language songs (writing down the lyrics). The more I do it, the better I get. I simply learn more and more about how singers pronounce English words. My ability to understand English songs is much better than a few years ago. I achieved this by transcribing songs -- listening to the same line 40 times, etc.

Don't neglect your vocabulary! You may have known the phrase "start the engine", but there will be many phrases you simply don't know. And if you don't know a phrase, your chances of understanding it in a movie are very small.

If you feel you miss a lot of phrases in the movie, perhaps you can try reading the ESLnotes guide BEFORE you watch the movie? That way, you'll be able to understand much more.

Seriously, I think you HAVE to get better if you keep watching movies and studying natural pronunciation.
Kartic   Thursday, December 20, 2001, 05:08 GMT
Tom -

Thankx for that valuable advice. I would pursue it earnestly and from now on listen to English songs and write down their transcripts . But , most of the English songs have got thier transcripts on the web . Is it a viable option to read them along with the song and get to know the stuff?.
Kartic   Thursday, December 20, 2001, 07:21 GMT
Tom -

What does the word "phrases" really mean?. I believe that idioms , phrasal verbs , cliches and slangs are all phrases. Is there anything else apart from this which comes into the category of phrases ? .
Tom   Thursday, December 20, 2001, 11:37 GMT
to Kartic:

I didn't exactly mean that you should transcribe songs in order to get better at understanding movies. That was just an example which shows that you can improve your comprehension through listening practice.

However, by all means go ahead and transcribe songs. It may help you, although songs contain a bit different pronunciation than movies.

Is it a viable option to read them along with the song and get to know the stuff?
I find it more fun to work out the lyrics myself, but your idea may be good, too -- especially if you have difficulty understanding most of the song. There's a problem: Lyrics on the Internet are often wrong in many places.

By "phrases" I also mean expressions which are not listed as "idioms" in a dictionary. (An idiom is a special kind of phrase, whose meaning is not easily understandable, even if you understand all the words in the phrase.) Examples of phrases:

in recognition of
in the field of
I was having trouble <doing something>
in the olden days
it's what separates us from the animals
word of honor
to get off a shot
to call it a tie
to be all about <something or someone>
to get on <someone's> good side
they have 80,000 employees on the payroll
it's physically impossible to <do something>
is it any wonder that ...?

As you see, my definition of a "phrase" is quite general: a string of words which occurs in English with relative frequency.
Kartic   Tuesday, January 01, 2002, 12:44 GMT
To Tom :

Does a modern dictionary give explanation for the phrases. As u have rightly said , once we get hold of the phrases used in a movie , our degree of comprehending it improves drastically. I have tried using the Esl guide to movies myself followed by watchin the movie and it had proved a significant difference. But though the list is quite comprehensive , i still feel that , phrases used are not always the same . Does the Collins dictionary , which gets good reviews over here , gives an explanation of these phrases ?. I usually jot down the phrases which i dont understand , and later find a bad time to figure out its meaning . So where can i find the meaning of these phrases ?.
mark   Tuesday, February 05, 2002, 07:07 GMT
whasuup babies. i'm a canadian guy who likes to help gurls improvin' their fuckin', terrible english, especially european gurls. i live in Calgary, Alberta Canada. umm, what i wanna tell ya about myself is i'm a very handsome white guy, and to be honest with ya gurls, i'm so damned horney that i'd be more than glad to have sexual intercourse with ya.

it's the time for ya to study english from a native speaker without payin' money. as a matter of fact, we native speakers do not care about how to speak grammaticly, so we just speak in our sling, accent. and to your information, when we write any e-mail, we don't like to write it as a formal essay. so, we just write it like the method we speak in the real life. that is the reason why our way of speech is somewhat different from what a study. therefore, lots of frignes when they endeavor to speak to us, they can't catch what the hell we are talkin' about.

with this opportunity, u gonna have the enough time to learn how to speak in english and how to pronounce english vocabularies as perfectly as we native speakers do. plus, u won't have any problems understandin' our sling anymore. so, don't waste your time; think about it now.

if ya are interested just send me your e-mail
mine is a_funny_man@hotmail.com
i'll catch ya latter, bye sweetheart....
Shiva   Thursday, April 04, 2002, 01:19 GMT
Wow, This is the same problem by which I am living.

Having studied in English medium school, and got PG degree, I often get insulted for not knowing the native pronounciation, I dont know wheather I have learnt wrong English, Or the Natives changed their English?

I dont know, what went wrong?

anybody can help me ? to understand Natives pronounciations better?
Tom   Sunday, April 07, 2002, 01:13 GMT
In addition to the things I have already written in this topic, I recommend that you study English phonetics.
Miguel   Wednesday, April 17, 2002, 17:45 GMT
Not only for you but for me to understand any English movie is the hardest part, the only way to improve is to be patience and try to watch as many movies as you can. and any unknown word you hear and do not know its meaning look it up in a diccionary.