Does understanding fast spoken English get any better with time?

Jan   Friday, October 22, 2004, 02:22 GMT
I'm a second-year foreign student at a U.S. college and although my English has improved a lot overall since I came here, the thing that still bothers me is I can hardly ever fully understand anything when Americans talk informally between themselves. The classic example are meals at the college dining halls: I'm sitting right there with a couple of Americans having a conversation and I just can't get to what they're saying. And btw--lectures, most movies, conversations one-on-one are just fine for me. It's just this really fast informal language that is a problem.

So, did anyone have similar experiences? Does it go away with time as you live in an English-speaking country? Did you ever get to the point you thought you were catching just as much as the natives?

Jim   Friday, October 22, 2004, 02:54 GMT
I have had similar experiences, yes, and as time goes by I've found things easier and easier to understand so don't give up hope, Jan.
Mxsmanic   Friday, October 22, 2004, 05:10 GMT
Understanding always becomes easier with time and practice.

Remember also that under less than ideal conditions, even native speakers may not understand much of what they hear.
JJ   Friday, October 22, 2004, 05:30 GMT
they wouldn't ever not understand it, just not hear it.
David Winters   Friday, October 22, 2004, 05:57 GMT
>> they wouldn't ever not understand it, just not hear it.

What is this gibberish?
JJ   Friday, October 22, 2004, 06:52 GMT
<<Remember also that under less than ideal conditions, even native speakers may not understand much of what they hear.>>

It is not true that they wouldn't be able to understand much of what they hear, the only reason they might not understand is if they didn'g hear it properly. Of course they would understand the actual words spoken.
Damian   Friday, October 22, 2004, 06:57 GMT
<<I can hardly ever fully understand anything when Americans talk>>

I identify a lot with this one with regard to Americans.....especially the couple of females I met at uni. They gabbled at a hell of a pace, seemed to swallow half their words and yelled at full decibel ratings like everything was a major crisis. It was even stevens though...they couldnae understand me most of the time. Maybe that was just as well.....
Mxsmanic   Friday, October 22, 2004, 17:47 GMT
Even native speakers don't understand all that they hear; in fact, they decode only a fraction of it in many cases. However, spoken language is highly redundant, and experienced speakers of a language are able to correctly infer anything missing in order to achieve 100% comprehension.
garans   Friday, October 22, 2004, 17:58 GMT
I think that the main problem is not the fastness but enunciation.

When I asked some Americans about some unclear places in songs, thay thought and listen to them several times. As a rule they could find the right answer better than me.
In some places they failed too.

It is almost incredible in my native language (Russian). But with the new styles of pop-music such things happen more often.
Joe   Friday, October 22, 2004, 18:06 GMT
People from the Northeast and Midwest tend to talk the fastest. In Public Speaking, there's a whole section on how to slow down your rate of speech, especially if you're from those regions, as people tend to squeeze in 200-250 words per minute. In conversation, enunciation usually loses out, because we all slur words and push them out of our mouths as fast as possible.

Don't worry, the ability to understand a language at a fast pace comes with time.
General_Ricardo   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 02:00 GMT
I think we're both alike. This is my second year here too, and yeah I think my English's gotten a lot better. I lived my first year in the dorm and it seemed to help a lot. and I was having a hard time trying to understand thier fast conversations especially "in the dining halls". but as time went on I think I could manage to understand most of the conversation. It's just a matter of time
General_Ricardo   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 02:13 GMT
As far as lectures are concerned, I think it's easy for me to understand what the lecturer is trying to say. Not because my English is excellent, but I think because teachers tend to speak slow, so they give themselves more time to think of the points their making. And the other reason why they don't speak fast is they wanna, well they have to, make sure that their students get everything point they're trying to make. Otherwise, they wouldn't be good teachers. Now in terms of movies, that's when I get dipressed because I'd have to play some of them with subtitles to be able to get going on, but this is not always the case thu. The third thing you mentioned was personal conversations. I think I do well on em for 2 reasons. One is because ppl speaking to me, sooner or later, realize that I'm a foreinger so they speak slowly. the other reason is even if they don't, I try to really focus on what's being said to me trying to avoid being a dumb-ass by repeating the word "huh, could you say that again"!
Sehrish   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 10:55 GMT
"i am the student of secondyear i want to know the rules of english"