Linguist   Friday, October 29, 2004, 13:44 GMT
I have learnt english for many years, but still i dont understand everything when people (especially natives) speak. In songs i understand only several words, so they are moslty like a noise for me - i cant separate words while listening and if the speaker is from Scotland for example, its absolutely impossible to understand his accent. The same thing happens with French, which is impossible to understand at all, even if the native speaker tries to speak slowly. Does anybody have the same problem?
If you know how to resolve it, please tell about it.

Thanks in advance - Merci d'avance
Easterner   Friday, October 29, 2004, 14:27 GMT
I generally have no problem with most English accents, but this is not the case with French. I also have the impression the French speak way too quickly, and due to the phonetic peculiarities of the language, everything becomes very contracted (a well-known example: "je ne sais pas ce que je dis" becomes "chepasquejedis" said at one breath in colloquial spoken French). They also use nasal fillers close to the "-in" sound at the end of sentences. But it also depends on the accent. Swiss accent is much easier to understand for me than Parisian. However, I have problems with understanding French only on the phone and when watching French films, but usually not in face-to-face comunication, when I see the speaker's lip movements, and interestingly this is also true for songs, where I understand nearly everything. English (especialy RP) has a tendency to "blur" unstressed sylables, while French usually contracts them in casual speech, and nasal and guttural sounds "dominate" speech. This is absent from Italian or Spanish, where you can easily make sense of what is said far as phonetics goes, even if you don't know the meaning of individual words or expressions, because the vowels are emphasized more clearly, and rolled "r" also makes a big difference (I mean "general", standard Italian and Spanish, of course).
Anna   Friday, October 29, 2004, 14:34 GMT
If they show movies or tv-shows with subtitles in your country you could try taping them and then with the help of a dictionary try to find out exactly what they say. You could even try to write down the whole dialog if you're patient enough and the subtitles give you a hint of what they should be saying. This is what I do with German sometimes and it works for me.
Easterner   Friday, October 29, 2004, 14:48 GMT
Yes, I think recording authentic material is very useful. First you could start with subtitled samples, then those without subtitles - e.g. news programmes, interviews or talk shows, whatever you like listening to. Live speech is always better than pre-edited texts spoken by e.g. a newscaster. TV is better because you can see the speaker's lips moving, but you can record the speech on a video tape, and listen to it again. If you are more proficient, you can also take quick notes - this is called listening for gist. The more interesting the material, the better.