How to Listen to American English Speakers
This week one of my most thoughtful clients told me that he sometimes has a difficult time understanding American English speakers.
Susan, I can understand Americans when I speak with them one on one. But when there’s a group of Americans talking together, I don’t always understand what they’re saying.
Three strategies for listening
In response to his concern here are three listening strategies you can use to increase your understanding of spoken English.
1. Anticipate and predict what might be said
Before going into a situation where you will be conversing with American English speakers think about the context and predict how the conversation might proceed. You should be able to anticipate many of the words and phrases that people will say.
Review those words and phrases in your head or even write them down. This way you will be more ready to hear these words and phrases should they occur.
2. Don’t try to understand every word
Don’t listen for every word! American English speakers tend to pronounce verbs and nouns with more emphasis than the other words in a sentence. That’s because verbs and nouns words are the most important for meaning.
Listening for the key verb, nouns (and sometimes adjectives) reduces the amount of information you have to listen for.
3. Practice listening using online resources
One of the best online resources for practicing listening comprehension is
This is how I suggest you use the listening exercises you’ll find here.
First look at the title of the lesson and make some predictions about what words and phrases you might hear in the story.
Then look at the vocabulary words in the pre-listening exercises and make a few more predictions.
Then listen to the audio without looking at the text. Try to focus on the verbs and nouns (the words with the most emphasis).
After that check your comprehension by listening to the audio as you read the text. Notice which words and phrases you didn’t understand and make a note of them.
About the author
Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.