Improve Your English Listening Skills: Learn How to Understand Fast English Speakers Better

As you spend more and more time conversing in English, you’ll realize that apart from learning how to speak English the way, you also have to sharpen your listening skills.

The sharper your English listening skills are, the better you can speak and converse in English in the most natural way.

When you chat and talk to natural English speakers, you’ll come across those who speak maybe a tad too fast for you. But keep in mind that this is really common.

When you go to a restaurant or any place really busy, chances are they will all speak really fast. Don’t worry, I’ve got some tips for you so that you can understand them and catch up!

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

The first thing to do is to not get overwhelmed and discouraged. Just because you are having a hard time understanding fast English speakers, it does not mean you have poor listening skills. But there is definitely room for improvement.

As long as you continue to persevere in your journey to learn English, you are always on the right track.

Learn About Speed, Stress and Intonation


If you are a beginner at learning English, you may be saying your sentences at a much slower pace. That’s alright. But as you progress, you must be able to adapt to situations when speaking slow and speaking fast are necessary. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with being able to improve your listening skills so that you understand the people you are conversing with.

Saying – each – word – really – slowly in conversations can make you sound robotic. If you want to sound natural and conversational, it’s important to develop the right speed when talking.


Stress can change the meaning of your entire sentence. By putting stress on one word, you are able to define your message further. Here, let me give you some examples:

I think your English is great!

  • Try saying this as part of your listening skills exercise. Stressing I in the sentence means you want to emphasize that you disagree with what someone else said.

I think your English is great!

  • You are stressing the action of thinking, possibly to differentiate it from other actions such as feel, (can) see, etc.

I think your English is great!

  • You are stressing that the person you are talking to has great English, and not someone else’s English.

I think your English is great!

You are emphasizing the language English. As opposed to maybe the person’s Spanish or French skills.


This is how you raise and lower the tone of how you speak. What you want to avoid is to always end in a high tone. You will sound like you are always asking a question, even if you are actually stating a fact.

Your English listening skills can be sharpened if you take notice of how others use intonation too.

Intonation is your tool to show the non-verbal components of your message, such as sounding surprised, or stern, or sad.

Improve Your English Listening Skills With These Tips

  1. Watch and listen to material that feature natural English conversations such as TV shows, movies, podcasts and radio shows.
  2. Music is also a great way to enhance your listening skills and your English vocabulary too. Especially since modern music has lots of natural English conversational lines injected in their lyrics.
  3. Turn your idle time into learning time. If you have some free time, such as if you are commuting and riding the bus, or you are waiting for something, or maybe you are just cleaning the house, take this as an opportunity to continuously learn. Play English material in the background or grab your earphones and listen privately too.
  4. Make it a habit. Make a conscious effort to be consistent in learning and listening to English material. I have no doubt that doing this regularly will definitely polish your listening skills.
  5. Don’t be afraid to progress your learning. If you feel like you are already very comfortable in listening and understanding the easier English conversation materials, don’t hesitate to advance yourself to harder ones. Learning English is a continuous journey and process.

Here’s another post sharing a couple more secrets on how to improve your English listening skills. That’s it! I think you’re all set!

I’m excited for you to try out these tips and techniques. Remember that we are in this wonderful journey of learning the English language better together!

Until our next lesson!

Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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