How to Understand the News

Do you ever find yourself struggling to understand news broadcasts in the United States? Whether you watch online or on TV, keeping up with news reporters can be tough for new English learners.

Speed of Speech

Because news broadcasts are limited by both time and interrupting commercials, reporters often speak in a way that might not seem natural to our ears. Aside from the more robotic tone that most news reporters adopt — I can tell you firsthand that this is just for the cameras, and they don’t really speak like that in their normal lives! — quick speech is of the essence, and being able to condense as much information into the least amount of time is the goal of any news report. This is why news reporters might sound hurried, and your ears might become over-saturated with words.

I Need Subtitles!

Just as with the news, sometimes even movies and television shows in English might sound as though they should be subtitled. Even native English speakers have trouble understanding all that is being said! There are several reasons for this: there are obvious differences in pronunciation between British, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand English. Additionally, younger actors tend to use a lot of slang and run their words together which can make it difficult to understand. As English learners continue to improve their language proficiency, their vocabulary also increases and they begin to understand more and more of what they’re hearing.

Immerse Yourself in American English

The key to fluency is immersion. Immerse yourself into the English language and you will see great progress. Try to speak English as much as you can. Seek out native speakers and start conversations using words and phrases that you are comfortable with. Read books to increase your vocabulary and grammar skills, and watch TV and movies to fine tune your listening skills.

Broaden Your Source Material

You have to listen to a variety of English sources to perfect your fluency. If you’ve been listening to your English teacher all the time, you’ll probably find it easy to understand him or her, but perhaps other people outside of your classroom will be more difficult to understand, for the simple fact that you just haven’t listened to them before. Movies, TV shows, the news, music (or even music videos for added entertainment value), podcasts, audiobooks (did you know we have one?), online videos, and even material geared toward children are useful tools in your English-learning toolbox.

Improve Your Vocabulary

The news if one particularly tricky form of media to listen to, simply because of all the political, technical, and otherwise specific speech that is incorporated into news segments. Guest speakers and interviewees on the news are also a bit of a wild card, since their contributions to a news show are spontaneous and they might be experts in a certain field. If you find that you can understand about 70% or more of what you’re listening to, then what you’re listening to is a good level for you. But, if you’re able to understand less than 70%, you might want to try material that is just a tad less challenging. Maybe your vocabulary is just not broad enough for the material that you’re trying to listen to, and that’s fine! As long as you focus on growing your vocabulary enough to understand at that 70% mark (or above!), you’ll be on your way to understanding any type of spoken media.

Check out our video below to learn how to best train yourself to understand the news!




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