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13.What is the best strategy to get used to listening to natural English? It is impossible for me to understand every word.

听懂很地道的英语的最佳策略是什么呢? 对我来说,要听懂每一个词是非常困难的。

How often I have heard the lament: I can understand my teacher’s English, but I can’t understand anyone else’s! I can only suggest a few tips for improving your listening comprehension:

1) Try to extend the range of English you listen to. This means listening to as much native-speaker English as you can (varieties of British and American English) and different varieties of non-native English (Spanglish, Frenglish, Gerlish, etc.). The BBC World Service is an excellent source of native-speaker English, as are films on video.

2) When listening to English (whatever its source) don’t try to puzzle out the meaning of individual words. Try to get the gist of the whole, by listening for the global meaning and ignoring words you haven’t fully heard or understood.

3) Remember, that native speakers in particular take a lot of short cuts when speaking and you have to get used to them. For example, something that sounds like‘Wodjasay?’would be ‘What did you say?’when written out in full.

4) One of the biggest barriers to understanding is the failure to recognize word boundaries, so that you can’t tell, when English is spoken at speed, where one word ends and another begins. If someone quickly says‘You shouldn’t’ve done that’it may sound like a single word, whereas it is actually six separate words. A good way of training yourself to distinguish word boundaries is to listen to recordings of English, while silently reading the printed text at the same time. There are whole libraries of books on tape, so that you can listen and read at the same time to train the ear and the eye simultaneously.

That’s enough to be getting on with, for the time being, and good luck!


1) 尽可能扩大你听英语的范围。这就是说尽可能多听说英语的本族人的谈话(英国英语和美国英语,等等)。同时也要多听非英语国家人们的谈话(西班牙英语、法国英语、德国英语,等等)。英国广播公司(BBC)的面向世界的广播是听地道的英语的极好来源,观看电影录像也是如此。

2) 在听英语时(不论其来源),先不要为个别单词的意思犯愁。一定要先抓住所听的内容的大概意思,即先听懂内容的全貌,忽略个别你没有完全听懂或理解的词。

3) 请你记住,说英语的本族人在说话时,通常省掉一些词,以求省事,你必须习惯他们的说话方式。例如:你若听到他们说Wodjasay?,那么写全了就是What did you say?

4) 对英语学习者来说,听懂英语的最大困难还有一个,即他们不能正确地辨出词与词之间的界线。这就是说当别人在快速说英语时,你不能分辨一个单词在哪儿结束,一个单词在哪儿开始。如果有人以很快的速度说You shouldn’t’ve done that(你本不应该做那件事),这句话听起来就像一个词一样,但实际上它却是由六个单独的词组成的。训练你自己分辨词与词之间界线的最好方法是一边听英语录音,一边默读与之对照的课文。类似这类的材料可说是汗牛充栋,你可以以这种方法同时训练眼和耳。


14.Which is more important, fluency or accuracy?


The idea that there is a clash between fluency and accuracy is quite false: they are equally important. There are times when we concentrate on fluency and times when we concentrate on accuracy. We don’t give or require grammatical explanations with the same high level of intensity all the time. For example, if we are conducting a conversation lesson, our main objective is to build up the student’s confidence and to give the student the opportunity to express him/herself freely. In this situation, fluency takes precedence over accuracy. We tolerate a great deal of error. If, for example, a student says *He go* (for He goes) we might completely ignore the mistake and leave it uncorrected. Our main criterion is that the student is making him/herself understood. We listen. We don’t interrupt. After the student has finished speaking, we praise the student’s effort and give him/her as much encouragement as possible. We correct only those errors (just one or two) that have really interfered with communication.

If, on the other hand, you are drilling students in some aspect of language like always remembering to add ’s to the third person singular in the simple present (He goes, not *He go*) then you want 100% accuracy and you don’t accept anything less. What is acceptable in one situation may be quite unacceptable in another!

那种认为说英语的流利程度和精确性不能兼容的观点很站不住脚:其实,它们同样重要。在说英语时,有时我们讲求流利,有时我们讲求它的准确。此时,我们对语法解释的要求不是一成不变的。比如,在组织一堂会话课的教学时,主要目标是增强学生们的信心以及给学生们提供一个自由表达的机会。在这种情形下,说英语的流畅程度比准确更重要。我们允许犯很多错误。比如,如果一个学生把He goes说成*He go*,我们尽可以忽略不计,把它放在一边。我们此时衡量学生的标准是看他是否让人懂得他的意思。我们只听,而不打断他的讲话。在学生发言完毕之后,我们要表扬他为此付出努力,尽量给予更多的鼓励。我们只纠正确实影响交流的一两处错误。

如果你在着重训练学生其他方面的技能,比如一般现在时第三人称单数加-s(说He goes,而不说*He go*),那么你讲求的就是语言上百分之百的正确,否则你不会接受。其实,任何事物都不是一成不变的,在一种情形中可接受的准则在另一种情况下则很不可接受。

15.Though I can understand some of the programmes I hear on the BBC and VOA, I can’t remember what I’ve just heard. How can I improve my listening skills?


You’re in good company. Most of us can’t remember what we’ve just heard, even when we’re listening to broadcasts in our own language. The fact is that we don’t listen to information with a high degree of concentration all the time. Sometimes, spoken language on the radio or TV is just background noise, the linguistic equivalent of muzak. So if you really want to remember what you have just heard:
1) Decide that you’re interested in what’s being said and that it’s worth listening to from your point of view.
2) Then really listen, concentrating on the important information you want to remember.
3) Don’t listen to individual words, but to the flow of the whole. It doesn’t matter if you fail to catch or to understand the odd word here and there, as long as you get the‘global meaning’.
4) Test yourself immediately after the broadcast to see how much you can immediately recall.
5) Practise reporting what you heard on radio to someone else.
6) Try listening with a friend. When the broadcast is finished, you and your friend talk about what you have just heard. (Did you both hear the same thing?)
7) If you want to recall what you heard at a later date, then it’s best to make a few notes covering the main points you heard.

1) 你要确定你的兴趣是什么,它对你来说值不值得一听。
2) 真正用心听,集中精力听那些你想记忆的重要信息。
3) 不要把精力放在听辨个别单词上,一定要听文章的全貌。只要你抓住了全文的意思,听不清或听不懂个别词也没关系。
4) 听完广播之后,立即做一做自我测试,检验你能回忆起多少听过的内容。
5) 把你从电台听到的东西向别人复述。
6) 找个朋友一起听。广播结束后,你和他可以谈谈所听的内容。(你们听到的一致吗?)
7) 如果你想隔较长时间再回忆你所听的内容,那么你最好把你所听的要点记录下来。

16.When I listen to a long piece of English, I easily forget the main points of what I’ve just heard. Could you please tell me how to make notes?


1) Really listen so that the spoken language has your full attention. Don’t worry about the meaning of individual words, but try to get the‘global meaning.
2) Decide on the main theme of the spoken language. Write this down in note form. This is your main heading.
3) Decide which points are being made that refer to this main theme. Write these down in note form under the main heading.
4) When the spoken language moves to another theme, repeat the process.
So, for example, imagine you are listening to a discussion on traffic jams in modern cities: what causes them, and how they can be remedied. You write down‘traffic jams as your main theme. Under that, you list‘causes’and under that, you list‘possible solutions’.
Remember, when making notes you should concentrate mainly on writing verbs and nouns without articles. Use dashes to provide the missing links, e.g.
Ban traffic -city centres
Improve public transport-more investment
Encourage more people per car, etc.
1) 做到真正地用心听,全神贯注。不必担心个别听不懂的词,尽量抓住全文的意思。
2) 确定所听内容的中心思想,并以笔记的形式记录下来。这就是你定的标题。
3) 确定哪几个要点与中心意思有关。在标题下面以笔记的形式记录下来。
4) 当谈话的议题转换时,重复这一过程。



17.What’s the way to practise speaking in a non-English environment?


Lack of opportunity to use the language is every student’s problem. That’s why, in China for example, foreigners are often rapidly surrounded by young people who want to practise their English. (I know, because it’s often happened to me.) Unfortunately, the visitors have their own agenda, which doesn’t necessarily include being used for English practice!

The only natural way to use English in a non-English speaking environment occurs when you are dealing with foreigners who are visiting your country and who are using English as the medium of communication. (A visitor’s English might be non-native as well.) You will then use English quite naturally when you are entertaining, showing your visitors the sights, etc. Human beings love to exchange information about themselves and their families, so there is always plenty to talk about.

If you don’t come into contact with foreigners for professional purposes, then arrange to meet other local people who want to practise speaking English, just as you do. You collectively decide that you will use English only and help and correct each other as necessary. Do this regularly. Choose a topic in advance, so that members of the group can think about it and prepare some of the vocabulary they will need. Turn it into a pleasant social occasion when you meet at someone's house or go out together as a group. It will do wonders for your spoken English.




18. I always get a high score in English exams, but my English communication is poor. Can you give me some advice?


This is a common phenomenon. Passing English exams is not the same thing as being proficient in English. Why should this be? Because passing exams means mastering exam techniques (accurately interpreting and answering the questions, finishing on time, etc.) and getting plenty of practice in all the tasks normally set in exams (multiple choice questions, usage questions, etc.). You can be good at all these ‘accomplishments’ and still have a rotten command of English when you need to use it in real life. The objectives of an examination and the techniques for achieving them rarely coincide with communicative skills. When do we need multiple choice in real life? Never! This problem will only be resolved when the skills required by examination boards coincide more or less precisely with the skills required for communication. Progress in this direction is extremely slow. So what can you do about it? Once you’ve got the exam qualification behind you, you have to concentrate on improving your receptive skills (listening and reading) and developing your productive skills (speaking and writing) in a way that will really help you to communicate.



19.How to speak English fluently?


When learning to speak a language, we basically have to do four things:
 understand
 answer
 ask
 say
Train yourself (or find a teacher who will train you) in these four skills and you will become fluent.


20. What should we do with the mistakes we make when speaking English?


You should differentiate between an oral drill where accuracy is absolutely necessary and‘speaking for communication’where being understood is absolutely necessary. When speaking for communication, ignore most of your mistakes. The important thing is to communicate with confidence (which isn’t easy!). If you are really communicating, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, so long as these mistakes don’t interfere with communication. Try to correct only those mistakes which prevent other people from understanding what you say or write.


21. Along with listening to the radio, I always read some books about listening comprehension. I have got little progress in my listening comprehension. How can I improve it?


The way to train listening comprehension in a language course is through the technique of ‘active listening’, not ‘passive listening’. If a teacher introduces a text with a short commentary and sets a question, students will listen actively. For example, the teacher says: ‘Today I’m going to read you a story about an accident. After I have finished reading, I will ask you how the accident happened.’ This will encourage students to listen actively in order to find out the answer. If, however, the teacher introduces a story by saying: ‘Listen to this story’, the students will have no listening focus. They will listen (perhaps) with their eyes open, but with their minds shut. Here are a few tips to improve your listening skills:
 Listen for particular information; don’t worry about the meanings of individual words.
 If you have recordings of texts (the listening comprehension books you mention), first listen to the recordings, trying to pick up as much as you can at first hearing. Then listen again, while reading silently at the same time. Then listen to the text a third time (without reading)
 Try sharing a listening activity with a friend or with friends, so you can ‘pool’ your listening experience with others.
 为汲取特定的信息而听;不要担心个别词的意思。
 如果你所说的听力课本中的课文有录音,首先听录音,尽量在第一次听时多听懂些,然后再听一遍,同时你可以默读。之后,你可以再听第三遍(可以不读课文了)。
 可以试着与一个朋友或几个朋友一起进行听力训练,这样你们可以集思广益,互相借鉴。

22. During my listening, I can understand most of the words, but I can’t get the idea of the whole article. Why?


Because you are listening to words and not to meaning. I remember a visit to Beijing I made back in 1981. My interpreter constantly complained of this problem. She used to say‘I can’t keep up with the words you are using’and frequently her attempts to interpret broke down completely. My advice to her is the same as my advice to you: Don’t listen to individual words trying to translate into Chinese as you go, but listen to whole meanings. Listen to the English, without thinking about the Chinese. This is exactly what interpreters do: they get the sense of a piece of language, then interpret it in another language so that the listener gets the meaning of what is being said.

23. When I speak English, I always speak off and on. Could you please tell me how to develop oral skills of making connected speech?


I assume you mean you speak in bursts, when you say you‘speak off and on’. The first thing to be aware of is that most speaking is the product of interaction with another person, or with other people. We rarely give speeches. This means we have to train ourselves to understand what others are saying and then to reply to what we have heard. There are different kinds of conversation, which require different skills. For example:
 Exchange of information. This is one of the most common kinds of everyday interaction. Your friend tells you about things he/she enjoys doing in his/her spare time. You listen carefully, then you tell him/her what you enjoy doing in your spare time. You answer like with like. The chances are that you will use the simple present tense a great deal in this kind of exchange.

 Narration. Your friend tells you about an experience in the past tense (how he/she missed the bus, was late for work, what the boss said, etc.). You listen carefully, then tell a story of your own. The chances are you will use the simple past and past progressive tenses a great deal in this kind of exchange. It’s always easier to tell a story in chronological order: begin at the beginning, go on to the main event, then conclude the story.

 Exchanging views and opinions. Your friend tells you what he/she thinks about something, first by describing a situation, then saying what his/her opinion of it is and giving reasons. You listen carefully, then reply in the same way. You are likely to state facts (something you read in the paper), give an example or examples, and then say what you think of it. You are likely to use phrases like‘In my opinion...’, ‘I think ...’, ‘I agree with what you say, but ...’, ‘I’m afraid I disagree. I think ...’and so on.

 交流信息。这是我们每天最常见的交流形式。你的朋友告诉你他/她在业余时间所喜欢做的事。你仔细听,然后告诉他/她你在业余时间所想做的事。你就如此这般回答。在这种交流中,你一般会大量使用一般现在时。

 叙述。你的朋友用过去时告诉你一段经历(他/她如何误车,然后上班迟到,老板说些什么,等等)。你仔细听,然后讲述你自己的经历。在这种交流中,你一般会使用一般过去时或过去进行时。按时间顺序讲述一个故事较为容易:某事开始于……,然后叙述正文,最后结束讲述。

 交流看法和观点。你的朋友告诉你他/她对某事的看法,他/她先描述一段场景,然后发表他/她的意见,并给出理由。你仔细听,然后以同样的方式作出回答。你有可能陈述事实(你从报纸上读到的东西),给出一个或几个例子,然后说明你的看法。你很可能用些诸如In my opinion...,I think...,I agree with what you say, but...和I’m afraid I disagree. I think... 等短语。

24. It’s always said that if you want to improve your spoken English, you should practise a lot. But when I meet a foreigner, I often miss the chance. I am afraid I have nothing to say. I worry about the topics. What should I do?


Yes, it is quite true that you can improve your spoken English by practising a lot, but don’t depend on meeting foreigners (by which I suppose you mean native speakers of English). If you do, you will severely reduce your opportunities to practise your English. First of all, it’s often hard to meet foreigners; second, they might not wish to be‘used’by you so that you can practise your English; third, if you are speaking to a foreigner, you might become very self-conscious about your English and be unable to express yourself at all (as seems to be the case here). So what do you do? You seek or create opportunities to practise speaking English with people in your own culture who are faced with the same problems you are faced with. You do this either by regularly attending English conversation classes, so that you have the supervision of a teacher, or you get together with other people like yourself and meet on a regular basis in order to talk. Choose topics you know about and enjoy talking about in Chinese. It’s an old truism that when you really have something to say, you will find the words you need to say it.


25. When I listen to English broadcast, I sometimes understand it, but I can’t write out the whole sentence.


Why should you want to write out a whole sentence if yoi’re listening to a broadcast? A broadcast is generally a flow of spoken English. It isn’t a dictation. What I think you’re really saying is that you don’t always grasp the meaning of individual words. My advice is this: when listening to spoken English don’t try to get the meaning of individual words. Concentrate on listening to complete sentences, trying to get the‘global meaning’where you can. This means you will have to guess the meaning of new words from the context. Train yourself to listen for meaning, not for words.

如果你在听广播的话,为什么非要写下一个完整句子呢?广播的播音通常是段英语口语。它并不是听写。我想你所说的是你没有抓住单个单词的意思。 我的建议是:在听广播时,不要试图抓住个别单词的意思,要集中注意力听完整的句子,尽力抓住全文的意思。也就是说你一定要根据上下文判断新单词的意思。要训练自己为理解文章的意思而听广播,而不是为个别单词而听广播。

26. It’s difficult to catch the words in the Voice of America sports report. Do you have some skills?


One of the most difficult skills to acquire in a foreign language is the ability to understand the natural language spoken by native speakers at a normal speed. Additionally, with sports reports, the language is often delivered at speed. Listen to a commentary on a horse race or a car rally and you will find that the commentator can hardly keep up with himself as he tries to keep pace with the events he is witnessing. You can train yourself to cope with native speaker delivery in a number of ways. One way is to use ‘talking books’. These are published on audio tape, compact disc, or on video. They consist mainly of novels or biographies read by famous actors and are aimed at native speakers who like to listen to someone telling them a story, rather than reading one themselves. This is what you could do:
 Buy the book and the recorded version (in British or American English according to your preference).
 Play a small part of the audio version and concentrate on listening. Confine yourself to about two minutes at a time. Try to understand as much as you can. You will probably find it’s hard to‘keep up with the reader’.
 Play the taped version again while reading the text at the same time. Guess the meaning from the context, looking up only those words which seem to you to be essential to the meaning.
 Play the same part of the tape again without looking at the book. Contentrate only on listening. This time you will find that you can‘keep up with the reader’much more easily.
 Keep doing this until you feel able to cope with native delivery. Of course, it’s not a sports commentary. But following this routine will provide you with the kind of practice you need to cope with English delivered at normal native-speaker speed.

 购买有声读物及其配书(根据你自己的喜好选择英国英语或美国英语)。
 播放一小部分有声读物,集中精力听。每次限制在两分钟内。尽量多地理解。你可能会发现要“跟上朗读人”有困难。
 重复播放有声读物,看着配书听。根据上下文猜测意思,只有那些对理解意思起关键作用的词才去查词典。
 再把磁带的同一部分播放一遍,不要看书。集中精力听。这次你会发现要“跟上朗读人”就容易多了。
 坚持做下去,直到你觉得能够应付母语的讲话为止。当然,这不是体育评论。这种做法能为你提供实用的练习,使你听懂正常语速英语母语讲话。

27. When talking with English-speaking foreigners, my tongue often gets stupid. I become very uneasy. How to overcome it?

You feel shy and unconfident about your English in the presence of strangers. Why? Because you are afraid of exposing yourself to ridicule. This condition particularly affects adult speakers of a foreign language. (The younger you are, the fewer your inhibitions!) What can you do about it? Well, the first thing you can do is to assure yourself that there is nothing shameful about making mistakes when speaking someone else’s language. Imagine if the situation were reversed and the foreigners were trying to speak to you in Chinese. What would you do? Would you be inclined to laugh or would you be inclined to help them? Many native speakers of English, especially those who have spent long periods outside their own country, are familiar with learners’ efforts to speak English and are inclined to be patient, tolerant and helpful. Once you are aware of this, you can try joining in a conversation with foreigners. Listen carefully so that you understand more or less what they are saying. Make your own comments when it is your ‘turn’ to speak. Ask the people you are speaking to to explain something you think you may have misunderstood, or to correct one or two important mistakes. This will build up your confidence.

在陌生人面前你觉得胆怯,对自己的英语没有自信。为什么呢?因为你怕被人嘲笑。这种情况尤其会影响讲外语的成年人。(越年轻就越没有顾忌!)你该怎么办呢?你可以先说服自己讲别人的语言出了错误并不是件丢人的事。设想将情景反过来,外国人在努力与你讲中文。你会怎么办?你会嘲笑他们的语病,还是会去帮助他们呢?许多以英语为母语的人,尤其是那些长期在国外的,了解学英语的人努力讲英语的情形,一般都会有耐心、宽容地提供帮助。了解到这一点,你就可以试着与外国人交谈。仔细听,大体弄懂他们谈的是什么。 “轮到”你说话的时候你可以发表自己的意见。你认为自己可能误解的地方,可以请与你交谈的人解释,你也可以请他们纠正一两个关键的错误。这样你会慢慢建立起信心。

28. When my teacher tells us a story in English, some words are familiar, but I don’t remember Chinese meanings. What should I do?


Put Chinese out of your mind. When you are listening to English, you should listen-in-English and not be attempting to find a Chinese equivalent for every single English word you hear. If you persist in doing this, you will totally miss the meaning and fail to hear any English at all. Forget about individual words and concentrate on trying to catch the meanings of whole phrases, sentences and paragraphs. When you hear something you don’t understand, try to deduce the meaning from the context. After you have heard a piece of English, test yourself by recalling (in English) what it was about.

29. Could you recommend us some spoken English books which are more living and non-subjunctive?


A puzzling question! A ‘subjunctive’ is a rare grammatical form which is rarely used in English. Perhaps you are asking me to recommend recorded English which sounds like real English and not like a grammar book. If this is the case, I suggest you look at publishers’ English Language Teaching catalogues, find the‘readers’sections and select recorded readers (ie. Story-books on tape). Choose the level which you think is right for you, then choose titles that appeal to you and order the tapes. If your English is quite advanced, you can buy or borrow‘talking books’, that is, unsimplified stories which are read by actors.


30. How to get along with a mistake when you’re speaking English?
And: What should we do with the mistakes we make when speaking English?


A mistake is only a problem if it seriously interferes with communication. If the person or people you are speaking to understand most of what you’re saying, then you’re doing very well and it doesn’t really matter how many mistakes you make. You can ask people whose English is better than yours to correct you if you want to, though this often becomes tedious and interferes with communication. If the people you speak to can understand the meaning of what you’re saying, you’re doing fine and shouldn’t worry about mistakes at all.


31. When I speak English I always think the sentence in Chinese, then translate it into English. How can I avoid using Chinglish?

And another similar question: Most English learners are told to‘think in English’, but how can I really do it well?

And another: How to speak English fluently?


The reason you’re constantly translating from Chinese into English is that you haven’t developed your spoken skills to a level that makes you feel confident. You have to master four skills before you can take part in a conversation. These are:
  understand
  answer
  ask
  say
You therefore have to concentrate on developing these skills: training yourself to understand spoken English, training yourself to ask questions, training yourself to answer questions and finally speaking. Once you have mastered the first three of these skills, you will be well on the way to mastering the last (and most difficult) one: speaking.

32. I feel that understanding is rather easier than being understood, because I always have very vague impressions of many words, which I can understand in a written text but just fail to remember when I want to express myself. How can I find the best way to change this situation?


You are quite right: understanding spoken or written text is easier than being understood when you speak or write. This is because understanding is a receptive skill, while speaking and writing are productive skills. We can always understand far more than we can produce, and this is also true when we are using our native language. Once you have accepted this reality, you should practise expressing yourself in the language that you can immediately recall. When you can’t think of the right word (which you might know receptively but fail to produce when you want it), you have to find alternative words to express your meaning. Keep listening to English and reading it as much as you can. In the long term, this will improve the way you speak and write.


文:路易亚历山大 新概念英语作者