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Listening to the stars

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Practice your listening with short passages from Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps (American English) and Jessica Ennis (British English). 

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Michael Phelps and Jessica Ennis speak English with very different accents, but with practice you can understand them both. AFP

Understanding real English

English is spoken as a first language in many countries of the world. For the most part, we English speakers understand each other quite well although our accents can be quite different.

For English learners, however, listening to the English native speakers use with each other can be a real shock. The language is spoken so quickly and many words are not pronounced clearly, very different from the language of the English class. 

Here is a chance for you to listen to the English as it is spoken in different countries around the world. It is real English, spoken by native speakers to other speakers.  Let’s start with two people who have been in the news recently because of the London Olympics: Michael Phelps winner of an unbelievable 18 gold medals during his career and Jessica Ennis, who just won the women’s heptathlon (seven track and field events).

accent – a way of saying words that shows what country, region, or social class someone comes from สำเนียง
native speaker – someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learnt it as a child or adult เจ้าของภาษา
heptathlon – a sporting event, especially one for women, in which people compete in seven different sports สัตตกรีฑา (สำหรับการแข่งขันโอลิมปิคฤดูร้อนปี2551 ที่ประเทศจีน เป็นการแข่งขันกีฬา 7 ประเภทสำหรับผู้หญิง ได้แก่ วิ่งข้ามรั้ว 100 เมตร กระโดดสูง ทุ่มน้ำหนัก วิ่ง 200 เมตร กระโดดไกล พุ่งแหลน และวิ่ง 800 เมตร)

Click button to listen to Phelps and rightclick to download

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps AFP

Michael Phelps is an American from Baltimore, Maryland in the eastern part of the United States. In this short ten-second passage, he tells us about one of his biggest indulgences.  Listen to what he says, several times if necessary without looking at the text. Then read what he says.

indulgence – something that you allow yourself to have even though it is not necessary  การยินยอมทำตามความประสงค์การยินยอมทำตามความประสงค์

-------------------Listen before you read--------------

Even when I am training I think my biggest indulgence is – I love sweets. I’m a candy person, so something chocolaty or peanut butter or sour gummies, I think are two of my favourite things.

Click button to listen to Ennis and rightclick to download

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis AFP

Jessica Ennis has a very different accent. She is from Sheffield in northern England. This passage is longer and will probably be more difficult for you. It was recorded about a year before the London Olympics and she talks about how she trains and what it is like being an athlete in such a difficult sport. She also talks about what she wants from the Olympics.

-------------------Listen before you read--------------

I train six days a week, twice a day, so each day’s different. I cover as many of the events as possible so I probably do two or three events a day. At the moment, it’s a lot of training, a lot of conditioning and really just getting ready for the summer season. Physically, it’s very demanding, especially doing seven events in the heptathlon, it’s a lot of training to get in and a lot to put your body through, but also mentally, you have to be mentally strong and just to be able to cope with the training load and the lifestyle of an athlete. My aspiration for London 2012 is to get there injury free, in great shape and to win a gold medal.

conditioning – the activities you do to become physically fit and strong
physically – in a way that is connected with a person's body rather than their mind ด้านร่างกาย,  เกี่ยวกับร่างกาย
demanding – needing a lot of skill, patience, effort, etc  จำเป็นต้องใช้ความพยายามและความอดทน
mentally – connected with or happening in the mind ด้านจิตใจ
cope – to deal successfully with a difficult situation รับมือ
load – an amount of work that a person (or machine) has to do ภาระ
aspiration – something that you want to achieve, or the wish to achieve something ความปรารถนา,ความอยาก
shape – fitness; the physical condition of a person or animal, especially how fit, strong, or healthy they are สมรรถภาพทางกาย, ความแข็งแรงของร่างกาย

For much more practice is speaking and understanding real English, check out the book,  Speak English Clearly by Terry Fredrickson. It can be found in major bookstores around the country:

More on this topic

Related search: Understanding real English, Listening practice for English learners

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