EMERGENCY - How to Understand Native Speakers


This is a very quick 'emergency' post.

One of my clients has just come back from a business meeting, the pitch was fine, they answered questions perfectly well from a variety of different nationalities with no problems in the room. 


The social side of the weekend was a disaster and not at all fun. The client had to have dinner with two Brits and two Americans, all of whom spoke incredibly quickly and about a host of topics that he had no idea of (bitcoin for example!)

As you can imagine, it was stressful and unpleasant.

I've been in these social situations myself here in Madrid many times, my first year I spent talking to our friends children, as we had the same level of Spanish at any get-togethers. This was fine, I don't mind kids, and I was very grateful for their company to be honest....... but I'm generally found arguing about politics or film or other topics that traditionally you need someone legally allowed to vote or go into a cinema to talk about.

So given that we can't download languages via a magic cable while we sleep (and be careful what you wish for nowadays!) Here are 3 things you can do today, to build into your weekly routine to avoid being in the situation where you're bored and stressed.

Consider this your 'summer and bare legs have arrived' panic, when the sun suddenly appears and you realise that your pasty white reflective pins are going to be on display but you have a weekend to get ready! Or is that just the welsh blanquita over here?


1. Problem - you're not up to date on the news and cultural happenings in the anglophone world

 Solution - Listen to the Monocle Briefing https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-briefing/

When? Everyday on the way to work.

Why? It's a speedy roundup up of the global tech, finance and culture news with a variety of different accents to listen to.


2. Problem: you have difficulty following the native speakers (because of accent and speed)

Solution: listen and read sections of the podcast The Allustionist, print it and highlight the sections that you don’t hear or are having difficulty hearing.

 When? 2-3 Times a week (or more if you have time)

                This week: https://www.theallusionist.org/transcripts/survival1

                Topic: Welsh speakers in Patagonia, 

Why? Even if you have a teacher who you speak to regularly you're probated to their voice and they also are likely speaking more slowly and clearly than other native speakers. This means you are out of practise with fast speech. Printing the transcript for The Allusionist and highlighting any expressions or words that you either have difficulty with or simply can't hear is a great exercise to find the gaps in your knowledge. Then you can start to fill them!

3. Problem: Smalltalk with the native speakers away from work topics

Solution: Sign up for newsletter from fast company (choose the topics you’re interested in OR that you don’t know too much about) https://www.fastcompany.com/newsletters (daily)

When? Daily, try to scan the topics in 5 minutes before lunch or when you get home, don’t worry about recording the vocabulary, it’s just to get awareness of whats going on in the English speaking world.

Why? We have very different news in the Spanish and English language media...... I genuinely wasn't aware of the Venezuela situation until quite recently despite knowing the minutia of the Iran deal and all the players in it. So it's a good idea to sign up to a fun, well-rounded and interesting daily newsletter to get it in your inbox and keep up to date with minimal effort.


Let me know how you get on, do you have any other tips and tricks you use in these situations?