I love answering questions from my students. In my experience, students who ask questions usually learn English faster.
Sometimes I get strange, difficult and interesting questions from my students.
Let’s start with the most common question my students ask me:
What should I watch in English?
There are two main types of English listening (and reading) that you should practice with — “real English” and “learner English.”1
So let’s take a minute to see what that means.
1. Real English
Have you ever tried to watch an English film without subtitles? Did it drive you crazy? Were you shocked that you understood so little, or maybe you experienced “information overload.”
“Real English” is fast, natural, and it’s spoken with different accents. Sometimes different people are speaking at the same time. Sometimes people are speaking with food in their mouths.
It’s difficult to understand but very good for your learning.
This is how you learned your first language.
It’s very effective for long-term learning because your brain takes in a lot of information, then processes it over time, even if you don’t understand everything that you’re listening to.
If you live in an English-speaking country, “real English” is all around you. If you don’t, you need to work out a way to get access to “real English.”
I’ll show you how a little later in this post.
2. Learner English
Who do you understand more easily?
…or a group of Americans chatting at the pub?
It’s much easier to understand your teacher, right?
That’s because your teacher is probably “grading” their language when speaking to the class — using simple, easy-to-understand English. We’ll call this “learner English.”
Research tells us that to learn English effectively, we also need “learner English.”
So, we have “real English” and “learner English.” Both of them are good for learning.
So my advice? Practice with BOTH:
Watch something with “real English.”
This can be any film, TV series, documentary, comedy show, news program… It doesn’t matter.
Just put it on and don’t worry if you don’t understand. The important thing is that you can “feel” what’s happening.
Watch something with “learner English.”
This is when you can understand most of what is happening.
This can happen when you watch films or video clips that are designed for learners. You can find some of these here:
I also want to add another important principle:
Chose something you enjoy.
This is very important.
If you’re interested, you’ll learn much faster.
What would you like to see in part 2 of Answers From an English Teacher? If you have any English-learning questions, ask away in the comments below.
1. These ideas are called “rich input” and “comprehensible input” in Krashen, S., D. 1987. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. N.J: Prentice-Hall International.