English Listening Exercise #1| My drawing of a cat

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(23 seconds)


Try listening and writing down what you hear. Enter your name and email address here. Then send me an email with what you heard.

“Why do Chinese English students always believe that speaking with a native English speaker will somehow improve their spoken English?”

Question from Quora and my response:

Likely because it is something that can greatly improve their spoken English if done effectively. And will probably help some even if not done very effectively.

Of course, speaking with a native English speaker can also be done in a way that is not terribly effective at helping improve someone’s level of English.

You probably know people who practice things and do not seem to improve quickly. Or you may think about something people do frequently, for example driving, but also do not rapidly improve after the beginning stages.

Comfort vs Panic

If you mostly say and hear things that are familiar, you reinforce what you know, but may not learn a lot.

If you mostly do not understand what you hear, the situation becomes uncomfortable and frustrating.

Figuring out how to be in between those two states can help learning.

Patience on both sides is necessary.


If both people in the conversation are very aware of the other person, it can help.

Maybe one person is speaking too quickly. Slowing down might help a great deal.

Or maybe one person says too much at once. If the first part was not understood and the other person is still trying to figure it out, it’s unlikely they will understand more.

One way I practice language that can help quite a bit in earlier stages of learning is the game on this site. It has helped me be able to have conversations better and makes the conversations I do have more helpful.

“I am a Chinese student. How can I improve my spoken English without staying in an English-speaking country?”

Question from Quora and my response:

In a bit of a similar situation myself. I am learning Chinese while living in California in an area without a lot of Chinese people.
There are a few Chinese people and even some Chinese classes, so I try to go to those.
But mostly, I practice the language online. I would recommend one website and one app to find native speakers.
iTalki (website)
HelloTalk (app)
You can find professional teachers on iTalki as well as people just looking to practice speaking. If your level of speaking is beyond a year or two, sometimes just practicing speaking with a person who is not a teacher can also help a lot. In the beginning stages, a trained teacher will probably be more necessary.
I have been learning Chinese for two years. One way I practice listening and speaking is with a game I made up.
It helps me learn new words and also helps with pronunciation.
If you are more advanced, you may just want to have more conversations and ask the other person to correct you as you go.


Six Words in 1.2 Seconds! Hearing the Wrong Thing, Examples in English and Chinese

The other day I was playing the Listen Speak Game and a couple rounds made me laugh.

I got only one word right out of six! And with a different person in a different round, the other person got two words (out of 10) that I said correctly!

We were playing in HelloTalk, so when you miss more than half of the words, the whole thing gets crossed out (even if a few words are right).

Here is the round in Chinese,


I have been learning Chinese for a year and a half, so I recognize a few characters, but not too many. I convert characters to pinyin most of the time. Have been working on learning the characters better though.

The first word, 您(nin), I actually know, but most of the time I would use 你(ni), so I didn’t expect that. Part of the reason I could get mixed up was that although it says 5″ (5 seconds), the actually speaking lasted for about 1.2 seconds.  So six words in 1.2 seconds, a little bit fast!


Here is the round where the other person got two words out of ten. Really, almost three since the person said ‘learn’ instead of ‘learning’.


Two of those words are important to the meaning of the phrase, Chinese and learn, but overall the attempt did not get an understanding of what I said.

I said the ten words in about three seconds, so at what I thought was a fairly slow speed.

10 words 3 seconds

I did not feel bad about missing most of the words though, it was said quickly. And by seeing that I missed most of the words, the other person can better gauge my level and either simplify or slow down the rate of speaking a bit, slowing down would have helped a lot.

For the example with English, since I did not speak too quickly, the other person can listen again to the recording and learn from it. I can do the same thing, although it would help to have a slower recording!

What I can realize from the English example is that I should not try to say sentences that are more complex than that and probably should use some of those same words in another recording to see if the person can now recognize them.