What Happened When Leo Listening Went Live?
Last Friday, I organised a live listening event in Besançon, the city where I live.
But wait a minute, you’re an online teacher! What did you do that for?
Let me explain (or lemme explain as we say in spoken English). And after you can join in the fun too!
Why Live And Local?
You might think that being online would make it easier for students like you to find out about me.
I mean, if you’re reading this, it means you somehow found me online – thanks, it’s great to have you here!
But, in fact, it’s tricky to get noticed online – my website doesn’t show up on the first page of Google and I don’t have huge social media followings.
A Caribbean Island And A Broken Toe
As the conversation meet-ups are held in a relaxed atmosphere, I knew I had to plan a fun activity to help the participants understand spoken English.
I chose the theme of listening jokes. Where did I get the inspiration for that? Let me (or lemme!) take you back to an incident that happened a couple of years ago.
2 summers ago, while visiting my parents in Scotland, I broke my big toe – I know that sounds ridiculous but stay with me.
On that day (a Sunday) we went out to a restaurant for lunch in a coastal town near Glasgow. My toe was swelling up under the table, although at that point I didn’t know it was broken.
We left and decided to head to the accident and emergency department of the local hospital. On the way there, we drove past a street called ‘Jamaica Street’.
What does that have to do with a Caribbean island? If you don’t understand this joke, it’s perhaps you’re not aware of some of the magic tricks native and fluent speakers use to make their lives easier when they speak.
The question, ‘Did you make her?’, sounds like Jamaica, the island in casual, spoken English because of:
Transforming sounds: did+you => dja
- the ‘h’ sound in ‘her’ disappears
- the vowel in ‘her’ is a schwa sound (that’s the most relaxed sound in English)
- ‘her’ joins to ‘make’ because it’s an unstressed word.
English rhythm is generally a pattern of stressed and unstressed sounds. That’s why unstressed words like articles, prepositions or pronouns often link to stressed words like nouns and verbs.
Below are the jokes we worked on in the live session. Each one of them contains one or more examples of these magic tricks. You can listen to them, read them and discover the listening principles behind them.
A: Where’s she from?
B: I dunno, Alaska
Alaska = I’ll ask her
disappearing sounds => /h/ ask her=> asker
disappearing sounds =>/aɪ/ => /aɪ/ => I’ll => al
lettuce = let us
linking sounds => let us (unstressed word ‘us’ links with ‘let’)
Relaxed sound = vowel in ‘us’ /ə/
Saul Goodman (character in TV shows Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad) = it’s all good man
Squeezed sounds and disappearing sounds: it’s all => sall
‘it’ is one of these annoying words that’s really hard to catch in fast, informal spoken English. Squashed or squeezed expression.
A. Four candles
B. Yes, sir,
A. No, fork ‘andles
B. Four candles. That’s four candles.
A. No! Fork ‘andles. ‘Andles for forks!
Four candles = fork ‘andles
Disappearing sounds in certain accents – here the ‘h’ disappears from ‘handles’
In all accents of English, /h/ sounds disappear from unstressed pronouns like ‘him’, ‘her’, ‘his’, ‘he’
How Did You Do?
1 .What are you doing later?
2. He made out a cheque for a hundred dollars
3. Do you like tea or do you prefer coffee?
4. Tell her I’ll meet her in an hour
5. She’ll never figure it out herself
6. We went to the shops and then to the bank
7. She hasn’t come in yet today
8. This morning I drank three coffees
9. I’ve already asked him and he doesn’t know
10. Do they want to come too?
When’s The Next One?
We had a couple of technical issues with the little whiteboard I passed around as it kept breaking! But everyone agreed that the evening was a lot of fun and kept asking me when I’m going to organise the next one. For the next one we’ll need to find a quieter venue.
Understanding spoken English is hard enough as it is, without a load of background noise to contend with! Thank you to all the participants, particularly to Fatima and her conversation club and Héloïse who took the pictures and filmed the videos.