Lesson #5: Catching up with Michael

Meet my friend Michael! We've been friends since we were born. We grew up on the same street, went to school together, and have known each other forever.

After high school, we didn't see each other very much, because I went to university, Michael joined the Marines then moved to Texas, and I moved to France.

This video is our first time to see each other in maybe 15 years! So we're catching up, getting news about each other's lives.

Spontaneous conversation

Start by watching the video, just to listen to our conversation. There are no subtitles, so it's normal if you feel lost for the moment. Don't worry.

Then, download the worksheet "Comprehension questions." Watch the video again, and try to answer the questions.

You can check your answers with the correction at the end of the worksheet.

After you finish this exercise, continue to the video lessons, where I'll decode some of the things you hear.

The transcript will help you understand all the words you missed, so you can see exactly what we said

 Video lesson #1

As you already know, natural spoken English and written English are very different. To understand more easily, it helps to understand how sounds are transformed in spoken English.

This video lesson explains common questions we ask when we see someone after a long time. You can also use the questions when you meet someone. In any case, you'll often hear them spoken fast, and even with incorrect grammar!

Watch the video lesson to learn to recognize the questions, and to become familiar with the way we ask them in real conversations, not always with correct grammar.

You can download the slides and take notes on them.

 Video lesson #2

This 2nd video lesson explains the different ways we use "like" in casual conversation. If you look at the transcript, you'll see we say "like" 37 times in our conversation!

Watch the video lesson to learn to the different ways we use "like", so you can better understand casual conversations like this one.

You can download the slides and take notes on them.

Chunks in context

To understand native speakers easily, it’s important to quickly recognize chunks. Chunks are expressions that we use often. They can be short (2 words) or longer.

The important thing is to learn to recognize the sounds, so you understand them immediately.

Download the worksheet “Chunks in Context” below.
Then, listen to each extract and complete the corresponding conversation on the worksheet.

Check your answers with the correction at the end of the worksheet.

Extract #1

Extract #2

Extract #3

Extract #4

Extract #5

Fast connected speech

In the previous activity, the context could help you understand the chunks. Can you also catch the chunks without any context? You only have the sounds to help you!

For this activity, download the worksheet “Connected speech” below.

Then, listen to each sentence and try to write what you hear.You’ll hear each sentence twice.

I’ll warn you, sometimes they’re fast, and sometimes both people talk at the same time...just like in real conversation.

If you need to listen several times, that’s ok. And even if you only understand 50% of the phrases, that's still quite good! This is a very challenging exercise, even for native speakers!

Check your answers with the correction at the end of the worksheet.

Full audio

Sentence #1

Sentence #2

Sentence #3

Sentence #4

Sentence #5

Sentence #6

Sentence #7

Sentence #8

Sentence #9

Sentence #10

Sentence #11

Sentence #12

Pronunciation practice

I always say that comprehension and pronunciation are “two sides of the same coin.” This means that improving your comprehension also helps you improve your pronunciation, with just a little extra attention.

In this activity, you hear common chunks spoken at slightly slower (but still natural) speed, and at normal speed for Americans.

With the slow extract: listen and repeat. Pay attention to the accentuation and the intonation.

With the normal extract: listen to train your ear to recognize the sounds easily. If you want a fun challenge, try to repeat it at the same speed! Good luck!

These exercises will help you internalize the pronunciation you'll hear in conversations. They will also help you become a more natural speaker, with correct intonation and accentuation.

Progressively, you'll see that your conversations are easier, and people understand you better!

“Sentence #1, slow:”

“Sentence #1, normal:”

1. How have you been

“Sentence #2, slow:”

“Sentence #2, normal:”

2. What have you been up to recently

“Sentence #3, slow:”

“Sentence #3, normal:”

3. How does that work

“Sentence #4, slow:”

“Sentence #4, normal:”

4. So we get them in

“Sentence #5, slow:”

“Sentence #5, normal:”

5. We've had a couple people buy them just to take them

“Sentence #6, slow:”

“Sentence #6, normal:”

6. Something like that

“Sentence #7, slow:”

“Sentence #7, normal:”

7. Every once in a while


After you complete the lesson, listen to my conversation with Michael again. Can you understand more?

If you're still not satisfied with your comprehension level, wait a few days. Then come back, and repeat the lesson.

When you're training your ear and learning to understand, it's important to listen repeatedly to the same conversations that you have studied. This helps your ear become familiar with the sounds of real spoken English.

With time and deliberate practice, it becomes progressively easier to catch and decode fast American English!

Click here to get more lessons like this