It may be a cliché, but it’s true: in order to be a better speaker, you first need to be a better listener.
That is why I tell my students who come to me for fluency lessons to listen to audio files, watch movies, and read books. I do this because in many cases I find that the student doesn’t only lack practice in speaking English, but they’re also unable to follow an English speaker, especially when they’re talking fast. And when you want to respond to what someone asks you or tells you, you’ll first need to catch what they actually said.
There’s no better way to improve your skill on this than if you listen to someone speak and at the same time read what they’re saying. I’ve given you links to online lessons and stories before. Go here. These were easy stories.
Here’s a great resource if your English is at a reasonable level: TED Talks. As the name tells you, it’s a website with talks.
Maybe you know it already. It offers lectures by the crème de la crème of intellectuals, politicians, scientists, and artists, who wish to make a difference in the world. It’s very good practice if you listen to the lectures on this site, and you might also find it interesting.
Yes, but you’ll say, the speakers are talking very fast and they’re using difficult language.
Yeah, so what?
You’ll get used to it.
In a minute I will give you some links to a few easy (easier) talks.
I’ve already said that you should read the transcript while you’re listening. This is going to make it much easier to follow the lecture. Just click on the button under the movie that says: “Interactive transcript.” The text of the lecture appears underneath.
Now here’s what I don’t want you to do: don’t click on the subtitles! Try to understand the lecture in English. If you didn’t understand what was said, just go back and listen to it again, and again, if necessary, until you get it. Use a (online) dictionary to look up words.
Which lectures should you watch?
Aw, there are so many good ones. You should follow your own nose.
However, I’ve picked four Recommendations. All these lectures have something to do with the question what makes us happy, which of course is the most important question in the world:
1 This lecture is easy: Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton talks about how money can make you happy, but only when you spend it on others:
2 Another professor, this time from MIT. This lecture is interesting too. Although the language is slightly harder, psychologist Sherry Turkle speaks slowly and clearly. She describes how technology makes us lonely.
3 My favourite (not an easy lecture):
“Ad man” Rory Sutherland talks about how technology and spending money don’t improve our lives, but simple ideas can.
If you want more of the same man, click on the lectures that appear on the right side of the screen. They’re just as entertaining.
4 Not so easy to follow because of (too long sentences) but fascinating: Economist Dan Ariely talks about what makes us want to work. The answer may surprise you. No, it’s not about money.
Have fun watching!