Listening Practice

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Listen to ordinary conversations below from a few episodes and read the transcripts.

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Hi, I’m Ruth. I’m Canadian, and I live in Toronto. My first language is English, but I’m learning Spanish. So I know it can be hard learning another language. I started learning Spanish by reading children’s books and watching tv shows with subtitles. Then I lived in Spain for about a year. Now I practice my Spanish with a cool app that has audio and transcripts. My listening and speaking skills have improved so much. I want to travel to South America, and I will visit at least 5 countries if I go there. You know, I learned French in school like every other Canadian, and I used to get good marks in class. But, today, my French is worse than my Spanish. However, I might try to learn French again when I become fluent in español. I know so many Canadians who were fluent in French as a kid, but they forgot it because they never used it. So if you’re learning a new language or trying not to forget an old one, don’t give up. Keep looking for tips and tricks to make language learning easier and more fun.

Learning a language can be difficult when you’re older. When you’re tied up with work and family, it can be hard to find the time to read long articles or books; listen to podcasts; and practice grammar rules. I have been learning Spanish for almost 6 years now, and it’s cool to see how many phrases and grammar rules I automatically use without thinking. I remember when I was first speaking Spanish, I interrupted myself all the time because I couldn’t think of the right word, but now that happens a lot less. I have been told by a few people that they thought I might be a native Spanish speaker because of my accent. I will be going to a Spanish conversation group soon once I find the time. I would be more fluent if I wasn’t so busy with work. But my trip to work does give me a chance to do at least thirty minutes of listening or vocabulary practice with the apps I use. I don’t just do memorization; I make a real effort to think in Spanish in my head.

Some adults believe that it’s nearly impossible to learn a new language after childhood. They think it’s too challenging, so they don’t even bother trying. There’s this assumption that kids can gain fluency in other languages more easily. And so, adult language learners often say things like, “If only I had started learning English when I was a kid. Then I would have already mastered the language by now.” Or “If only my parents had put me in a bilingual school, I would speak it perfectly now. And I would be so much more confident in speaking English if I was able to learn grammar unconsciously as a kid.” It’s true that children can pick up the basics of a language quickly, but one of the major reasons adults have trouble communicating in a new language is because adults need to express more complicated ideas. All kids need to talk about is food, family, friends, or likes and dislikes. Only basic vocabulary and grammar are required for simple conversations like that. But adults need to be able to talk about complex topics, so it takes longer to get to that point. Discussing politics or literature or technology necessitates a greater repertoire of words and phrases and better understanding of syntax. That’s why I make a point to listen to news in Spanish, so I can get exposure to an advanced lexicon and grammatical structures about specific topics.

Try out a few conversations below from my episodes.

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Beginner

Before you begin, take this questionnaire about listening strategies to learn how to listen better.

Esther: Hi there. Do you mind if I sit here? It’s a great view.

Ruth: Yeah sure, no problem. Yeah, the view of the water is amazing here.

My name’s Esther by the way.

I’m Ruth. Nice to meet you.

Great to meet you too. You know, I’m actually new to Toronto, so I’m still exploring the city.

Oh really? Where are you from?

I’m from Vancouver. I’m a nurse. I’ve been here for three weeks now. What about you? What do you do?

Oh, I was born and raised in Toronto, and I’m an English teacher. I can see how the city might be overwhelming if you’re new here. Do you like it so far?

It’s pretty great. There’s a lot to do, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions? What do you think I should check out, besides the CN Tower and the aquarium?

Well, for starters, there are lots of beautiful parks like Downsview in the city, and there’s a long waterfront path by the lake if you love walking.

Hey, I’m going to head down there this weekend. What’s the best park to visit?

That’s probably High Park, but you should also check other places like the Distillery District, Kensington Market, Yonge-Dundas Square, and different neighbourhoods too like Little Italy or Cabbagetown. Oh, are you a foodie? There are lots of great restaurants, all kinds of cuisine here.

Cool! Are there lots of Japanese spots? I love sushi!

More than you could try. I’d also recommend checking out the bar scene especially during patio season in the summer. And if you’re into art, there are lots of museums and galleries to go to as well, like the ROM or the AGO.

How about you? Do you like living in Toronto?

Most of the time, yes. The only thing that I don’t like is the TTC. That’s the transit system. It’s expensive, the subway doesn’t always run, but you get to work eventually. You know, if you want to get some more recommendations, we could exchange numbers. I’d be happy to share some more ideas.

Yeah? That’d be great. Ok, my number’s 647-834-9862.

Got it. I’ll send you a text so you have mine. Well, I got to run, but it was great talking to you.

Yeah, you too. Thank you so much for your help. I hope you have a great day.

You too. Talk to you later!

Ruth: Hey Esther, how’s it going? Didn’t expect to see you here.

Esther: Hi Ruth! Yeah, long time no see. What’s up? How are you?

Hmm, I’m ok. I stayed up late last night watching a movie to relax after marking some tests, so I’m really feeling it today. How about you? Is your day off to a good start?

I got a lot of sleep last night, but there was a lot of traffic this morning on the 401, so I also need a little pick-me-up.

I hear you. Rush hour traffic in Toronto can be brutal. Even on the subway. We were delayed for 30 minutes, but since my students were late to class too, it wasn’t a problem. How’s work?

Well, it’s alright. I’m working long shifts at the hospital these days, so I don’t get home until 7, sometimes 8, but it’s not bad. Glad the weekend’s almost here.

Yeah, no kidding. And the weather is gorgeous these days, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s lovely, but I’m glad it’s breezy since it’s over 30 degrees today.

Thank God for the breeze.

What are you up to these days besides work?

Nothing much. I’m just hanging out with friends. We’re going to see a movie on Saturday. Should be fun. How about you? Got plans this weekend?

Actually, yes. You texted me the name of some great Japanese restaurants I should try, so I’m going out for sushi with a friend from work. I’m excited! Then maybe we’ll head down to Queen West to find a cool bar to hang out at, like you said. Thanks for the suggestions.

That’s awesome! And you’re welcome. I’m glad I could help. Mmm, you’re making me jealous. I haven’t had sushi in a while. And I love the trendy shops on Queen West. If you get a chance, check out their vintage and second-hand shops. I mean, if you’re into that kind of fashion.

I am! I love treasure-hunting in thrift shops. I love the feeling when you find cool clothes for a bargain.

I know what you mean. Well, I hope you have a great time. My class is starting soon, so I need to go, but so glad I bumped into you.

Me too!

Hope the rest of your day goes well. We should make a coffee date soon, so we can really catch up.

Sounds like a plan. Alright, take care.

 

Intermediate

Before you begin, take this questionnaire about listening strategies to learn how to listen better.

Ruth: Hey Esther, you’re a little late today. That’s unusual for you.

Esther: I know, I know. It’s because I had to take the subway, and I underestimated how long it would take to get me here.

Why did you have to take public transit? Did something happen to your car, or did you want to experience what it’s like to travel in a tight, overcrowded space with lots of germs and BO?

Actually, I got into an accident yesterday.

What? Oh no! You’re not injured, right? Are you okay?

No, don’t worry. I’m fine. It wasn’t serious, and I was wearing a seatbelt. Just a fender-bender.

What happened?

Well, I was at a busy intersection in my neighborhood, waiting for an elderly couple to cross before I turned right. The guy behind me was in this small blue sedan, and he was so impatient. He honked, and when I looked at him through my rear-view mirror, he was waving his hand at me, saying “Go, go!” So as soon as the couple was safely on the sidewalk, he stomped on the pedal, expecting me to be already moving. But I wasn’t that quick. I was still waiting a few seconds more when he rammed me from behind.

Jeez, some people just shouldn’t be allowed to drive. He should have his license revoked.

I know, right! I mean, I was just a second behind. God, drivers in Toronto are just so…

So what?

Well, sometimes I feel like I’ll never fit in on the road here because I’m just not aggressive enough. Sure, in Vancouver, there are hotheads, but most drivers there don’t feel like they have to run over people to get where they’re going. It’s easier being on the road there.

I totally get your frustration even though I don’t drive.

Why’s that?

Because so many times I’ve seen drivers take unnecessary risks. For example, last night, while I was waiting to cross the street, an ambulance and a fire truck were approaching. But when all the pedestrians and most of the cars on the road froze, one lone wolf decided that the twenty seconds it would take for the emergency vehicles to go by wasn’t worth losing, that he couldn’t afford to lose any time. So right when the fire truck was passing through the lights, he took off, leaving only a few metres of distance between them. It was kind of scary really. But I’m sure he was just so proud of himself.

Well, I hope the traffic cameras got a nice shot of his license plate.

Me too. Honestly, I think some drivers, they get a rush of adrenaline from pulling stunts like that. I’m sure he wouldn’t have been late to wherever he was going if he had waited. I think they like the excitement of putting themselves in unnecessary life and death situations.

How funny. My boyfriend Raj was just saying that the other day after we saw someone jump a red light. We were at a restaurant, in a booth next to the window, when all of a sudden, we heard tires squealing as the guy sped up to beat the traffic going the other way. Raj was like, “I hope you’ve got your funeral planned out since you’re in such a rush to get to it.”

That’s terrible, but so true. The guy who hit you, tell me you got his info. Did you get his background and insurance information?

Yes, of course. I’m already making arrangements to get my car fixed.

I hope you collected evidence for yourself. Did you get a picture of the damage to his car? Just in case he decides to exaggerate. That happened to a friend of mine.

Yes, don’t worry. I did.

Good. Maybe he’ll learn the lesson the hard way when his premium goes up. He should consider retaking a driver’s course.

 

 

Esther: A friend of mine who’s on vacation has just gone bungee jumping.

Ruth: What?

Here, look at these mind-blowing pictures that her boyfriend took from the bridge above.

Whoa. That looks spectacular, like a scene out of an action movie, especially with the river rushing by below in the background.

Her boyfriend’s actually a photographer who has his own high-end photography studio, so that’s why it looks so professional. He’s the one wearing a headband here in this other picture.

Oh man, I bet she was screaming her head off, imagining her body being thrashed on the rocks down there. That’s what I’d be thinking about. I’d test the elasticity of the cord ten times before I jumped to make sure it’s springy enough.

I know. On her Facebook page, I said, “Aren’t you glad you paid to have a near-death experience?”

My thoughts exactly. No thank you. My psychology class in undergrad taught me that I am not a daredevil. I have a tendency to avoid risk.

So I guess you haven’t gone bungee jumping before then. Have you ever done anything adventurous like that though?

Does taking a kickboxing class count, haha?

No.

Mmm, well, I think the craziest thing I’ve ever done is jet skiing. Pretty tame, I know, but the way the jet ski was flying in the air and then crashing back on the water! I thought for sure if I moved even a finger, the speed we were going at would toss me in the air, and I’d land on the water with a really hard splash. After we got back on land, the driver noticed I wasn’t smiling, and he commented on that. I said, I’ll try harder to be happy the next time I’m being blinded by water and fear. Sounds like you’re more daring than me. Have you gone bungee jumping, skydiving or something like that already?

Actually, I haven’t gone bungee jumping yet, but I have done the EdgeWalk on the CN Tower, twice so far.

Twice? Well, you certainly don’t let fear hold you back. How was that? Weren’t you terrified?

Well, I was when I first climbed out to the edge, but then it was so cool looking down and watching all the things happening below, like staring into a diorama. There was a baseball game happening in the Rogers Centre, and we got to watch a few pitches!

Oh my God, I’d be too busy concentrating on not losing my footing that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the sights. But good for you.

You know what I’d love to try? Parasailing!

Why?

It looks so beautiful when people do it. You get to float in the sky and be one with the wind, and it’s a lot calmer and less scary than hang gliding or base jumping.

Well, you might convince me to go parasailing with you because it really doesn’t look that dangerous. You know, after I googled jet-skiing, ads for daredevil activities started showing up on my Facebook page. Crazy stuff.

Like what? What did they suggest?

Like swimming with great white sharks in South Africa. I saw some photos of tourists doing that, but that is way out of my comfort zone.

Surprise, surprise.

I’m sorry that my insanity meter is just not set that high. But just to prove to you that I’m not a complete coward, I was brave enough to eat insects when I traveled to Thailand.

Oh my God, gross. Tell me more. What did they taste like?

Well, it’s not like you eat them live. They roast them and spice them, so it’s like eating salted nuts but with a really strong taste. But even though they tasted good, I wouldn’t do it again. I understand that eating insects is probably the result of having few options, so I can respect that. But after I ate them, I felt kind of bad for the insects. Have you eaten anything strange before?

I’ve eaten frog legs before. At a Chinese restaurant. Actually, I’ve had them three times, but now I feel too guilty.

 

 

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