From the beginning I had some problems listening to foreign accents. Like when someone from my native country (India) speaks English I understand it at once, but if someone from a foreign country especially US speaks English, I have to make them repeat the sentence several times to understand it. Also, I have noticed I have more problems when watching movies, talking than when watching lectures. I am having lot of trouble these days because of it.

So how can I solve this problem? Also, is there is particular term for this state?

Note: I have watched 100's of movies but still there is very less improvment.

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    Note: cross-posted at ell.stackexchange.com/questions/14558/… . – choster Dec 18 '13 at 7:59
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    @VarunAgw It's considered abusive to cross-post a single question verbatim to multiple Stack Exchange sites, particularly without telling anyone that you're doing so. – snailboat Dec 18 '13 at 10:29
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    I have the exact same problem. Is it a foreign accent syndrome? Or some other medical disorder? – user97838 Nov 15 '14 at 10:44
  • @karan It is not medical disorder. A lot of peoples have it. I think it has something to do with accent. Even many native English speakers experience this while talking to someone with foreign accent. – user49815 Nov 15 '14 at 16:09
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    The typical pattern of intonation is different for speakers of English from different parts of the world. Part of the process of improving one's comprehension involves paying attention to the differences in intonation between your own pronunciation and the typical intonation pattern of the speakers from the region you are trying to understand. Try to get a feel for theirs by reading aloud a transcript of their speech along with a recording of the speaker, deliberately copying their intonation pattern. (For a good source of US speech, see my comment to the answer given by niimo below.) – Erik Kowal Jan 1 '16 at 15:15

Understanding a particular accent comes along when our ear is not trained for it. So, the more you listen to that accent, the more you get trained for it.

You are already on the right path. Keep watching movies/videos. You can start listening to songs and may be start following a particular band. Start watching videos of important people from your field.

While you go about this thing as an exercise, the important thing is to enjoy it and not treat it like work.

  • I have watched 100's if movies but still very less improvment – user49815 Dec 18 '13 at 8:09
  • It will be gradual. A movie a day is much better than 10 movies in a day and expecting a faster change. – Michael Massey Dec 18 '13 at 9:16
  • +1. This is the answer, IMO. It's about listening. You kind of need to "tune" your ears to hear in a different way. If you can, try watching a scene of an English-language film without English subtitles turned on, and then try watching it again, with them turned on. Yes, it's exercise (work). It might also help to stick with either American or British films (not both) for a while, as the difference in accents can be confusing. – Drew Jan 1 '16 at 15:54

Listen to recordings from librivox.org AFTER having read the script. Many of the audio books on librivox you can find in a written form on ProjectGutenberg. If that is still to difficult, use audio material that is intended for beginning learners of the English language.

  • Good points. Another good place to get practice listening to speakers of US English is the website of National Public Radio, www.npr.org, where several of the shows provide full transcripts of interviews, such as with Fresh Air, a show that features interviews with a wide variety of notable individuals and public figures. The OP can compare their comprehension level from listening to the show before, during or after reading the transcript. Another benefit with that source is that it simultaneously provides a very good window into American public life and culture. – Erik Kowal Jan 1 '16 at 15:06

I copied my answer from ELL here, because you seem to be watching this page at the moment.

One way is to focus on the sound, rather than the words.

A technique I found especially useful is to try to transcribe something non-English. For example, you can challenge yourself to transcribe the lyric of some song that you are sure its lyric is easy to find on the web.

The important point is: you must transcribe it before you take a peek at the lyric. Transcribe the whole song if possible. If that is a little too difficult, try to transcribe at least one verse at a time.

For example, I remember I did that with the soundtracks of Descendants (2011). I chose them because it wasn't too difficult, and the music is quite pleasant to listen to repeatedly. (I especially like the song Ulili E.) I found that although most parts of the song are easy to transcribe, some of them are quite tricky. :)

Hope this helps.


It's not you. It's... well, it is you, but it is the same for everybody.

Foreign languages are foreign. They have all different words and grammar and when words or syntax are sort of the same, even then the meaning can be annoyingly slightly different. And pronunciation of sounds (accent) is similar.

You can obviously understand those who speak your language natively very well (almost by definition), and its hard to understand foreigners speaking your language because of their accent.

But the same goes in the foreign language. You've been raised hearing an accent of a certain kind (everybody has an accent, they just can't hear their own) and you're good at hearing it. So even if someone with your accent is speaking a foreign language, you an understand them easier than the person who is better, well... perfect, at the language, a native speaker of it, even despite the fact that this foreign speaker is speaking correctly.

It's hard for you to hear correctly and easier to hear in an accent that is closer to your native language.

There is no particular term for this (maybe there's one among language teachers).

Notice that none of this is English specific. If you are a Thai speaker and you are learning Mandarin, you will understand Thai people speaking Chinese more easily than native Chinese speakers speaking Chinese, even if your second language Chinese teacher is a native Chinese speaker.

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