How to Understand Native English Speakers, Wish vs Hope, and Watching Movies in English (AJ #6)


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Welcome to episode six of Ask Jack. This is where I answer YOUR questions about learning English and the English language.

As I mention in the video, to make this work I need YOUR questions. So click here to ask me a question.

In today’s episode, I talk about how you can understand native speakers, the difference between wish and hope, and the best way to watch movies in English

Below the video, there is a transcript from this episode, and a summary of the answers.

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Hello, this is Jack from, here with episode 6 of Ask Jack, the free series where I answer your questions about learning English and the English language.

So, if you have watched episodes 1-5 so far, then you will probably notice that I’m somewhere different today. So, I’ve decided to come inside because it’s far too bright out there, and I find myself squinting into the camera. So, inside it’s a lot less bright and I feel a lot more comfortable.

Anyway, let’s get into question one from today.

Gema from Spain asks: how can I better understand native speakers?

Thank you for this question Gema, and for everyone who has sent this question in. Now, being able to understand native speakers is what so many learners want; they want to be able to watch TV shows, watch movies, have conversations, and to be able to understand what people are saying.

Now, firstly, it’s important to know that native speakers have problems in this area too. For example, when I watch certain movies or talk to certain people, then there are times when I don’t understand exactly what people are saying. And this can be for a number of reasons, for example, people use different expressions, they have different accents, sometimes the audio levels are quite low and it’s difficult to actually hear what people are saying.

So, you’re never going to reach a stage where you can understand everything that you hear. However, it’s all a process; you’re going to improve if you do the right things. And the more you understand, the better it is going to be for you.

So, there are certain things you can do to better understand native speakers. And, obviously, working on your general English – learning new words and phrases and knowing what they mean, also, improving your grammar and your knowledge of grammar – is going to help you too. Because this means that you can actually understand the words that people use, the sentence structure, and all those different things. So, working on your general English is really important.

But in addition to that, listening more is really going to help you. Now, what I recommend that you do is start listening to things that you can, basically, understand the majority of what is being said. Because this is going to help you, step-by-step, get better with your listening. A good place to start is the news. Now, the news isn’t going to give you all the conversational English, but they speak in a way that is better (easier) to understand. And this helps you overcome a listening barrier; a barrier to be able to listen to English normally.

So, that’s one thing you can do, obviously, listening more is going to help. The other thing you can do, as well, is to work on your pronunciation. Because as you improve your pronunciation, your comprehension will improve as well. Because when you know how to say the sounds in English and learn about connected speech, learn about intonation and stress, then this is going to make a big difference too.

But, generally speaking, the key here is to just listen to English as much as possible. The more you do, the more you’ll be able to understand. And if you are also improving your other skills in English too, then you’re comprehension is going to really increase at a fast pace.

Federica from Italy asks: what’s the difference between wish and hope?

Thank you for your question, Federica. So, the difference between wish and hope can be confusing. But let’s start with wish.

Now, generally speaking, we use wish when we’re talking about hypothetical situations; when we want to change the current or the past situation. For example, going back to what I said before, I can say, “I wish it weren’t so bright today.” “I wish it weren’t so bright today.”

Now, it is bright, but I want that situation to change; I’m talking, you know… I’m using my imagination and thinking (about) what I want to change here. So, it’s when you want to change a situation, either in the present or in the past.

I’ll give you a few more examples… I can say, “I wish I had more money.” I don’t have more money, but I want that situation to change; I wish I had more money.

I can also say, “I wish I had studied harder” or, just to throw in a fun example, “I wish I hadn’t drunk so much last night.” So, I had 2/3 glasses of wine and, I can say, “I wish I hadn’t drunk so much last night” because now I had… have a headache. So, here, I want to change the past situation.

Now, hope is different. Because we use hope when we desire a certain outcome in the future. So, I can say, “I hope it isn’t so bright later.” Now, this is in the future because I’m using later and it’s a desired outcome because I’m using hope. “I hope it isn’t so bright later.”

I can also say things like, “I hope I have more money next year.” “I hope I have more money next year.” And this is why I always say, erm, in my videos on Facebook, “I hope you have a great weekend.” “I hope you have a great weekend.”

So. I’ll leave more examples in the show notes, so be sure to check those out.

Thomas from Germany asks: what’s the best way to watch movies? I don’t always understand what they say.

Thank you for your question, Thomas. So, a lot of learners find movies difficult to understand and that is normal because movies use complex language that is more artistic, so to make a certain movie work, to make it interesting and artistic, then the language has to be different. It has to be quite complex at times too.

So, that is why movies can be difficult to understand, and just to compare it to a television show, TV shows are easier to understand, generally speaking, because, you get used to the way people speak. There’s episode 1, 2, 3, episode 24; there are 5 series or 10 series. So, in Friends, I think there are about 240 episodes. So, after watching a few episodes… you understand that they repeat certain words and phrases and, also, you get used to their accents; you get used to the way that they speak. So, movies can be really difficult to understand.

But my advice for watching movies, firstly, is to choose movies that don’t use as much complex language; ones that are on simple topics with everyday English in the dialog. Additionally, it helps to watch movies that you’ve already seen in your native language. Because when you do this, then you understand what is happening in a general sense. You know the story; you know the characters. And then it’s a lot easier to follow.

And then, thirdly, I just want to say (is): if you find watching movies too difficult; if they are too complex for you, then don’t watch them. Watch something else instead. There are so many things that you can watch in English, like my YouTube Channel (smiley face!) or TV shows – documentaries – there are so many things that you can watch in English.

And if you do find it too difficult, you’re not going to enjoy it. And if you don’t enjoy it, then you’re going to stop doing it. So, find something that you feel comfortable with; something that’s going to be more difficult for you than you’re level, a little bit more difficult, but also something that’s interesting too.

My question for this video is this: what is your favorite movie? What is your favorite movie? So, leave your answers in the comment section, thanks for watching, and I will see you next time!

Q1: How can I better understand native speakers?

Being able to understand native speakers take time. There is a lot you need to do to reach this stage. Additionally, it’s important to know that even native speakers have problems understanding other native speakers at times. In addition to improving your overall English, I mentioned two things in this video: improving your pronunciation will help you better understand native speakers and you can slow down real speech to help you understand what people are saying, and then speed this back up to help you get used to the speed.

Q2: What’s the difference between wish and hope?

Wish is used for hypothetical situations where you want to change. For example, in the video I said, “I wish it wasn’t so brihjt today.” It was bright, but I wanted to change that. I also said, “I hope it isn’t so bright later.” So, we use hope when we are talking about a desired outcome in the future.

We can also use wish in the past, too: I wish I hadn’t said that.

Here are more examples:

  • I hope you have a wonderful weekend
  • I wish it wasn’t raining
  • I wish they had come
  • I hope I pass the exam tomorrow

Q3: What’s the best way to watch movies in English?

Movies are difficult to understand because of the language that they use. Therefore, I recommend watching movies that you’ve already seen in your native language and movies that are easier to understand. If you don’t enjoy watching movies, then watch something else instead, like TV shows.

What to Do Now:

1. Answer the question below: What is your favourite movie?
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  • Bilena Hyseni

    My favourite movie to learn english is “Desperate housewives”

    • Desperate Housewives is a TV show. Although, did they make it into a movie?

      • Bilena Hyseni

        Serial mabye

  • Nafa

    Oh, I have a lot of favourite movies. And I don’t watch movies in English yet, because it takes too much time. Instead, I watch movies in my native language with english subtitles and note the interesting moments for me.
    I have question about “wish”. Can we use “wish” in sense like “want”? For example: I wish this car; I wish an ice-cream.

    • doaa.eraky

      i don’t think so , this is the explanation of the usage of ‘wish’ instead of ‘want’:
      Wish and want
      wish + infinitive or wish + object + infinitive is used to mean want in a formal situation.

      I wish to leave now. (+ infinitive)
      I wish to speak to your supervisor please. (+ infinitive)
      I do not wish my name to appear on the list. (+ object + infinitive)
      so you can simply say
      i want this car
      i wish to buy this car