When you are listening to English-speakers, do you ever feel like they are eating their words? That's because of sentence stress.
English is different from many other languages (such as French, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese), because in a sentence, the words which contain the meaning of the sentence are stressed (emphasised with a slightly louder and longer accent) and the other words often become very short and almost disappear.
Understanding sentence stress can really help you with your listening skills.
Look at this - can you understand the meaning?
dfkjh leaving fdiusj office now cxzqwui qwsghj meet xcvb gkjhkl cinema zxdfg half zptwx hour.
Now here's the whole sentence:
I'm leaving the office now, shall we meet at the cinema in half an hour?
You probably understood the meaning, just from the words in bold. When the sentence is spoken, it's these words will be stressed.
Which means that when you listen to English, you should be able to understand the meaning by listening for the stressed words. Many of my students get frustrated that they can't understand every word (often because the speaker is "eating" a lot of the unstressed words), but actually it doesn't matter. If you can understand the stressed words, which are the easiest ones to hear, you will understand the meaning.
This is also how native English-speakers understand English. Our ears hear the stressed words and our brains recreate the whole sentence.
My top tip for listening? Relax, let your ears pick out the stressed word.
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...