Listening Skills - Noisy Places
In this week’s Premier Skills English podcast, Rich and Jack talk about the problems that learners can have when they have to listen and respond in noisy places. Outside the classroom, life is rarely quiet! One of the most complicated tasks for learners is when they have to listen and respond in situations where there is a lot of noise e.g. a cafe, a football match, a town centre or wherever loud music might be playing. Jack and Rich roleplay some different situations to give you some practice and give you some tips and advice on listening in noisy places. The language focus is on the language we use to ask for clarification and repetition. The task is to reply appropriately in three noisy situations on the telephone. There is a new football phrase for you to guess too. Enjoy!
Listening Skills - Noisy Places
Jack: Hey Rich!
Rich: Hello? Who’s that? I can’t hear you that well.
Jack: It’s Jack.
Rich: Is that you Jack? How are you doing? I’m in town so you’ll have to speak up a bit.
Jack: Yes, it’s me. I’ll call back a bit later.
Rich: No, I’m not waiting for a waiter. I’m in town. There’s quite a bit of traffic.
Jack: Later. I’ll call back later.
Rich: Can you say that again?
Jack: I’ll call back later.
Rich: Yes, later. OK. I’ll be at home in about an hour or so.
Jack: OK, I’ll call about eight.
Rich: No, I won’t be late.
Jack: About eight. I’ll call about eight ‘o’ clock.
Rich: Did you say eight?
Rich: Right, great. Speak to you later.
Jack: Speak later.
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich...
Jack: ...and I’m Jack...
Rich: ...and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast...
Jack: ...where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to focus on listening skills and giving you some practice listening in noisy situations.
Jack: When you use your English in real life you probably won’t always be in nice quiet places like classrooms.
Rich: That’s right. You will often be in places with lots of background noise like cafes, bars, shops, restaurants, city centres, train stations etc.
Jack: It can be really difficult to understand people when there is lots of noise so in this week’s podcast, we’re going to give you some advice about what you can do when you find yourself in a noisy place.
Rich: We’re going to roleplay three different situations where there is lots of noise. Your task is to guess where we are and the information that we need.
Jack: After the roleplays we have some tips and language for you to use in noisy situations.
Rich: And don’t forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have another football phrase for you to guess too.
Jack: Can you guess where I am and what Rich wants?
Rich: Hey Jack! I’m just ringing about tomorrow night. Are you still up for going out for a drink?
Jack: Sorry, what did you say … it’s a bit loud here. I can’t hear you that well.
Rich: Are you still up for a drink tomorrow night?
Jack: Speak up a bit Rich! I can hardly hear you.
Rich: Drink. Tomorrow.
Jack: Ah yes. Got you. Sorry Rich, I won’t be able to make it. I’m at the match.
Jack: Ahh! Yes, sure. Sounds good.
Rich: What’s the score anyway?
Jack: Still 0-0.
Rich: Can you guess where I am and what I want Jack to do?
Rich: Hey Jack? How are you doing?
Jack: Hey Rich. Where are you? There’s lots of noise.
Rich: Yeah I know. It’s giving me a banging headache. Is there any chance you can do me a favour?
Jack: Yeah lots of banging. What’s up?
Rich: I was calling for a favour.
Jack: Ah! Is it money again?
Rich: Money? Ha ha! No, it’s my car.
Jack: Has it broke down again?
Rich: How did you guess?
Jack: And you want me to pick you up.
Rich: Yes. Can you?
Jack: Where are you?
Rich: At the garage.
Jack: You don’t say. Which one?
Rich: On the corner of ***** **** and ***** *** ****. You know, just after the lights at ***** ****. The other side of ******* ******.
Jack: I can hardly hear you. You say I need to go over ******** ******? Can you tell me again? Is it the garage on ******* ****?
Rich: No, it’s not on ******* ****. I’m not sure about the name of the road. I think it’s ****** ****.
Jack: Fell End Road? I don’t know it.
Rich: ****** ****!
Jack: Ah! I still don’t know it.
Rich: Hold on! I’ll send you where I am on the phone.
Jack: Got it. You’re on ******** ****. I’ll be there in half an hour.
Noisy situation three
Jack: Can you guess where I am and what I want?
Rich: Good morning.
Jack: Sorry, ah yes. Good morning. I’d like a ticket from Manchester to London.
Rich: When for?
Jack: Standard class, please.
Rich: Yes, OK. Are you travelling today?
Jack: Yes, the next train to London, please.
Rich: Single or return?
Jack: Er… sorry I didn’t quite catch that.
Rich: Would you like a single ticket or a return?
Jack: Oh, yes. A return, please.
Rich: Are you coming back today?
Jack: No, on Friday.
Rich: The next train is at 1355.
Jack: 1355. Got it.
Rich: You’ll have to change in Birmingham.
Jack: Sorry. London. I want to go to London.
Rich: Yes, you need to change in Birmingham.
Jack: Ah, change. OK, that’s fine.
Rich: That’ll be £345.
Jack: Sorry? What?
Jack: That’s what I thought I heard.
Rich: Platform five.
Jack: Sorry. Did you say platform four?
Rich: Platform five.
Jack: Thanks very much.
Rich: In the last section you heard three dialogues in noisy situations. In this section, we want to look at some things that you can do to make these conversations easier to understand.
Jack: The first thing to do is listen for important information. People will normally stress the key words that carry the most important information.
Rich: It was very difficult for Jack to hear what I was saying at the football match in the first roleplay. But certain words were stressed, emphasised more. These were the words that included the key information - drink and tomorrow.
Jack: By hearing these words I could understand what Rich was asking me. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t hear or understand the rest of what he said.
Rich: So, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to hear or understand everything to understand the message. You just need to listen for key words.
Jack: Another important thing to do is think about the conversation before you have it. If I have to speak French, for example, I often practise the conversation in my head before I have it for real.
Rich: Yes, me too, especially if it’s buying or asking for something. For example, at the train station, there are only a few possible answers.
Jack: Exactly. You’re probably just asking how much a ticket is, the time of the train and the platform. You can predict what the answers might be so you can listen for things that match your predictions or expectations.
Rich: This can really help in noisy places when it might be difficult to hear.
Jack: It’s always going to be difficult to understand in noisy situations but it’s the same for everyone. It’s important not to just nod your head or say yes when you don’t understand.
Rich: If you don’t understand or haven’t heard something because of the noise you need some phrases to tell someone to repeat something.
Jack: In the dialogues, you might have heard us using phrases like: Can you speak up a bit?, Sorry, I didn’t catch that and Can you say that again?
Rich: These are really useful phrases to learn and use in noisy places.
Rich: Another way of clarifying information is by asking Yes no questions. In the earlier dialogues, Jack said Did you say platform four? And I said Did you say eight ‘o’ clock?
Jack: Yes / No questions can be very useful if you’ve heard most of the sentence but maybe you missed an important bit of information.
Rich: These questions are also useful because it stops you from always asking the other person to repeat what they said.
Jack: It’s also useful to practise your listening skills by listening when there is a lot of background noise.
Rich: Songs are good for this. You can try to listen for chunks of language or specific words. Rap music is especially good practice because there is lots of background noise, usually uses lots of vocabulary and the language is closer to how we use it when we are speaking in comparison to a pop ballad for example.
Jack: Listening closely to the dialogue in action films is another good way to practise listening when there is a lot of background noise going on.
Rich: In this week’s task, you’re going to listen to Jack phoning you. Each call is difficult to understand.
Jack: Your task is to listen to each phone call and write an appropriate reply each time. You can write your replies in the comments section at the bottom of the podcast page on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: Right then, call number one.
Jack: Hey! How are you doing? We’re going down to Cafe Nero near the square at about nine. Do you wanna join us?
Rich: Call number two.
Jack: Good afternoon. I’m calling from Social Insurance. Could you tell me if your house and life insurance policies are up to date?
Rich: Call number three.
Jack: Hey! I’m in town. You said earlier that you want me to get you something. What was it again?
Rich: So, there are your three calls. Listen again if you need to and if you don’t understand all or part of a call try to use some of the language that we told you about in the previous sections of this podcast.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was goal-line technology. The phrase is what is used to detect if a goal has been scored or not.
Rich: Quite a few of you nearly got it right. MS Aboelsafa from Egypt said hawk eye which is actually the name of the system that is used for goal-line technology in the Premier League.
Jack: So who did get it right?
Rich: Well done to Lakerwang from China, Kwesimanifest from Ghana, Liubomyr from Ukraine, Haruyuki from Japan and Emir from Bosnia. You all got it exactly right!
Jack: This week’s football phrase is just a word. The football word is **********. This word describes the feeling in a place. It’s often said that Premier League stadiums have the best *********** in football with lots of singing, cheering and chanting by sets of home fans and away fans.
Rich: I think you’re right and Anfield has the best ********** of all!
Jack: Of course, Rich! Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. And if you found this podcast useful, then why not leave us a rating or review and that will help other people find us.
Rich: And don’t forget to listen to our round-up show called ‘This Week’. All the action from Matchweek 23 will be on the Premier Skills homepage on Monday.
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
Rich: Are you still up for going out for a drink?
Rich: I’m in town so you’ll have to speak up a bit.
There were a few more tricky words in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
In the podcast, we spoke about some of the problems that English learners have when they need to have conversations in noisy places. Speaking and listening in a busy cafe or market is very different from a quiet classroom or listening at home with headphones. We gave you some tips and advice for speaking in noisy situations:
When listening in a noisy situation it can be very difficult to understand everything that someone says. Key words are the words that carry the most information and these words are usually stressed by the speaker. If these are the only words that you hear in a noisy place it's often possible to still understand the message. Look at this sentence from the podcast:
** **** ******** ***** tomorrow. *** *** **** ** **** ******* *** *** * drink?
If these are the only words you understand/hear you could still make a good guess that the speaker is inviting you to go out for a drink. It's important to remember that you don't need to hear/understand every word to understand the message and reply appropriately.
Visualise the conversation
Lots of conversations in noisy places are transactional conversations. This means that the focus is on getting something done rather than interacting with a person socially. Examples of transactional conversations are buying a train ticket, getting a haircut or asking for a drink. It's often possible to imagine and practise transactional conversations before you have them. This is because the conversation is predictable. There are only a few possible answers when you ask Could I have a ticket to London, please? If you are going to a noisy place to make a transaction, practise the conversation in your head which will make the real conversation easier.
Listening to songs and watching action movies
A good way to practise listening in noisy situations is by listening to music or watching action scenes in movies. Songs always have a lot of background noise (the music) and you can practise by listening intensively and trying to understand the lyrics (words of the song). In the podcast, Rich recommends rap music because the lyrics are more similar to how we use language when we are speaking. If you are a fan of action movies, this is another way to practise listening with lots of background noise. Try listening to the dialogue when there is lots of action and background noise.
Asking for Clarification and Repetition
Another tip to help in noisy places is to use phrases to clarify something or phrases to ask someone to repeat something or speak more loudly. In the podcast, Jack and Rich used some phrases to do this:
Jack: Sorry, I didn't quite catch that.
Rich: Could you speak up a bit?
Jack: Did you say eight 'o' clock?
Using yes/no questions is a great way to ask for clarification because it means you don't have to ask someone to repeat something again and again. Have a go at this activity to learn a few more useful phrases.
Replying in noisy situations
Your task this week is to listen to three telephone calls. In the podcast, Jack calls you three times. You have to listen to each call and respond appropriately. The calls will be difficult to hear so you might have to:
- Guess part of the message by using key words that you hear.
- Ask for clarification of something by using a yes/no question.
- Use a phrase from the podcast to ask Jack to repeat or to speak more clearly.
Write your replies to Jack in the comments section at the bottom of the page and Jack or Rich will reply to your message.
What do you think?
In this week’s podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about listening in noisy situations.
Do you think listening is more difficult when it's noisy?
Is it useful to practise listening with lots of background noise?
Have you ever had a conversation in English in a noisy place? Did you understand everything?
Look at the task above and write your answers.
Remember to write your guess for this week's football phrase, too!
Football English Extra!
In roleplay two, Rich had problems with his car and asked Jack to come and pick him up. When Rich was giving Jack directions he mentioned seven places in town. All seven are names of either current or former Premier League stadiums. How many do you know?