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dumitus's avatar

Do you understand almost everything people say on TV?

Asked by dumitus (634 points ) November 13th, 2012

I get the impression that people, when speaking English, mumble a lot or squash their pronunciations with too strong accent or talk too fast… I’m listening with a foreign ear. I don’t speak English as a native. So please muster up all your memory and think back hard. Of course, it isn’t natural that you can’t understand 100% because it’s your mother tongue after all. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help asking this because I do get that impression.
So sometimes I don’t understand words which would have been perfectly intelligible in writing.
For instance, watching a Korean movie, I often miss some words. For some movies, If I don’t turn up the volume pretty much, I can’t even grasp the story line. Does this happen a lot to you guys too?

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21 Answers

janbb's avatar

I don’t have a problem understanding people on TV at all; sometimes I miss a line or two in movies, particularly if they are British. I’m a native English speaker.

JLeslie's avatar

I understand almost everything, yes I do. But, sometimes I am frustrated when background music on the scene is too loud and covers up what the actors are saying. And, at times they do mumble and I miss what they say, even if I rewind twice and turn up the volume I can’t make it out, but this does not happen very often. English is my husband’s second language and he has trouble a little more often than me, but still very rarely. It happens more often for him when the show is not American English.

dumitus's avatar

you mean even what people say in prison break or gangster movies??
Gee they speak a lot of slang!!!

janbb's avatar

Oh – wait a minute. I just thought of “The Wire.” I tried to watch that and could not understand a single thing that was being said!

JLeslie's avatar

@dumitus In my first language, English, it isn’t a problem usually. We know a lot of the slang even if we don’t use it ourseves, or we understand so much of the context of every other word said we can more easily infer a meaning than a foreign speaker. I know a lot of words the English use that Americans don’t use, while my husband doesn’t. He also many times does not know or understand the meaning of some American sayings. He is fully bilingual, speaks English very well, but not having grown up in America (well he spent two years here in high school) he doesn’t know most sayings and doesn’t know a lot of slang and doesn’t know the multiple words that are synonyms for something at times.

I have never seen The Wire, so maybe I would have trouble too?

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie I think you would. They really do mumble.

dumitus's avatar

I don’t know the the wire.. but I should go check it out..drama series even natives don’t get!! interesting~!

JLeslie's avatar

In real life sometimes I have a very hard time understanding someone who is southern and very poor. I figure out what they are saying the same way I figure out what someone speaking Spanish is saying. I catch most of the words and fill in. My husband is completely lost in those conversations, completely. The person might as well be speaking Greek. If I was watching the same person on TV it would be much worse than when I am having a conversation with them, because there is no chance to paraphrase back to make sure I understand, or ask a question to clarify. Passive listening, like watching TV, is much more difficult that being engaged in a conversation with someone.

wildpotato's avatar

Heck no. I have a lot of trouble, especially with accents. I use subtitles with Dr. Who and The Wire, among others – and English is my native language.

Then again, I also have a lot of trouble hearing what people say in life as well, even though my hearing tests perfect. I think it’s an issue with hearing the gaps between words.

dumitus's avatar

@JLeslie,wildpotato
– this is getting weirder and weirder… to be unable to understand people from a different part of the country and dramas spoken in English, and to use subtitles to understand them!!!
Is it really so ??? This is hardly imaginable in Korea!
Does this happen because of the variety of people speaking English and their backgrounds, resulting in different word choice, pronunciation,vocalization, dialects and accents, or simply because of the inefficiency of the English pronunciation?

JLeslie's avatar

@dumitus There are many reasons. Since America is a country made primarily of immigrants, there are many different accents. However, the accents disappear or become much less extreme with the first generation born here. If the community they live in has a huge number of immigrants from the same part of the world, and they continue to come into the country, and even the teachers in the schools use the same accent, it is more likely accents and dialects persist.

I don’t know much about the history of Korea, but I assume Koreans have been Koreans for hundreds of years. Poor people in America, and I mean the very very poor, who are older and who are illiterate and who had little interaction with those who do have educations may speak in a dialect. When a person cannot read they have more chance of not being able to speak well. This is true in most countries I think. There are extremely few people who speak like this though in America. Most of those people are over 50 years old. A while back I spoke to a woman who told me 25% of black adults in Memphis, TN can’t read. 25%! Even if she is off on the percentage a little, it still seems like it is probably very high. That probably explains why they don’t always articulate and why they make many mistakes in grammar and other parts of speech.

marinelife's avatar

Not me, but then English is my native language.

wundayatta's avatar

Occasionally, I have trouble. I’ll be at a movie and ask my wife what someone said. At plays, this happens more often. It has something to do with acoustics and enunciation (or lack thereof).

newtscamander's avatar

English is not my native language, but I went to an english school for 2 years, so I’m rather fluent. I understand everything on TV and in movies, if the background noise isn’t too distracting.
My sister, who is three years older than I am and never adapted to english as well as I did (the impression my family has), often rewinds parts or watches with subtitles. I guess it was harder for her to learn a new language because she is a little older.

SpatzieLover's avatar

There are some shows that we find ourselves cranking the volume on due to bad mic-ing, and others we turn on the closed captioning due to mumbling, so @dumitus it isn’t just you.

Then of course there are shows like Honey-Boo-Boo that have captions, due to the bizarre form of county English they speak.

Coloma's avatar

OMG! Honey Boo Boo….aaaaaagh…horrible, horrible. lol

Sometimes yes, especially british accents at times.
I don’t watch TV, but, DVD’s/movies/documentaries and often have to adjust the volume or rewind to re-listen to something I didn’t quite get. Sometimes I never do get what they were saying. haha
I do find poor quality dialogue to be very frustrating.

Sunny2's avatar

I have trouble sometimes with really thick British accents and spoken very quickly. Sometimes, I have the same problem with newscasters speaking extraordinarily fast.

dumitus's avatar

Thanks everyone!!! hehe, I’m quite relieved, though this doesn’t justify my laziness in learning English~~!

Coloma's avatar

@dumitus Well, your writing could fool someone. haha

augustlan's avatar

You write in English very well, @dumitus! I have trouble understanding when actors mumble, or (especially) when there is a lot of background noise.

ucme's avatar

Mostly, but what the fuck are those teletubbies on?

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