English as a Second Language/Listening Comprehension


QUESTION: Hey there.
I have a problem with understanding English which has confused and disappointed me so much. When I listen to an English radio station or TV channel, I can understand most of it (maybe 90%). Even I can almost simply communicate with a native one. I have no problems with understanding what a guy is saying on Youtube as instruction of something, so forth. But when it comes to movies, I understand nothing. And by nothing I really mean it. I tried different movies, different genres, different actors. Doesn't help. I can rarely identify a word or a sentence, and to me, well they don't speak English in movies!
Titanic, Avatar, Avengers, Dark knight, Dark knight rises, Shutter Island, Goodfellas, Departed, Cars (the animation!) and many more movies I have tried.
Would you help me on that?

ANSWER: Hello Mojtaba,

Thank you for your question. Interesting dilemma you're presenting.

I don't exactly know what you mean by me helping you with your problem, but I am hoping the suggestions below may serve as a start point for you.

To be honest I have a hard time figuring out why you understand what they say on the radio or even on TV, on youtube and so on, but you have a hard time understanding the language when it comes to movies.

Are you by any chance more comfortable/familiar with British English and the movies you're trying to watch are American? The differences in accent/pronunciation may be enough for someone to have a hard time comprehending the language, but still, you should be able to understand something rather than nothing.

I can suggest trying to watch movies with closed captioning - where you can display the dialogue/script on the screen and then try to match the spoken words with the written text. It does help training your ears (so to say).

Also, maybe try to watch short passages in the movies. Play  a couple on minutes/seconds in the movie - whatever feels comfortable to you - and then pause it, so it gives you manageable, easier to deal with chunks of language.

Is it possible that the images on the screen distract you and you are too focused on the visual aspects and that makes it hard for you to follow the spoken language? Ever tried to just listen to the movie instead of watching to see if it makes any difference?

Please feel free to follow up on this and if you do, please give me more info as to how you think I may be able to help.

Best regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your quick reply.
Yeah, and thank you for your assist. I closed my eyes and I just listened to the dialogues, I could almost understand half of it and this is a 50% progression for me, you know! I think I just found a start point for that.
By the way, do you think watching a dubbed movie in my language and then watching it back in English could help?
Thank you.

Hello again Mojtaba,

I'm glad to hear my suggestions have helped you - I guess you are on the right track.

I'd say watching a dubbed movie and then re-watching it in English should help. Now you may still have words you won't be able to figure out on the first try (it even happens to me sometimes and there is nothing wrong with it) but it could definitely help you.

Feel free to let me know if you have more questions about this, or any other ESL topic for that fact and I'll try my best to help.

Best regards,

English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker


I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.


I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

BSc MEd TESL post grad program for k-12 TESL post grad program for adult ed

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