Episode 100 – Interview with Cara Leopold of Leo Listening


Follow the language meanderings of an English teacher and language enthusiast.

Follow the language meanderings of an English teacher and language enthusiast.

Cara Leopold

Hi and welcome to the 100th episode of the Language Meanderings podcast. Today on the show I interviewed Cara Leopold of Leo Listening.

Cara Leopold is an online listening teacher, helping upper-intermediate to advanced learners finally understand spoken English, particularly the informal conversational kind, no matter the accents involved. Join the Leo Listening list for listening tips and the transcript of the latest episode of Cara’s fast, natural English podcast straight to your inbox.

For more information about her and her listening advice, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also check out her podcast for fast natural English on SoundCloud, which you can also subscribe to on iTunes or Stitcher. I would also recommend her self-study guide for understanding conversational English.

Below is Cara’s transcription and analysis of one difficult listening passage from today’s interview.
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Minute 6:00 – 6:30
But it’s hard, like it’s crazy, when I used to work like, I used to work in lots of different places and people would just co- this is before I had like a business or kind of any idea of-of you know offering really my own sort of one on one classes in a structured way. People would be like oh you know I know someone their kid is doing their exams this year they need an English teacher and people would just walk up to me and just you know they didn’t rea- they just you know oh you’re a native English speaker you can you can do it. I mean it’s insane.

There’s lots to say about this extract. Here are some typical features we find in unplanned, spontaneous speech. They occur because speakers are constructing what they say in real time.

False starts – the speaker starts off saying one thing, and then changes their mind
Repetition – these repetitions of words add nothing to the meaning
Filler phrases – I use lots of different examples, to give me time to plan what I’m saying
Non-standard grammar – this is very common in spoken English. An example here is how I report speech. Instead of saying “people would say” or “people would tell me”, I use the non-standard ‘be+like’ to report what people used to tell. (here would = used to).

False starts Repetition Filler phrases Non-standard grammar
when I used to work like, I used to work in lots of different places
people would just co- this is before I had like a business…
they didn’t rea- they just….
you can you can do it
of-of
Like People would be like
You know
I mean
Sort of
Kind of
Just

Features of connected speech, or as Cara prefers to call them, magic tricks fluent speakers use to speak more quickly.

Schwa sounds Plenty of examples in unstressed function words like ‘to’, ‘and’ ‘you’ ‘can’
Disappearing sounds
And - ‘d’ disappears, sometimes the initial vowel too, so it just sounds like ‘n’
Just - ‘t’ disappears
Sort of - ‘t’ disappears
Would - ‘d’ disappears
Kind of - ‘d’ disappears
Like - ‘k’ disappears
Squeezing sounds ‘In’ is very squeezed/reduced and almost impossible to hear. The first repetition of ‘can’ is so squeezed that we can’t hear the vowel. It sounds like ‘cn’.
Linking sounds
Final consonant links to initial vowel:
But it’s, need an English teacher, lots of, this is, walk up, mean it’s
‘W’ sound inserted between vowels: do it => do Wit
‘R’ sound inserted between vowels: idea of => idea Rof
‘Y’ sound inserted between vowels: My_own => my Yown
Transforming sounds Just => sounds more like a short ‘i’ sound – jist

Other links:
Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald’s website and materials
Olya Sergeeva’s work on listening
Richard Cauldwell’s website
Marek’s TEFLreflections blog