Native speakers speak too fast? Learn from the baseball professionals.
Many language learners are put off listening to native speakers because they „speak too fast“. Speed overwhelms them and are unable to make out individual words. So, what can they do?
A baseball trainer told me how he trains people to mentally slow down the ball. In baseball, the ball is pitched at a tremendous speed (the world record is 100 mph) and reaches the catcher in a split-second. So, how can a player hope to see it? The answer: prediction.
The more experience a player has, the more they are able to predict the trajectory of the ball. This allows them to get into position to hit the ball. Furthermore, they use a form of trance to „relax“ into the ball. Their eyes become keener and they are more able to follow the ball in flight.
And what does this mean for language learners?
The more you listen, the more you are able to relax into the language. The more you relax, the more you are able to understand. The more you understand, the more you can predict what the speaker is going to say. You are always then a little „ahead of the game“. You expect the speaker to say a particular thing („predict the trajectory“) and are able to prepare an answer („get into position“).
Predicting is something we do all the time. Sometimes we are wrong („we miss the ball“) but often we predict it correctly. The more often we practice, the more likely we are to predict correctly („hit the ball“).
So, develop your skill to predict. Use visual cues, typical phrases, typical collocations (words that often come together) to help you become more conversationally aware.