Improve your listening skills & understand better native speakers

How are your listening skills? Do you sometimes find it hard to follow native speakers in a conversation or colleagues at work or to understand the news on the radio?

It’s not a secret that developing and improving listening skills is a hard task. It takes time and effort, especially if you’re not exposed to Luxembourgish . So the only thing that you can do is to listen as much as possible. And that’s not that easy, not only because the lacking of vocabulary but it’s sometimes so hard to understand native speakers, because of the connected speech and the dropping of the final n of words that they use when they speak  … to speak faster and more naturally. But because of those reductions and connected speech the language flows, sounds smoothly and not choppy and abrupt. 

Do you want to improve your listening skills? May be to be better prepared for the listening part of the Sproochentest. Then this lesson is for you. You will learn the 5 essentials that you need to be aware of to take your listening skills to the next level.

I recommend that you watch this lesson on Youtube

Let’s get started with this phrase:

Ech hu lo keng Zäit, fro de Marc, ob en der nom Cours hëllefe kann.

Try to write that down in the comment below. By the end of this lesson you will understand that and you will also know the 5 essentials that you need to be aware of to take your listening skills to the next level.

What’s more we will be practicing, so that you will even see a change in your listening skills. How good is that?

I recommend that you watch this lesson on my Youtube channel!

What is the biggest mistake students make with listening?

Well, they focus on single words, individual words and try to translate them. That’s not good, because words change in context. When you put 2 words together the sound often changes and so if you are listening for individual words you are not listening  for the right thing. Take these 2 words and listen:

Gitt dir …? They sound like one word, right? But we don’t say gitt dir … we say gi_dir we drop the double t.

So here is the first hint to better understand native speakers: when asking a question using dir/Dir we drop the final t of the verb in spoken Luxembourgish. 

  • Fuert Dir …? ☞ Fuer_ Dir …?
  • Kënnt Dir …? ☞ Kënn_ Dir …?
  • Hutt dir…? ☞ Hu__ Dir …?

1 Weak Forms

Now some words in Luxembourgish have a weak form and a strong form and that’s the case for the personal pronouns du – hien – hatt – mir – dir/Dir – si

Especially in questions we tend to use the weak form of the personal pronouns.

Hence, you won’t necessarily hear in a conversation: Gitt dir …? but Gi der

  • Weak Forms of the Personal Pronouns (nominative & accusative)

 du de        hien en       hatt et        mir mer        dir der        si se

no weak form for ech

Beispiller (examples)

Gees de mat an de Restaurant?   – Wou ass en? –  Solle mer goen!

  • Weak Forms of the Personal Pronouns (dative)

 mir mer       dir der       him em       

no weak form for the plural pronouns eisiechhinnen

  • Weak Forms of verbs

The end of the some verbs also sounds weak. I will illustrate this with the verbs which are commonly used with the weak form

  • goen

Solle mer gon? = Solle mir goen?  Here again – and this is often the case in questions –  we use the weak form of mir and we drop the e of goen and you’ll hear gon.

In spoken Luxembourgish we tend to drop this e of all the verbs ending with –oen: soen –  froen –  droen –  verstoen –  stoen

  • maachen

Wat solle mer man? = Wat solle mir maachen? Many native speakers don’t say maachen but man. Further more as man ends in n it is also dropped and you will hear this: Ma der vill Sport?  = Maacht dir vill Sport?

How on earth am I ever going to understand Luxembourgish?

Well knowing that those sounds disappear or are not strong then it’s gonna help you. It’s gonna help you listen and understand better.

And of course you’ll need to practice them so that you can develop your listening skills.

Now I’m not encouraging you to speak like this yet, this is a higher level of speaking. Our focus today is on listening and being able on recognize and notice these sounds.

So as you start listening more and more you become aware of them and you understand the sounds rather than focusing on individual words and translating

You can start improving your listening by following this TIP:

You should be doing 2 kinds of listening: intensive & extensive

intensive – listen to very short audios – may be up to 1 minute where you are analysing specific sounds or aspects of spoken Luxembourgish 

extensive – listen up to 20 or 30 minutes – exposing yourself by following the general idea. 

You need to be doing both kinds.

For now focus and try to concentrate on the 2 aspects of sounds you’ve just learnt: dropping the final t of verbs & weak forms.

2 Change of sound when applying the n-rule

You are certainly aware of the n-rule where the final n of a word – or even 2 n if it’s a word ending with double n – is dropped. I have a lesson on my blog where I explain in detail all about the n-rule. Check it out first if you don’t know this rule.

Let’s take the verb hunn and I’ll repeat the first part of my initial phrase I’ve asked to write down at the beginning of the lesson:

  • Ech hu lo keng Zäit – I don’t have time now

Let’s break it down:

a) hunn becomes hu because of the n-rule

b) you’ve probably learnt that now is elo and that you should hear: Ech hunn elo keng Zäit – instead you hear  – Ech hu lo keng Zäit. We have in Ech hu lo 3 words but you actually hear one sound: echhulo

And here is an another aspect of spoken Luxembourgish: we tend to drop the e of small words starting with e. Here are the ones I can think of straight away and which I recommend you remember for now:

elo ☞ lo  now   erëm ☞ rëm again   eréischt ☞ réischt not before  esou ☞ sou so/as

Let’s repeat the 2 phrases and catch the different sounds:

 Ech hunn elo keng Zäit  – Ech hu lo keng Zäit.

The sound of the word schonn already also changes when we need to apply the n-rule. Listen  to the different sounds of these 2 sentences:

  • Ech hu schonn eppes giess –  Ech hu scho giess 

Now close your eyes and listen to the sounds: schonn / scho

Hues du da schonn  … Hues de da schonn eppes gebucht? And often you will hear Hues de da scho ….. Hues de da scho gebucht.

In addition we have here the word dann which also changes its sound when the double n is dropped: dann ☞ da

Here we have the sound de da (connection of the words du & dann) and when listening to Luxembourgish you’ll think hey what’s that word deda. I don’t know that one……..

Do you now understand the importance on focusing on sounds rather than on single words.

3 Chunks

A chunk is, a piece of language – words that often go together – where you focus on the SOUND not on the words. 

Try it first: read this chunk aloud: 

  • Et deet mir leed – now listen and then tell me what do you hear? ‘deet mer leed. As you can hear we say ‘deed mer leed. The et disappears and we use the weak form of mirmer and the final t of deet sounds like d
  • Ech/Mir gi gär – we often use this chunk for example mir gi gär an de Restaurant, ech gi gär lafen, ech gi gär spadséieren – so get used to the sound of these 3 word
  • guer net gär – when we don’t like doing something at all we tend to always use these 3 words – listen and repeat: guer net gär

Many expression and phrases are chunks:

  • Dat ass an der Rei = ’t ass an der Rei   der Rei = daRei

So as you can hear we not only drop vowels and consonants but we also link words: daRei together so that sound like one single word. 

  • ech hu Loscht op do hear that the t sounds like a d remember deet mer leed

And this is what you need to be listening for. Train your ears and pick out these sounds, chunks

4 Contractions

Contrary to English, in Luxembourgish we don’t contract words. The only words we contract are some prepositions + definite article for neutral and masculine nouns in the dative case:

bei + dem ☞ beim   mat + dem   ☞ mam       no + dem ☞ nom

Now you understand what I said in the sentence at the beginning of the lesson: ech hu lo keng Zäit, fro de Marc, ob en der nom Cours hëllefe kann.

I often hear students dropping systematically the final n of the verbs sinn & hunn thinking that this is a contraction. But that’s not the case, dropping the final n of a word is all about the n-rule. So, 

Ech hu keng Zäit is correct but if you want to say that you have time ☞ Ech hunn Zäit. Ech hu Zäit is not correct.

5 Connected speech

Native speakers talk fast and connect words together. In some audio samples for Luxembourgish listening practice they pronounce each word slowly. But in real life we don’t do that. Instead we connect words so that two or more words can sound like one word. For example the sentence:

Let’s now break down the sentence you’ve heard at the beginning of the lesson  

Ech hu lo keng Zäit fro de Marc, ob en der nom Cours hëllefe kann

  • fro de Marc – in English you say ask Marc but in Luxembourgish we need to add an definite article before names. So to say ask Anne, you will hear fro d’Anne – we connect d’ with Anne and you will hear the sound dann
  • ob en – sounds like “oppen” we connect ob & en, b sounds like p and en is the weak form of hien.

We also connect the pronouns for things after verbs which is quite confusing.

  • ech hunn en – what have you heard: hunnen and then you think at a verb  that you don’t know. But in reality these are 2 words

If you’d like going further and learn more chunks and expressions and practice with listening exercises (dictations) try out my online course Short Dialogues B1/B2. It consists of 14 funny dialogues which will help you to acquire a bunch of new vocabulary, improve both your listening & speaking skills.

Let’s practice:

Listen to 5 sentences and try to understand what you hear or even better write them down.

Check how well you did by downloading the PDF

Get the PDF!

I hope you liked it and found it useful. And …. why not sharing this lesson with your friends:-)

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