They travel to an English speaking country, or perhaps they have friends or colleagues that are English speakers. The common complaint by students taking an English conversation course is that understanding English is more difficult than speaking it. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that most native English speakers speak their first language with reductions. Because we have been speaking our first language all our lives, we have developed the ability to speak it very quickly – so quickly, that sounds will disappear from the words, making what we say incomprehensible to the English learner.

The problem is compounded by the fact that what students learning English study in class is often not what they hear outside of the classroom. Compare the following two dialogues; the first is based on ‘textbook’ English, what students are taught in the classroom:


When are you going to Japan?


I am going to go this Saturday.


Cool! I wish I could get out of here for the weekend. You got your plane ticket?


No. I have got to get it on Wednesday.


What do you have to do in Japan?


I have got to give them some lectures, but I also want to do some sightseeing.


Where will you go?


I want to get out of Tokyo and see the countryside.


Sounds fun! Okay, well, have a good time.


Okay, goodbye.

The second dialogue is how it will typically sound between two native English speakers:


Whenerya goin' ta Japan?


I'm gonna go this Saturday.


Cool! I wish I could getouda here fer the weekend. Ya gotcher plane ticket?


No. I've gotta gedit on Wednesday.


Whaddya hafta do in Japan?


I've gotta giv'em some lectures, but I also wanna do some sightseeing.


Where'll ya go?


I wanna gedouda Tokyo 'n see the countryside.


Sounds fun! Okay, hav' a good time.


Okay, g'bye.

You can see that there’s a critical difference between what is modeled in the classroom, and what real native speech sounds like. Native speakers use reductions subconsciously – they are not aware that they speak like this. The use of reductions by English speakers confounds the learner of English, and will often complain that they don’t understand English speakers. How can Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages help?

Well, it wouldn’t help much to teach students in an English conversation course. If they learn to use reductions in their speech, other English learners will have the same problem understanding them. What TESOL teachers can do however, is raise students’ awareness of what reductions are, and help them to learn and recognize common reduction forms to help improve their listening comprehension.

This alone is not enough, of course; if students learning English conversation ever hope to develop proficiency in their listening comprehension skills, they must listen to English! Not just in the classroom, but at home, at work, at the park, in the car. The more they listen to native speech, the more acclimatized they will become to native speech, including the use of reductions.

Below is a list of common reductions, adapted from Brown and Hiferty, 1982, 1995:


Other Combined Words

Question Forms

Howarya (How are you?)

c'mon (come on)

Howza (How is the)

Howdy (How do you do?)

g'won (go on)

How d'ya (How do you)

gedouda (get out of)

How'd ja (How did you)


wadda (what a)

How'ja (How would you)

G'bye (Goodbye)

Jawanna (Do you want to)

'bye (Goodbye)

Shortened Words

Yawanna (Do you want to)

Seeya (See you)

'bout (about)

Whaddya (What do you)

S'long (So long)

'nother (another)

Whatduzzee (What does he)

'round (around)

Whaja (What did you)

Modals + TO

'cause (because)

Whaja (What would you)

goin'ta (going to)

in' (-ing)

Whad'll (What will)

gonna (going to)

jus' (just)

Whatser (What is her)

gotta (got to)

ol' (old)

Whatsiz (What is his)

hafta (have to)

yu (you)

Wheraya (Where are you)

otta (ought to)

yer (your)

When d'ya (When do you)

wanna (want to)

Where j'eat (Where did you eat?)

Words + OF

J'eat jet (Did you eat yet?)

Modals + HAVE

kinda (kind of)

J'ev (Did you have)

coulda (could have)

sorta (sort of)

J'ever (Did you ever)

mighta (might have)

type-a (type of)

Wouldja (Would you)

shoulda (should have)

a lotta (a lot of)

in fruna (in front of)

Negative Modals

ouda (out of)

/wõ/ [nasalized o] (won't)

/dõ/ [nasalized o] (don't)


duzn (doesn't)

N(or PN) + be(present)

havn (haven't)

N(or PN) + be(future)

N(or PN) + would

N(or PN) + will

N(or PN) + have(present)

N(or PN) + have(past)

Let + PN

there + be

there + have

here + be

Must TESOL courses require students to commit these reductions to memory? Of course not. TESOL classes should focus on presenting students with ‘authentic’ English – that is, the English that students are likely to hear and read in the real world – and to prepare students for encountering this authentic language outside of the classroom. Raising awareness of reductions should be introduced to higher-level students, even though lower-level students may likely be exposed to them as soon as they start listening to English in the classroom.

As TESOL teachers, we should also be aware of how we speak to students in class. Do we use reductions? If so, can we reduce, if not eliminate them? Adjusting our speech (speed, grammar and vocabulary) to accommodate our students’ listening comprehension skills are important in effective communication, and your students will appreciate it. This does not mean we should sound like distorted slow-mo recordings; but we don’t want to sound like we’ve just drunk a dozen espressos before engaging them in conversation.

Michael Bunyak

English Teacher at Canadian Education College, Singapore