English Listening Skills
First an Introduction
This article is about English Listening Skills. It helps you learn quicker and develop your English Listening Skills in a more efficient way. When learning a new language, listening often presents the biggest challenge. You can study grammar and learn hundreds of vocab words but if you can’t understand what someone is saying, then it seems that all that work has been for nothing. Listening in English is particularly difficult because English is full of slang and other expressions which may not be in English textbooks. On top of that, people often speak English very fast and with little tonal influence!
But don’t worry just yet. There are many ways to improve your listening skills, and most of them simply revolve around the idea of practice, practice, practice! The more you actively listen to English; the more and more you will understand.
Where to Start? Some Hints and Tips!
Listening plays a huge part in learning any language. The first thing you did as a child was listening – you couldn’t talk, or write or speak, so you listened. Unfortunately as we grow up a lot of us lose the skill of listening, but like most things, it is something you can improve on.
The first thing to do is learn to listen actively. Learning a language is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument. You can listen to music for enjoyment, but if you want to study the music you have to listen more critically. It’s the same with languages; you need to make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that someone is saying but, more importantly, pay attention, and try to understand the complete message behind the words. The more you practice your English Listening Skills, the better you become!
Here are some tips on how to improve your listening skills:
- Practice as much as possible. Try to listen to something in English at least twice a day.
- Find a variety of sources you can listen to. This can include some of your favorite movies in English without the subtitles, or it can include that popular English song that you always hear on the radio. Many sites like the BBC also offer interesting lectures and news reports in English that can help expand your topic vocabulary as well. Audio books are also a great way to start listening on a daily basis; you can find these online or through many libraries.
- Be an active listener. Though you may be used to doing other tasks while listening to someone speak your native language, when learning a new language, all of your attention has to go to the listener. Try your hardest to understand the general idea of the speaker; the details will come after.
- Do not translate into your native language when listening. Unlike a video online or a recorded listening sample, you cannot press pause when someone is speaking to you in English. The time you spend translating word for word is time lost, and in that moment, you may miss an important idea or point.
- Don’t be upset if you do not always understand. Listening is very challenging and you will not understand everything, especially when you first begin. Be confident that the more you listen, the more you will understand. Don’t give up, relax!
- Be proud of yourself! It takes a lot of work to understand someone speaking his or her native language. Take pleasure in your accomplishments and keep striving for more!
Listen to Audio Clips
English Listening is usually the slowest skill to improve. For most language learners, listening is their weakest skill. There are two reasons for this:
- You may be pronouncing a word incorrectly, and therefore you can’t understand the word when it’s pronounced correctly.
- You are listening for the wrong words and sounds. Natural spoken English is a mixture of stressed & unstressed words, linked words, contracted words, and reduced words. Many words are not fully pronounced.
In the next chapter an activity is described that you can do to improve your listening skills and get used to the sounds of natural spoken English.
The English Listening Skills Exercise
If you are a beginner or low intermediate, choose a clip that is about 1-2 minutes; more advanced learners should choose longer clips that are about 3-5 minutes. Read this article about English Listening Skills Make sure you also have the words to the audio clip. You need to be able to check your work! Ask your teacher at Education Gateway for some recommendations, which level and length is good for you!
- Listen to the whole audio clip once without looking at the words. Relax. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic.
- Listen to the entire clip again. It’s easier to hear and understand what you’re listening to when you’re relaxed and not panicking.
- Listen to the clip, but pause the clip every 5 seconds.
- After you pause the audio, write down a word, phrase or anything you can remember from the clip.
- When you have finished and listened to the entire clip, read through your notes completely.
- It’s OK if you don’t understand every word, but can you understand the general theme of what the speaker is saying?
- Repeat step 3. Check your work. Correct your work. Add any new words you heard.
- Read through your notes completely again. Try to finish the sentences. If you wrote down one or two words, can you figure out the sentence from those words? Use your knowledge of grammar to try to complete the sentences.
- Hide your notes. Listen to the clip again, but this time stop after 10 seconds. Again, write down the main words you hear. Check your work compared to what you wrote down in step 5.
- Listen to the clip completely one last time while reading your notes.
- Compare your notes to the actual words. • What words did you get right? • Did you have trouble hearing certain words? • Are there any words that you should have heard [words that you already know] but did not? Why? Is your pronunciation wrong? Was the word unstressed in the sentence? Was it linked to a word before or after it? Look up any new words that you don’t know.
- Listen to the clip while reading the words. Check your pronunciation of words you know but didn’t hear or understand when you were listening.
- Now, hide all your notes and the words. Listen one final time to the clip. It should be easier now to understand what the speaker is saying.
- Finally, after about a week, come back and listen to the clip again to refresh your memory.
NOTE: Your listening skills will not improve overnight. Like anything in life, it takes a lot of practice! If you practice consistently 3-4 times a week, very soon you will start to see an improvement in your listening skills.
About Education Gateway
Education Gateway is located next to Chiang Mai University in Thailand’s north; our modern school specialises in Classroom Education, Online Tutoring and Corporate English training for the service-provider industry, preparation programs for students to study abroad, as well as general English courses for better communication and Learning Management Systems (LMS).
At Education Gateway, we focus on helping you attain proficiency in any English-language environment. Our new, well-equipped classrooms are designed for up to eight students per room. The small size of the groups in spacious classrooms allows teachers and trainers to provide individualised instruction and ensure that students progress satisfactorily. We also offer in-house training in the meeting rooms at your hotel. Our teachers and trainers are flexible, so we can arrange a specific training for your staff outside the office hours.
We offer customised English training for various industries including hospitality, travel, airlines, medical, automotive and manufacturing. Our program is equally suitable for company employees working in general management, secretarial/clerical, customer service, human resources or sales capacities. Both in-house training at your own facilities as well as private training in our classrooms is available.