Improving your listening skills
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
P. McEvoy, published in “The Rotarian” (May 1947).
Understanding native speakers of English can be a really frustrating experience for many learners. However, there are plenty of ways to improve your listening comprehension. Just follow these 5 simple steps:
As a skill, listening requires patience and an open mind. It is very difficult to listen effectively if you are distracted, worried about work, or in a bad mood. If this is the case, the antidote to this is listening to music you enjoy in English that will help lift up your mood while you’re practising your listening skills! J
- Practise, as often as possible
When I was learning Portuguese, I’d listen to the radio as often as I could during the day – especially the radio talk shows, so I could hear everyday conversations. I’d frequently just leave the radio or TV on while doing other things. I found that even though I wasn’t necessarily listening attentively all the time, I would still feel a difference in the way I spoke and the words I used myself. The more you listen to English, the faster you will come to understand it.
Don’t expect to understand everything people say. Try to use the words/phrases you do understand to work out the main idea. It was tough at the beginning, but I eventually found that I’d hear specific words and phrases quite often. Eventually, I’d figure out what they meant or looked them up.
If you’re speaking to someone face to face, simply ask them to repeat or speak more slowly. If you’re watching a film, just enjoy it and understand the big ideas. Subtitles, in English, will help you if you’re just starting out. J
- Intonation – The music of English
Every language has a specific tempo. When I was learning Portuguese, I found that when my ears got used to the musicality of the language, that also helped distinguish words from each other.
English is spoken around the world, mostly by non-native speakers. Different accents, and also the different varieties of English (e.g. U.S., U.K., Australian), sometimes make it very difficult for low level learners to get a good grasp of what “sounds right”. The simple answer to that is that many things sound right. It just depends on who the speakers are and where they are in the world. Listening to a wide variety of accents will help you start to distinguish the different varieties more easily.
Here are some websites to practise your listening skills:
British English: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio. Listen to live BBC radio from any device.
American English: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/, a regular radio show you can listen to and download as a podcast. Transcripts are provided for every show.
Really test yourself at various levels of English: http://esl-lab.com/, a great website with listening quizzes for all levels.
Join us next time, where we’ll discuss improving your writing skills.
Here’s another installment from one of our teachers, this time about the weather:
Grammar Point – Going to/will for future predictions
- Look at those black clouds – It‘s going to rain soon. Slang – (It’s gonna rain soon)
Subject + to be+ going to + infinitive – Prediction with present evidence.
- The weather wasn’t very good yesterday. I expect it’ll rain today.
Subject + will + infinitive – Predictions without present evidence, based on opinion.
Compare these examples:
- I don’t feel very well. I‘m going to be sick.
How will your parents feel when they find out about your new job?
- I know exactly what I‘m going to do when I finish my course. I‘m going to find a job.
What will you do when you finish your course? I’m not sure yet.
Word of the month
Shower /ˈʃaʊ ər/ (noun)
a brief fall of rain or, sometimes, of hail or snow.
e.g: ‘We’ll see some heavy and thundery showers towards southern and western coasts’.
Video of the month
Weather for the week ahead – http://www.bbc.com/weather/features/32189203
A typical weather report. This will help with vocabulary and future forms (going to/will).