Many English learners focus on English speaking ability as their primary goal. They spend a great deal of time, money, and attention on English training lessons, workshops, courses, and more. This is of course a good thing, since there are many benefits we can get from perfecting out English-speaking skill, especially these days when public speaking is a sought-after and highly desirable skill. In this article, we’ll give tips on how to improve the listening skills in English.
However, with all the noise and claims concerning the importance of English speaking, most people tend to ignore the importance of listening. In many ways, knowing how to listen is as essential as learning how to speak English. Whether you plan to advance your career in the business industry or in politics, you have to develop your public speaking and listening skills. This will help you build your reputation and outshine your competitors.
Everyone wants to be heard and understood, and having the ability to both communicate clearly and comprehend thoroughly will no doubt take far in any career you choose. However, if you are not yet happy with your abilities and you keep asking yourself, “How can I improve my listening skills in English?”, then keep on reading. You’ll get helpful and proven tips from this post.
Six ways to improve your listening skills in English
Most people who aspire to learn a foreign language fail to keep their determination to the end. At first, some are very excited and motivated but want to give up at the first signs of difficulty. According to many English teachers, there is one reason above all why most people fail – they don’t listen enough. Well, this makes sense, right? If you allot 1,000 hours listening to English from other sources, we bet you’re likely to improve your skills.
Unfortunately, some people think that watching a few movies in English or listening to English audio once or twice a week is enough to improve their listening skills. However, these activities, according to expert English speaking tutors, are not so beneficial. They can sometimes barely make a difference.
Let’s say you give 15 minutes every day to your English practice. That’s only 91 hours a year. If you really want to improve your listening and speaking skills in English, you must be consistent for over a long period of time.
Keep it simple. You only need two strategies to achieve your goal. First, listen to a lot of English every single day. The routine is vital. Second, accept that it will take many months, and even years, to master the skills you desire.
“How can I improve my listening skills in English if I don’t have much time?”
Here are a few tips that won’t eat much of your time and would not cost you money as well.
Make sure you always have English listening material with you.
Thanks to technology, you can now practice your listening skills anywhere, even if you are alone, wherever you are. Grab your phone. Are there any English listening materials on it that you can use to practice? If not, download some right away.
The first thing we recommend is download podcasts. These are audio shows which you can access from the Internet for free. Of course, start by searching for “learn English,” but don’t think that’s the end! Search for the things you are interested in! Search, in English, for “baseball,” “history,” “celebrity gossip,” “news,” “science,” “motorbikes” – whatever you love! You’ll find a thousand podcasts to listen to, and the more you listen, the easier they become to understand.
Second, there are also audiobooks available. Of course, these can be challenging, especially if at the beginning. But here’s a tip. Instead of forcing yourself to understand every single word, you must first try to comprehend the “gist” of what is being said.
You can start by picking out words or phrases that can help you formulate an idea of what the speaker is talking about. Find anything that can help you connect the dots. This step is an excellent starting point in terms of learning from the context.
Turn idle time into English listening time.
Do you drive, ride a train or bus, do house chores, or work out every day? Many things in your daily routine have one thing in common –they do not require deep concentration. You might not be aware, but while performing these activities, you can also practice your listening and speaking skills in English. Instead of playing music while you drive, play that English podcast in your home. While you do the laundry, turn the speaker on. Even when you walk or jog outside, you can wear your headphones and listen to English conversations over and over again. If you do so, you’ll get an average of 3 hours for your English listening practice!
For more ideas, see our advice on learning English through music
Make English time entertaining and fun.
We all spend a lot of time on activities such as surfing the net, playing online games, and watching movies. It’s easy to spend a significant amount of time on these hobbies as they are fun, entertaining, and addictive. If you tend to lose interest in practicing your listening skills in English, don’t give up just yet. Why not turn it into an exciting experience instead?
How? You can start by searching and subscribing to Youtube channels. Today, it’s easy to find entertaining channels that would allow you to feed your curiosity while you are practicing. It is an excellent step as most of Youtube channels have subtitles for their content – make sure you use English subtitles! You can eventually turn off the subtitles or captions as you go along the way, if you want to.
Also, you can watch popular English television series. Unlike movies, you get more excited when you tune into a TV series because they almost always have a cliff hanger at the end of each episode. It’s not hard to find what you want any more as there are many online platforms you can count on, such as Netflix. It might not be free, but some plans wouldn’t break your pocket. Remember, listening to what you enjoy will help your mind focus more on what’s being said.
Focus on the bigger picture.
When you are learning English, it’s easy to get distracted, especially if the speaker speaks too fast and uses slang. There are also times you will hear words that do not seem to make sense at all. You might panic as the audio goes on, and scramble to find the meaning of the words in the dictionary or online. This is a habit to break. Instead of focusing on the smaller details, you have to go for the bigger picture. Focus on the core message that’s being communicated. Focus on the words that you already know and understand, as this can help you unlock the meaning of the context.
Listen and rewind at different speeds.
All beginners who are trying to improve their listening skills in English can agree on one thing –native English speakers talk fast. Of course, they have been using the language for years; that’s why they are quick and fluent. Most of the time, it’s a challenge to mentally break down the words, the sounds, and the meaning by merely listening.
To make the output understandable, you have to work on the speed. In the early part of your learning, you can use tools that would allow you to listen to the English listening material at a slower pace. Adjust the speed and rewind and re-listen as much as you need to. Gradually, you can ramp up things until you are comfortable enough to listen to them at native speed. Today, there are also many available media players with a playback option and other features, such as speed adjustments.
In case you are speaking to native English speakers, you can ask them to slow down politely. You can also request if they can repeat the words slowly as you are trying to pick up the meaning.
Take notes while you are practicing your listening and speaking skills in English.
It’s easy to view listening as a passive activity. You don’t need to do anything; you just need to within earshot. Well, passive listening is excellent when you wish to sit back and relax. However, the same thing can’t be said, especially if you want your English learning sessions to be productive.
Just like in any other activity, learning takes place when it is active. It happens when you are deeply engaged in what you are doing. To get the maximum value of each listening session, take some actions that would help you absorb and process new information, such as taking notes. This activity is a great way to lessen the risk of forgetting what you have learned. As the experts call it, you are increasing your retention rates and comprehension.
Here are some additional tips when taking notes:
- Jot down the main topic of the English listening material.
- Write down the names of speakers or use labels if there are multiple speakers.
- Take note of each speaker’s main point or gist.
- If you hear a word that you don’t understand, write it down and continue listening.
- If there are phrases or sentences you find interesting, write them down as well and try using them in your own conversations.
We hope the above tips would help you improve your listening and speaking skills in English. Just remember, you have to be patient and dedicated. It will take time, yes, but we assure you, it would be worth it.
For more tips, see our article 10 language learning tips for beginners and adults.
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