Saturday, July 2, 2011

How to Improve Your Listening Skills

Listening is the most difficult language skill to learn. When we read something, we can go back and read it again, and use a dictionary for difficult vocabulary. When we speak, we control the speed, grammar and vocabulary of the message. But, when we listen, the speaker chooses the message and usually we only have one chance to understand the meaning.

Unfortunately, listening is also the most important language skill to learn. Without listening there is no communication. We receive much more information through listening than we do through reading.

So, what can you do to improve your listening? As with every other skill, it comes down practice, practice, practice!

  1. Try to have English in the background all the time when you are at home. This can be a TV news channel or talk radio. You don’t have to listen to it, but it will help you get a feeling for the rhythm of the language.
  2. The internet is a great source of listening material. You can download podcasts or watch Youtube videos. If you listen to things you really enjoy, you are more likely to understand them.
  3. Find lyrics on the internet to English songs that you like. Then read them as you listen to the songs.
  4. English movies are also an excellent way to improve your listening skills. First, watch them without subtitles and a second time with the subtitles on.
  5. Borrow audio books from the library. You can listen while reading along. If you have time, you can even take notes while listening. Then, compare the passage in the book with your notes.

More Listening Tips
  • When listening to people, focus on what they are saying, and avoid distractions. Using body language to show that you are listening can help you to pay attention. Repeating words in your mind is a good way to stay focused too.
  • Try not to translate English speech into your language. This will distract you from the speaker and you will miss much of the message.
  • With longer speeches, listen for the main idea and don’t get stuck on the details. Listen for key words to help you understand the general idea.
  • “Listen” to people’s body language as well as their words. Over 80% of communication is nonverbal.
  • Occasionally, ask questions or summarize what the speaker says. You can ask “What do you mean by...?” or say “So you mean....”
  • Reading can also help you improve your listening. Pick up one of the free newspapers everyday and read articles that interest you. By increasing your knowledge of current events and your vocabulary, it will become easier to understand what people are talking about.