14 Tips to Improve Your English Listening Skills
So, you want to improve your English listening skills!
Many English learners feel that listening can be one of the more challenging aspects of learning, as so much of it relies on someone else. Some problems that many learners meet are; the other person is speaking too quickly or too quietly.
They may be using vocabulary and phrases that are beyond the listener’s level or their sentences might be far too long to try and follow, or there may be more than one person speaking which adds to their confusion!
In this blog, we will give 14 top tips to improve your English listening skills for you to become an effective English listener.
1 - Practice makes perfect
This saying is very true. Anybody who is great at anything only became great at it by practicing! The more time you can dedicate to practice; the more your English listening skills will improve.
That doesn’t need to be hours and hours each day, however. Even if you dedicate 30 minutes per day, every day, you will see enormous improvements in your listening skills.
That is why it is a great idea to always have material downloaded or available to listen to when you have spare time during your day!
2 - Start off easy, then make it more challenging
There is no point in listening to a really fast song and trying to understand every word of it. In the same way, there is no point in watching an English movie and not being able to understand any of it. It will only demotivate you and you won’t gain anything.
Instead, try to listen to slow songs, very short audio-clips or videos on YouTube. Then, once you are comfortable with this, you could move onto fast songs, longer clips or videos, news broadcasts, weather forecasts, and down the line, even a few English movies!
3 - Audio books and Podcasts are perfect for your English listening skills
They are so easy to access, there is such a huge variety of levels and topics, and best of all, they can be listened to anywhere, anytime! Find something that is suitable for your level and interests you. Try to listen to it a few times so that you can hear words and phrases again and again.
After a while, you will know what to expect and you can even speak along with the recording!
You can improve your English listening skills while you cook dinner in the evening; while you work out at the gym or even on your way home from work. Easy!
Here are a few videos and podcasts that can help you with your English Listening Skills. There are three levels to choose from; beginner, intermediate and advanced level.
4 - Stay Positive while working on your English listening skills
It can be overwhelming to try and follow someone’s speech, or even a conversation between a group of people, but it is important to remember that everyone starts somewhere!
If you can clear your mind, try your best to listen hard, and just aim to get the main idea from a conversation, then you have won half of the battle!
If you cannot understand anything, then don’t worry. Keep listening, you never know what you could pick up that you will recognize the next time to try to listen! You can always try to find out the meaning of words that you hear again and again.
5 - Listen for Keywords
When working on improving your reading skills, it is not necessary to read every single word to understand the basic meaning of a sentence.
The same goes for improving your English listening skills. If you can listen well, and try to grasp a few of the keywords, then it is likely that you will understand the general idea of the conversation.
6 - Get rid of any distractions
It can be difficult to follow a conversation and ‘actively’ listen most of the time! But imagine trying to listen to people talking when you are standing in a busy mall; when your little brothers are screaming and running around the house, or your favorite TV show is on in the background. It would be hard, right? You are just making life more difficult for yourself.
If you are trying to speak/listen to someone in person, give them all of your attention. If you are listening to an audiobook or podcast, find a quiet room where you can be 100% focused.
7 - It’s all about context
This is similar to listening for keywords in a conversation. If you can manage to pick out some words that you understand; try to relate them to each other to figure out what the topic of conversation is.
If you hear a word that has more than one meaning, then try to relate it to another word that you heard in the same conversation to figure out which meaning it has.
Listen for intonation to figure out if it’s a question or a statement. Listen to how they stress their words.
8 - Continue to work on building your vocabulary while improving your English listening skills
It is important to work on your English listening skills on a daily basis, but it is equally important that you continue to build your word and phrase base. Implementing reading and other activities into your study schedule will allow you to be exposed to new vocabulary that you may be then able to recognize in your listening activities.
On the other side, if you find it difficult to understand words that you hear, write them down and find out their meaning if it’s a word that you meet a lot. Have a dictionary diary to write new vocabulary into.
9 - Take notes
If you are listening to audiobooks, podcasts or even videos on YouTube, it’s always helpful to have a notebook and pen with you to jot down words that you don’t know (The dictionary diary mentioned earlier!!)
You don’t need to write down every single word that you are unfamiliar with, but if there is a word or phrase that you hear time and time again, then write it down, learn it’s meaning and then you will have no problems with it anymore!
Listen and count how many times you hear it in a particular conversation to see how commonly-used it is!
10 - Variety is the spice of life
It’s always good to use different learning methods and sources with any kind of learning. If we learn the same way all the time, it would get very boring and demotivating. That’s why it is good to try a variety of listening sources.
There is so much material on YouTube! You can watch an endless number of videos and tutorials there.
Audiobooks and podcasts are a fantastic way to improve your English listening skills as we have already mentioned. TV shows and movies are also fun and interesting, and they can expose you to different cultures too. The more variety you have, the more kinds of accents, voices, and speed of speech you are exposed to.
11 - Try not to rely on subtitles
This, of course, is if you are watching a TV program, movie or even tutorial as opposed to listening to an audiobook or podcast! If you are a beginner, it is a good idea to have the subtitles on, as you can read along and listen along together, and learn to associate words with meaning.
However, as your listening improves, try to phase out subtitles and put your focus completely on listening. See if you can follow 100% without help from subtitles. If it’s too difficult, then turn the subtitles back on for another practice, then turn them off again to see how much you can follow.
12 - Practice with an English-speaking friend
If you are lucky enough to have a friend that is willing to be your practice buddy, then go for it! It is the perfect way to adjust to your ability. Have your friends choose a topic or make small talk, and try to follow what they are saying.
They can tell you how accurate you are! If it is too easy, they can make it more challenging. If it is too challenging, then they can simplify it for you. They can adjust their speed too which makes it fantastic for working on your English listening skills.
If you really want a challenge, you could ask your friend to have a conversation with one or two other people and then try to follow that conversation.
Remember, you don’t need to understand every single word. If you do, wonderful!
But the main aim is to get the general idea of the conversation.
13 - Try to find a group to practice your English listening skills with
It is a fun and interactive way to work on your listening skills, or even reading, writing and speaking skills. You could look online for a group that aims to improve English and work on your listening skills with other people in a similar situation to you.
Better still, if you have friends or colleagues that are also interested in improving their English; you could start a group that meets every week or two to practice with.
14 - If someone is speaking too quickly; let them know!
It seems quite obvious! But many learners may feel either impolite or too embarrassed to ask someone to slow down. Don’t!
Anyone will understand that you are learning and they won’t have a problem repeating what they have said more slowly. It’s better than the conversation going dead altogether because you are too shy to let them know!
- Could you please speak slower?
- Could you speak more slowly, please?
Which tips to improve your English listening skills will you try?
These are just some of the ways that you can improve your English listening skills.
The most important thing to keep with you at all times is to maintain a positive attitude and the and eagerness to learn and make mistakes. It is never easy to learn a new language; but with lots of patience, time and effort, any learner can make progress.
Try to implement at least some of these tips into your schedule, and remember, consistency is key!
There are so many resources available at your fingertips, so use them! Happy listening!
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