I have created a small collection of online resources to help you improve your listening skills. Communication starts with understanding. Learners often complain that they feel frustrated if they can’t be sure they can understand people they talk to or videos or films they want to watch.
Also, great listening skills help us develop our vocabulary and general English knowledge. It’s really really important to be a good listener. Can you say you are good at listening?
This post will present you the best advice from English teachers on how to listen and understand English better.
So, how do you improve your listening skills?
Unfortunately, there are not so many good resources about listening skills as ones about vocabulary or grammar. I have tried to get some which contain real advice rather than general talk.
So, You need to work with the following aspects if you want to improve your listening comprehension:
- emotional balance;
- techniques (some small hacks we, all non-natives, use to catch what we hear);
- understanding how the language works (English, in our case).
These videos will show you step by step how you work on those listed above. Let’s go!
Video ‘Learn English – how to listen and understand’ with James from engvid.com
James is one of my favourite teachers on this website. He talks about the attitude in listening, and it’s what you start with. Don’t just go for it with a jump. Don’t just listen because ‘it’s good to do listening’.
Remember that listening is a tool which helps you get information and get involved in communication. And James will give you some valuable advice on that.
- Listen optimistically! ‘Your ability to listen is actually better than you think it is. […] You should actually believe you can hear what they say‘;
- Listen for ideas, not details. ‘If you need to hear every word, you are not gonna hear anything. You are gonna miss something that’s important’;
- Be wise about your listening and listen longer. ‘Let them finish’;
- Keep an open mind: don’t get distracted by emotional triggers;
- Judge content, not delivery. ‘Some people are not good natural speakers’ and for language learners, it’s even more frustrating. So, concentrate on the message;
- Listening opportunistically – go for an opportunity which will benefit you in some way (‘What’s In It For Me’ principle).
Also, an article to read: Improve Your English Listening Skills with These Tips from https://www.thoughtco.com/
This post gives you some valuable ideas which will work for your confidence in listening. What I liked in the article:
‘Accept the fact that you are not going to understand everything’. Just for a while… In general, perfectionism is not a good friend in language learning. It will not stay like that forever: you will improve. And it’s possible to learn to decode fast speaking and I will show you how. But being ready for some ‘blanks’ will always help you keep calm and not give up in a difficult situation.
I also like the idea of avoiding translating into your own language while listening. Yes, it’s true. It’s harder to achieve than any other strategy but I’d recommend striving for that.
Want it all in one place? Download my Listening Skills Checklist below:
Another video from engvid.com: Communication strategy from Emma
Emma asks you a very important question: What kind of listener are you?
She then analyses different behaviours language learners demonstrate when they talk to someone. And of course, she asks you what is the best thing to do in the situation when it’s hard to understand what a person is saying. An important question, right? These situations are at the core of communication. We can’t avoid them and don’t need to avoid them. We need to be prepared. ‘You need a strategy’, Emma says. And I agree.
Phrases you can use to show you don’t understand something:
‘I didn’t catch that.’
‘Sorry, I don’t understand.’
Using a strategy:
‘Could you please write it down / repeat that / speak more slowly / say it in a different way?’
‘So what you are saying is…’
‘So what you mean is…’
‘I think I get what you are saying…’
Learn English Listening Skills – How to understand native English speakers (Anglo-Link)
The video presents you 3 actionable steps to take if you want to improve your listening skills in English. It’s not that ‘wishy-washy’ blah-blah-blah like ‘You need to watch a lot of movies in English’ which we often find on the web. She describes how English works as a language and what we need to know to become confident listeners.
‘What you need to do:
1) Understand what makes native speakers hard to understand,
2) Improve your own pronunciation,
3) Learn primarily with your ears rather than with your eyes.’
From my point of view, section 1 is the most interesting. I do believe if you know the secrets of how the phonetic system is organised, you will improve your listening skills just from the fact of knowing it. With some practice, you will become unstoppable!
Section 2: ‘If you mispronouncing the word because you learnt it by reading and guessed how it was pronounced, then it is likely that you will not catch it when you hear it’, which is true both for the sounds and the sound combinations and the word stress.
The best advice about English ever: What you see is not what they say!
Video on tricks and techniques on how to decode what you hear from Adam (engvid.com)
Adam here talks about natural English pronunciation. Following the advice from the previous video: native speakers don’t pronounce words and phrases they way they are written. If you only hear your English teachers, you feel comfortable because they speak clearly and they adapt their speech to your learning needs. In real life (in native speakers communication or in TV shows, for example), people speak faster and less carefully. They ‘eat sounds’ or don’t separate words from each other. So, if you learn what native speakers do when they speak will help your understanding. This is what I call prepared, isn’t it?
According to Adam, in natural speech native speakers drop
- consonants in clusters (e.g. probably, goodbye, old friend);
- ‘h’ sound in the in initial position (shoudn’t’ve done that, what’s /h/is name?);
- initial vowels (‘scuse me, ‘tsokay) and much more examples in the video.
More resources to check out:
Advice from Fluent in 3 months – read about passive and active listening and find some practical recommendations
Cara’s Fast, Natural English podcast – a podcast from a teacher specialising in listening skills. She has plenty of good advice, posts dictation exercises, and interesting materials.
Daily Dictation Youtube channel – more than 300 videos with short dictations and explanations. Perfect for decoding skills in American English.
LyricsTraining – a hilarious interactive platform for learning language through song lyrics.
Any more great resources you know? Share in the comments!
Also, don’t forget to download my Listening Skills Checklist below: