Personally, I’ve always found listening to be the most difficult language learning skill. Maybe you feel the same way? One of the reasons I used to struggle with listening is that I didn’t really know how to practice it. Should you read along while you listen or should you listen without a text? What should you listen to? Do you need to translate every single word?
It is very important to be in the right setting when learning any part of English. With listening it’s even more important because listening is a skill that requires your careful attention.
A 5-Step Method to Improve Your Listening Skills
Step 1: Listen to the Audio – No Reading
The first step in this method is to simply listen to the audio alone. Don’t read the text in advance and don’t follow along with it as you listen. The point here is to focus solely on your audio skills and see how much you can understand without any visual aid. Of course, unless you’re already at a very high level, this can be very difficult. Rather than trying to understand every single word, it’s better to focus on trying to understand the ‘gist’ of what’s being said.
Step 2: Repeat
It’s not time to look at the text just yet. Many learners make the mistake of turning to the text too quickly. However, the point here is to practice your listening skills. On the first listen, you’ll probably have identified one or two keywords or ideas. At this stage, I’d suggest listening at least three more times. With each listens, you can add a little more to your skills. Your goal should be to try and use all of your current knowledge in the language to understand as much as possible from the audio before you read the text.
Step 3: Start Reading
Now it’s time to look at the text. Read through it and check how much you understood from your listening. Did you get the ‘gist’ of it? As you read through the text, identify any new words you come across. See if you can guess the meaning of the words from their context; otherwise, look them up in a dictionary. Some words can sound quite different when spoken together and at native level speed. Pay careful attention to these words and be sure to listen to them again when you repeat the audio.
Step 4: Listen With the Text
Once you’ve read through the text a few times and looked up any words you didn’t understand, you should be confident about its meaning. Next, I suggest listening again a couple more times while you read along with the text. This is the one time during the process that you’re using aural and visual stimuli together, so take advantage of it. If there were a lot of new words in the text you’re working on, trying breaking the audio down into smaller parts as you continue to repeat it. I request you to repeat this step at least twice to help build connections between the written and spoken words.
Step 5: Listen Again Without the Text
Finally, go back and listen again a few more times without the text. By this point, you should be able to understand almost everything quite well even without the visual aid of the text. Over the next few days, it’s good to listen back to the clip again whenever you have a chance. Download the recording to your phone so you can have a quick listen any time you get a few free minutes. With each extra repetition, your comfort level will grow. Because you’re now able to understand the words and phrases you studied without any visual aid, you’ll also find it easier to recognise this vocabulary when it comes up conversations or in other recordings you listen to.
Some more useful ways to improve listening skills are:
- Live and work in a completely English-speaking environment.
- Do some kind of sports, hobbies, or other activities with a group of English speakers.
- Talk one-on-one with an English-speaking tutor a few times a week.
- Watch movies, TV shows, and videos in English.
- Listen to English podcasts on a topic that’s interesting to you.
In Conclusion: There’s no Quick Fix for Listening Skills
Whether you’re learning a language or any other skill, there’s no magic solution.Improving your listening skills takes time and a lot of focused listening but if you work at it in the right way you can actually make significant improvements faster than you might think.