Listening’s Easy, Right?

Listening is supposed to be easy, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not. Hearing’s easy; listening is waaaayyyyy more difficult.

First off, it’s exhausting! Until you are an advanced student – and sometimes not even then – the effort to listen can be very tiring. You have to concentrate very hard. After awhile, it becomes easy to shut off your mind. And this is not useful…or polite to the person who’s talking.

Fear not! You can train yourself to listen more productively. You can learn to focus.

Listening Sub-Skills
Like most skills, practice makes perfect. And you can think of listening as a set of skills that you can practise. Below are some of the listening sub-skills you often see in English course books – particularly if you study academic English:

Learn important listening skills at Language Link Vietnam!

Each of these skills involves a different kind of listening, and they all require focus; therefore, you need to make some decisions before you listen.

Before You Listen: Preparation
Whether you’re listening to a news report, a lecture, or someone giving you directions, you should ask yourself: WHY am I listening? WHAT am I listening for?

Once you’ve got a reason to listen, it becomes easier to ignore the bits you don’t need. That’s right! You DON’T need to understand everything. Particularly when you’re taking tests, such as the IELTS, it’s amazing how much you hear that you don’t really need to listen to:

  • If you’re listening to a lecture on politics, you probably don’t need to pay attention to the speaker telling you about his difficult journey through traffic
  • If you are listening to someone give you a recipe for pizza, you probably don’t need to remember that the word pizza comes from the Italian language
  • If you’re asked to guess what will happen next in a shoe shop, you know it will probably involve shoes and money.

You get the picture. Knowing why you’re listening helps you decide what details you need to listen for, and it helps you predict what you will hear.

Admittedly, this is a bit more difficult when you’re asked questions about inference or speaker’s attitude – these questions require you to understand context. You might need some general knowledge or cultural awareness to understand the whole situation.

But the point is that you need to make choices about why you’re listening and what you’re listening for.

You need to make choices about why you’re listening and what you’re listening for.

 
There you have it: Prepare. Focus. Remember why you’re listening. And you can ignore the pizza.

What Do You Think?
Does it help you to think of listening as a set of sub-skills? Have you ever practised any of these sub-skills? Do you have any questions or advice you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 thoughts on “Listening’s Easy, Right?

  1. Hola!!!
    Me gusto las explicaciones. yo vivo actualmente en Argentina y tengo mucho interés en aprender el idioma vietnamita, necesito me informen si por este medio ustedes me pueden enseñar algo. Desde ya muchas gracias!!!
    Saludos Cordiales!!!
    Nora Zamorano

    • Thank you for visiting us from Argentina, Nora! I’m afraid Language Link only offers English instruction at this time. If you are interested in learning Vietnamese, may I recommend Hanoi National University? Contact information below:

      Phone: 84 4 38694323
      E-mail: ktv_vnh@yahoo.com

      Best of luck!

      • Hola:

        Muchas gracias por la información!!!! Igualmente seguimos en contacto, me interesa su pagina, espero algún día poder hablar inglés!!!
        Saludos Cordiales!!
        Nora Zamorano.

  2. Hello ! I’m from vietnam, i feel the english is too heavy to learn and i cant learn to listen, i think this part is hardest. How to improve my skill in write, read, speak, listen ? Thanks and sorry for my bad english

    • Hello Phim – Reading and listening are the foundation, so you should read and listen every day. If you click around this site, you will find many suggestions for websites and other resources you can use for free. If you tell us what you’re interested in, we may be able to suggest more.

      Most important is for you to develop a regular HABIT of reading and listening to English. If you do this regularly, you will learn quickly, whether or not you’re in an English class.

      Thanks for your comment!

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