Why do people have TWO ears, but only ONE mouth? Because listening is twice as hard as speaking!
Understanding spoken English can be difficult, especially if the speaker is talking very fast. Problems include:
- Feeling frustrated because you do not understand every word
- Only understanding people when they speak slowly
- Finding it hard to keep up with all the information
- Getting tired during long listening
Like all skills, listening takes practice. The following SIX tips will help you improve your listening skills.
1. Listen to Things You Enjoy
You need to practice listening, so why not make it fun? Discovery Channel, sports radio, podcasts, and music are all things you can listen to. Find an English song you like and sing along, and you’ll improve pronunciation too!
2. Identify the Main Idea
You will understand more if you keep in mind the main idea someone is trying to communicate. To identify the main idea:
- Determine the type of speech. Is this a conversation or a presentation? Is it formal or informal? Different types of speech have different rules, and they produce different language
- Identify the purpose. Why is the speaker talking? To inform? Persuade? Apologize? Listen for specific phrases (e.g. “I’m sorry!”) that will help you identify the purpose.
- Use your own knowledge. Whether someone is speaking about Hanoi’s traffic or the countries of Europe, you already know something about the subject. Good listeners use this knowledge to understand what someone is saying.
3. Pay Attention to KEY Words
Imagine you are listening to a foreigner introduce himself. To you, his words sound like this:
Do you know his name? Where he’s from? What he does for a living? Of course! You only need to hear the key words to understand the meaning.
4. Predict What the Speaker is GOING to Say
If you are talking to a chef, and he is standing in a kitchen, you know he’s probably going to talk about food. You can prepare yourself by thinking of the vocabulary he’s going to use, and why he’s going to use it. A good listener ANTICIPATES what a person is going to say.
5. Stay Calm
Accept the fact that you are NOT going to understand everything. And that’s okay: you don’t have to! Even native speakers don’t hear every word. But if you miss something, try not to worry. Keep listening, until you hear a key word that you understand. Stay calm, and you will understand more.
6. Practice Listening Every Day
This is the most important thing you can do. Listening takes practice, but if you spend at least 30 minutes listening to English every day, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you improve! To start, you can listen to the TV, or check out some of these Best Websites for Improving Listening.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? How do you practice listening? Do you have any advice to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.