Improving Your Listening Skills Posted by Sean Young on Mar 19, 2012 in Archived Posts
When you are going through your daily routine, which one of these activities do you find yourself doing the most – Reading? Speaking? Writing? Listening?
The top answer is listening. For most of the day, you listen to someone speaking to you, you listen to your MP3 player or streaming Internet radio, you overhear conversations, and so on. Your ears are getting a non-stop workout picking up every sound that comes along – even while you are sleeping. Listening is a very important part of conversation and communication and that is what we’ll focus on today.
In the beginning…
Before you try to speak in a foreign language, spend some time listening to the sounds and rhythms of the language. You can do this by listening to a foreign radio station, watching a television program or a foreign movie, or listening to native speakers in your neighborhood. The audio package of any language course also provides what you need to hear how native speakers converse and communicate. Listen to the lesson’s audio a few times to get the gist of it. Don’t bother repeating anything at this time, you’re just listening to hear how the language is used and pronounced in conversation.
Even if you’re already in the middle of the language course, you can benefit by using the recordings as much as you can – play them in the background even when you’re doing something else (housework, gardening, going online, etc.). You don’t even have to pay attention or learn anything. Your ears will pick it up just by letting it run. Even while you’re sleeping or taking a quick nap – the brain is always actively listening. When you progress in your studies, you’ll find the audio from previous lessons are great for a listening review.
Understanding Radio and TV
When you first try listening to your chosen language, you may understand just a little or nothing at all. You may even find it difficult to believe that what you’re listening to is a real language that people are able to converse in. Don’t be discouraged – see if you can hear the names of people and places you already know, and listen to how they’re pronounced in your new language. If you continue to listen to your new language as much as possible, you will gradually become familiar with its sounds and rhythms and start picking out words and phrases. Eventually, as you go through your lessons, you’ll be able to understand most, or maybe all of what you hear in your new language. Here are a few more suggestions to help you understand radio and TV broadcasts:
Rather than just listening or watching at random, find out what programs are on and choose one that sounds interesting. That way, you will have an idea of what the program is about. Brush up on relevant vocabulary before tuning in. For example, if you’re planning to watch a cooking program, look over some cooking vocabulary or review a lesson about foods.
Set yourself goals. When listening to the news, try to work out the main points, names, dates, and times. Even if you can’t understand very much at all, try to identify things like where commas or periods (full stops) are placed in the sentences, or listen for word separation.
If available, listen to the news in your native language first, so that when you listen to it in your new language, you’ll already be aware of the main stories. The BBC has news stories available in several languages so you can read them in English and in the language you’re learning.
Relax and let it flow
Don’t try to listening or watching too much in one go. Do not force yourself to understand. Trying to translate every word you hear in your head will slow you down, discourage you, and give you a headache. Relax and let the language flow. Eventually it will come to you as easily as your native language.
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