By Dr Norman
Do you find it easier to read and understand English rather than listen and understand? Do you find that native speakers speak ‘too fast’? Then you need to improve your listening skills in a way that will help you to learn as quickly and efficiently as possible. The right listening materials, used in the right way, will support your learning and build on your strengths so that you can understand more than you ever did before.
Try to listen to real English. Real English is the English that native speakers use and listen to. You can find lots of real English spoken by native speakers in podcasts, radio shows, TV, films, video clips, and lectures.
Whenever you listen to English, try to understand what is being said. Use all the clues you have around you. When you are listening to someone speak watch their facial expressions and their body language. Repeat back what you think you understood and ask them if you got it right. “So let me get this right – you’re telling me that ….”. When you watch the news on TV in English, match the pictures and filming you see with the words you hear. If you missed something, ask the person next to you what was meant.
Build on your strengths and take your listening to a new level. Start by listening to speakers who speak with an accent and a speed that you can understand about 90% of the time. This is a good base from which to start learning the 10% that you are not understanding. Simply listen to the same piece 2 or 3 times. Already your understanding will improve. But sometimes, you may need a bit more. This is where careful use of supports can be very helpful.
Use supports to help you understand what you are listening to. For instance, watching and listening is much easier that simply listening on its own. So start with shows on TV, films and video clips. What you see will help your understanding. As your listening improves, try listening to radio shows and podcasts. If you are really stuck, then make use of subtitles and transcripts to match what you hear with what is said. Try not to depend on these for understanding. You want to be able to understand by listening alone. So, listen again without the subtitles and transcripts, and see how much you understand.
Once your listening and confidence improves, you can start broadening the range of English speakers that you listen to. Over time, build up to speakers who speak at a faster pace. Again listen to them several times, and you will find that you will start to hear the words and meaning. Also gradually broaden the range of accents you listen to.
Improving your listening skills takes time. It draws together your listening skills with your level of grammar and depth of vocabulary. Hence the need to develop all of these. This is where professional help can be of great use, particularly when you choose the right teacher and the right course for you.
11th July 2016