English Listening Skills: Tips, Techniques, and Resources

English Listening Skills: Tips, Techniques, and Resources

Listening is an incredibly important skill to have, whether you’re working with clients in your English-speaking job or listening to the news while you commute home. If you’re not as good at listening in English as you think you should be, however, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to improve your listening skills, no matter what level you’re currently at.


In this article, we’ll discuss some tips and techniques to help improve your English listening skills, and we’ll offer some helpful resources so that you can learn more about listening.


1. Focused Listening

One way you can improve your listening skills is by eliminating distractions. If there are people around you that are talking loudly or if you have loud music playing in the background, turn off all distractions. Close any tabs on your computer that might be distracting as well. You want to be focused solely on what you’re hearing so it’s important that nothing else distracts you from what is being said in English. Listen for a few seconds after someone stops speaking.


2. Passive vs. Active Learning

When you’re learning a new language, it’s important to remember that there are two different ways of learning. Passive learning is when you simply listen or read and let information flow into your brain. Active learning is when you engage with what you hear or read by repeating words or sentences aloud or having conversations with others. Learning through active participation helps reinforce memory retention of a word or phrase. We recommend integrating both passive and active techniques when learning a new language. This will help expedite memorization while helping build conversational skills. For example, try watching an English-language movie without subtitles in order to force yourself to pay attention to what’s being said on screen.


3. The 2 x 5 Method for Memorizing Vocabulary Words

I’m just going to warn you up front. This is a weird one. And it’s especially weird if you’re not a baseball fan. But have I got a learning tip for you! It’s called The 2 x 5 Method for Memorizing Vocabulary Words. What in tarnation does that mean? Glad you asked… It means memorizing vocabulary words by associating them with a mental picture of their word root using visuals or rhymes (but not real words). First, find two images that are closely associated with each other—(for example: pictures of women riding bicycles if your word root is bi- ). Next, combine those images into one mental picture (in our example: woman + bicycle = women on bicycles). Then associate your target vocabulary word with that image.


4. Advanced Listening Strategies

There are many strategies out there for listening practice—the key is figuring out which ones work best for you. Many learners enjoy music in English because it can break down language barriers between native speakers; however, practicing listening with lyrics will only take you so far. You might need to move on from music before you hit fluency. Audio books are also a great way to improve your listening skills in English; try picking up an audio book of one of your favorite authors.


5. Frequency-Based Learning

Learning through listening is one of the best ways to improve your comprehension skills. However, you need to learn vocabulary in a way that makes sense for you. Using repetition-based learning strategies might be effective when studying vocabulary; however, it can be difficult when trying to get an overall understanding of a topic or content. When you are learning through frequency-based techniques, it helps incorporate everything we hear into our long-term memory because we’re constantly building up connections. While it may seem counterintuitive because we don’t like hearing or seeing things over and over again in real life (and neither do learners), repetition helps us make connections between what we are hearing now with what we have already heard before.


6. Visualization

Take notes as you listen. It sounds obvious, but if you’re trying to make sense of new information as it comes in through your ears, it’s critical that you take written notes. Keep these short (one sentence per concept is great), but focus on things that are confusing—those are precisely what you should be writing down! Practice makes perfect. Visualization helps us understand language by helping us visualize a scene or scenario. The more familiar we become with a certain phrase or idea (and repetition is one of our best tools for learning), we better able we are to see it or imagine it when we hear about it.


7. Word Fluency Exercises

Fluency is an important aspect of language development because it’s one of three pillars (along with vocabulary and grammar) that comprise communicative competence. Fluency refers to how easily you can comprehend and articulate speech in your target language. Fluency takes practice—you’re more likely to become fluent in a language if you’ve been exposed to it frequently and consistently throughout your life. But there are things you can do right now to improve your fluency in a new language—both when listening or speaking—and we’ll walk through them below. Exercises that hone word fluency allow for increased listening comprehension, better recall ability during speaking exercises, and a wider range of topics for discussion.


8. Common Mistakes Made by Beginners (And Ways To Fix Them)

When you’re a beginner at something (be it a sport or an art), there are going to be tons of mistakes that you make along the way. It’s impossible not to. The important thing is identifying these errors so you can fix them as soon as possible. If you don’t learn from your errors, then how will you ever improve? Here are some common mistakes made by beginners in learning how to listen in English and some ways they can be fixed.


9. Pronunciation Guides and More Resources

The majority of resources on our list are focused on pronunciation. We cover different sounds in each language that can be challenging for learners. Additionally, we include resources that help learners interpret what they hear so they can understand more of what is being said during conversations with native speakers. There are also some great guides to using contextual clues while listening. These guides include tips like paying attention to sentence structure, intonation patterns and expressions in order to more fully comprehend what is being communicated between two speakers who do not share a common language. There is even a specific guide for students studying Spanish!

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