Hi there! Welcome to English Chat. In a previous feature, we have introduced 3 different ways of communication in English. It’s important to identify your and other people’s preferred mode in order to have a successful conversation. But this is going to be a difficult task if you don’t even understand what they are saying. That’s why we are going to learn 5 secrets to improve your listening skills in English today.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Your mind set is the way that you think about something. In order to be good at listening, you must firstly prepare a good mind set. If you think that you are very terrible (bad) at listening even before you actually listen to something, you are not going to give your best. If you think that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, then you won’t even try. And without trying and failing, you will never succeed.
So before you begin to practice listening, say these things to yourself:
- I can do it.
- I have the ability and the motivation to become better at listening in English.
- I am able to understand what I am listening to in English.
- I can see myself improving every day.
Listen, read, speak
What many people don’t know is that you can improve listening without practicing listening. What we mean is that you can use other skills, such as reading and speaking to help you train your listening skill.
Here’s an analogy: you are a football player and you really want to be very good at football. Of course you’ll have to practice football most of the time, but you should also spare some time to do swimming because it can help you to develop larger lung capacity and better breathing technique. The same thing goes for training listening.
So how do you do this? You can start by finding something that you can both listen to and read. It can be a movie, a song, a piece of news. Listen to it first. Try to understand what is being said. If you find something to be challenging, use the subtitles, lyrics or transcripts to your advantage. When you can see a word and listen to how it’s pronounced and used in a sentence at the same time, you will become better at using that word.
Finally, you can try to speak by mimicking or repeat what is being said as fast as you can. Try to match the tone, the pronunciation, the ups and downs in the speech.
Diversity means having a lot of different things. You should not only listen to one type of material. For example, if you just watch movies all the time, it won’t be as good as watching movies with news and English video lessons mixed in between.
You should also choose material of varying length, from short videos online to full-length movies. This way, you can be exposed and get comfortable to different amount of pressure on your listening ability.
Another thing to note is that when you first start out, you may want to listen to something that you like. For example, if you like sport, you may tune in to some broadcast services that discuss the latest football matches. However, you should not only do this. Diversity means that you should go out of your comfort zone. You should check out materials in Science, the Arts, current events, etc. This way, you will familiarize yourself with a lot more vocabulary and knowledge. Moreover, when you are uncomfortable, you learn more. Remember that.
Many of us are afraid of making mistakes. When we hear a word that we don’t understand, we quickly check the lyrics, transcripts or subtitles for clues. But this is not good because your brain doesn’t work much. If you want to learn you must force your brain to work.
So if you encounter something that you don’t understand, try to guess its meaning first before double-checking. In fact, when you talk in your native language, your brain does this guess-work most of the time. Forcing your brain to guess will make you better at understanding a foreign language, even if you don’t understand every word.
Another thing is that try to predict what’s going to be said. For example, if you watch an English-learning video, you should look at the titles and guess what the content is going to be about before actually watching the video. Doing this will make your brain locate the relevant vocabulary and grammar section stored up inside your memory. So when you actually have to do the hard work of listening, your brain will be a little faster at finding what you need.
Understand the big ideas
In order to truly real the next level in listening, you have to be able to understand English as a whole. This is not something that you can do over night. It’s going to take a lot of practices to be able to feel the rhythm of the language. In this lesson, we are not going to talk about how to do this in detail because it’s impossible. Instead, we will give you some pointers so that you know what to look out for when you study on your own:
- Stress patterns in a word: what are the syllables that tend to be stressed/unstressed?
- Stress pattern in a sentence: where do native speakers put a stress on in a sentence?
- Key words and non-key words: are the stressed words more important than the unstressed ones?
- Habits: what phrases are used to express what relationship?
The best way to really get this is to study English extensively. That is to do everything that you can to know more about English. You can start by checking out all of our excellent resources at English Chat and follow them carefully. Discuss this with other people in our English Chat Room. Who knows? Some experienced ones may be able to help you get started much faster.
If you are looking for more lessons on listening in English, click here and here for two others amazing tips to improve your listening skills. We hope you have enjoyed this one and we’ll see you at the next. Cheers!