Listening in English plays a huge part in learning any language. If you are not good at listening, your conversation will be difficult. But like most things, it is something you can improve on.
How you can improve listening effectively?
The first thing to do is learn to listen actively. Learning a language is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument. You can listen to music for enjoyment, but if you want to study the music you have to listen more critically. It’s the same with languages; you need to make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that someone is saying but, more importantly, pay attention, and try to understand the complete message behind the words.
Listen to spoken English from multiple sources as much as possible.
Listen to English spoken movies and English spoken TV channels, listen to the radio and as many other listening sources as you may find. The more you practice listening, the better listener you will become.
Listen for Keywords
Use keywords or keyphrases to help you understand the general ideas. For example, If you understand a person say:
“New York”, “business trip”, “last year”
You can think that the person is speaking about a their business trip to New York last year.
This may seem obvious to you, but remember that understanding the main idea will help you to understand the detail as the person continues to speak.
Listen for Context
Let’s imagine that your English speaking friend says:
“…I bought this great turner at JR’s. It was really cheap and now I can finally listen to National Public Radio broadcasts.”
You don’t understand what a tuner is. If you focus on the word tuner you might become frustrated. However, if you think in context you probably will understand.
For example: bought is the past of buy, listen is no problem and radio is obvious. Now you understand:
He bought something – the tuner- to listen to the radio. A tuner must be a kind of radio! This is a simple example but it demonstrates what you need to focus on: Not the word that you don’t understand, but the words you do understand.
Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words
You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces. Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.
Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication
Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important. Those are called body language. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.
For example, if someone tells you that they are happy with their life but through gritted teeth or with tears filling their eyes, you should consider that the verbal and non-verbal messages are in conflict, they maybe don’t mean what they say.
Don’t try to translate
When you are listening to a person speaking in English, you always try to translate to your native language. This is only natural as we want to understand everything that is said. However, when you translate, you are not focusing on what they are talking about and you only focus on translating in your brain. This would be fine if you could put the speaker to wait for you to translate. In real life however, the person continues talking while you translate. This situation certainly leads to less -not more- understanding. I have discovered that translation leads to a kind of block in my brain which sometimes doesn’t allow me to understand anything at all!
Allowing yourself not translating while listening, your brain is free to concentrate on the most important thing: Understanding English in English.
Build your vocabulary
While listening, try to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from context. It is very important since there is a big chance to come across words you don’t know at the real test. Then, you should guess their meaning. Write down every word you don’t know and include it in your wordlist. Try to memorize it and use it in your speaking and writing. Flashcards could be a great way to improve your vocabulary.
Listen to conversations or lectures with variety of accents.
In the conversation with different people, there is a variety of accents and pronunciations. For this reason, you should practice listening to a people with different accents and pronunciation patterns.
Effective note-taking may highly improve your listening. It is almost impossible to memorize all clues and details provided when you listen. Therefore, it’s better that you keep a pen and a note handy to note down what is being said.
Have fun learning English!
Finally, The things we do best in life are the things we enjoy doing. If you aren’t having fun learning English, you’re not studying the right way! You can be a serious student who has fun at the same time. Make up your own rewards program to give yourself incentives to stay on task to improve listening skill.