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Listening tips

Found in: News

Many students have trouble with listening, but not all types of listening. Many are able to get the gist, (the general idea), but fall down on the specific detail. This will help them become more focused and improve their ability to recognise specific detail.

Selective focus

            Select a text and then decide on a specific set of vocabulary (colours, time references, animals, etc) or a grammar point (adjectives, adverbs, etc) and then listen specifically for these words. You should revise aspects of the language related to your choice first, for example look at the word order. This can help you prepare in advance for the imminent word you seek. Say you wish to focus on a noun. You will remember that adjectives usually come before a noun, so when you hear one, the following word should be a noun. Another focus can be to look at signalling or linking words (for example, next, finally, however) and you will be better prepared for the following text.    


Get out and about with English-speaking friends

You need to be exposed to as much English as possible, and the English spoken in everyday life will help you pick up useful words and expand your vocabulary. You’ll also get used to the speed at which people speak which tends to be a lot faster, especially when Australians are speaking, than on a recording made especially for English learners. When you socialise with English speakers it could be a challenge, and you may spend most of the time listening and not contributing much, but you have to become “used to” the accents of these speakers and then it becomes easier. Be patient and you should see progress.

To assist your learning, try to:

  • Meet friends on a one-to-one basis as often as you can as this will give you the opportunity to talk at length without being interrupted. You’ll also have the chance to ask someone to slow down or repeat a word if you don’t quite understand.
  • Choose a quiet location. While you’re sure to get some background noise in a pub or café, try to go somewhere relatively quiet as this will help you to hear each and every word.
  • Enjoy a wide range of activities from meals out to trips to the cinema. The more you do, the more vocabulary you’ll be exposed to.

Listen to English television and music

In your spare time, try to listen to as much English television as possible. Again, make sure the shows you watch are diverse as words spoken on the news are sure to be very different to words used during a soap opera. English/Australian/US/Canadian pop music is also a great way to improve your English language skills as it’s full of repetition. Catchy tunes also make the songs memorable and you should find yourself singing away to them in no time – which will, of course, help to develop your communication skills.

Make the most of innovative apps

These days, there are many great listening apps that will help you to make significant progress. With FluentU, for example, you can watch movie trailers, news clips, YouTube videos, music videos and other audio that has been supercharged with a range of English learning tools such as interactive captions offering definitions and pronunciation tips. Videos on this app are also accompanied with flashcards and additional exercises that will help take your learning session to the next level.

Join a conversation club

            These clubs are a great way to meet new friends and to develop your English abilities. While at the club you can talk with others about your life experiences and hear all about what they have to say. Most sessions are also run by teachers and language professionals who will be happy to answer any questions you may have – and to offer tips and advice.



Teacher Willis Tonnessen