When learning a new language it’s essential to practise all four aspects: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Some people will excel in one area, but find another more difficult; it is unusual to be good at all aspects of language learning straight away. Practice is the key to overcoming difficulties in any of these areas. Everyone learns in their own way; something that works for one person may not work for another. Certain people might thrive in a classroom environment, whilst others will learn better on their own.
Spoken English can be difficult to get a grasp of, which is why many will struggle with the listening aspect. Native English speakers tend to use slang, pronounce words differently according to their regional accent, and use the words ‘um’, ‘hm’, ‘ah,’ during speech. These are all obstacles facing language learners who are used to learning solely from textbooks and in classrooms. Take note of some of the following tips to improve your listening skills in English.
Join a conversation group
Joining a conversation group can be extremely beneficial for those who want to elevate their English listening skills to the next level. It is more informal than classroom learning, so can be helpful for people that are anxious about their English abilities, and you won’t have to commit to showing up every single week. If it is easier for you, you could tell the group that you want to solely focus on listening skills, and just sit and listen while conversation between others takes place. These kind of events can also be a great way to meet new friends. You can search online to find conversation groups to join, and if you can’t find any nearby, you can always create your own.
Listen to the same podcast every day for a week
Search for a podcast in English that you find interesting, you can look online or on iTunes to find many available for free. Once you’ve found something that you like, download an episode and listen to it every day for a week. You could listen whilst on your commute, doing the washing up, or just before you go to sleep. While you’re listening, pause the podcast when you come across a word or phrase that you don’t understand- this way you can write it down to look up later. After a few days, you might even be able to understand the podcast the whole way through. This is a great way to improve your listening skills fast.
Live and work in a completely English-speaking environment
This one is obvious, but it will really make a difference. If you tend to stick to speaking your native language, switch it to English as often as you can. By using English exclusively, your brain will become more accustomed to understanding the language, and your listening skills are likely to increase drastically without you even realising.
Spend time with a group of English speakers
If you have a group of friends that speak English as their first language, spend time with them and pay attention to their conversation. See if you can pick up on their slang, and their accents. Make sure to give them permission to correct you if you get words wrong, so they don’t feel rude doing so.
Attend sessions with an English tutor
Attending sessions with a professional English tutor is a sure-fire way to improve your English listening skills. Tutors will know the best teaching methods and will be able to answer any questions you might have. You’ll also be able to pay close attention to the intonation and stress of a given word – improving your pronunciation.
If you’re interested in elevating your speaking and listening skills in English, conversation classes are a great idea. Take a look at our previous blog post outlining some interesting topics for conversation classes.