This post is for students who are learning English. It has techniques you can use when you’re not in the classroom. All of them can help you get better at listening. Everyone in this post who gives advice is an English teacher. I’ve included their home country next to their name. Each teacher offers excellent advice. The advice that’s repeated most often is watching movies and listening to songs in English. One teacher suggests turning around while watching a movie. You’ll be able to concentrate more on listening. Another teacher suggests joining an English club. There’s an English club in Vinh City called Hello! English Club. They meet every Tuesday morning (8:30 – 11:00 AM) at Sonata Cafe.
The best advice I have for students wanting to improve their English is to join or even form an English club. This gives them practical experience with both speaking and listening skills, enhancing both while at the same time offering a positive social experience. No amount of listening to online speech, regardless of how good (YouTube comes to mind) comes even close to that in effectiveness.
I also tell them an old joke. What are the three most important things to do to improve your English? 1) practice, 2) practice and 3) practice.
If they’re not interested in socializing, then they should hang out at YouTube. Lots of good English learning help there, but none of it will give the student feedback like a group of other learners will.
These are my ideas to improve English listening skills:
1. Listen to songs which have slow melodies and easy lyrics.
2. Used TEDvn to listen to speech with English subtitles.
3. Go to some English clubs in Vinh to improve not only listening and speaking skills but their confidence.
4. Watch movies to learn how native speakers use their mother tongue in daily conversations.
5. When you look for a word in a dictionary, do not focus on only its meaning. Focus on the pronunciation too. Find examples of that word used in a sentence. Use the dictionary that pronunciation for the whole sentences (example) that includes the word he/she is looking for.
I use the Voice of America app to listen to world news in English 24×7. I always have it on no matter what I’m doing.
Also, I listen to English love songs. They’re really meaningful to me. Here are some songs I like:
- My heart will go on – Celine Dion
- Nothing’s gonna change my love for you – George Benson
- My love – Westlife
- Me and my broken heart – Rixton
- The day you went away – M2M
- Pretty boy – M2M
- I want it that way – Backstreet Boys
When I was studying German I used a really good website which had loads of interesting recordings to listen to about different subjects, along with their transcripts, so that I when I wasn’t sure of something I could check on the transcript.
So my advice would be: Listen to recordings of English used in a variety of situations – in normal conversations, interviews, news stories, songs, etc. Many websites also have a transcript of the recording, so you can check on parts you’re not sure about. Some recordings are quite slow, and they are easy to listen to, but I wouldn’t rely on them too heavily past a beginning point because they are nothing like normal speech – there are no connecting sounds, elision, etc.
Here are some websites you can do that with:
British council have a wide range of different listening materials, including videos (mostly in a British accent as far as I could tell!). There’s recordings and videos about lots of topics, including British culture: learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/listen-and-watch
BBC transcripts sometimes don’t include all the beginning dialogue, but otherwise okay: www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english
This one’s got some natural sounding dialogues, with different accents: www.manythings.org/elllo/17.html
This has lots of short videos with subtitles that you can turn on and off. I think you need to sign up to view more than a few videos, but its still free after that just to view the videos: www.englishcentral.com/videos
With all of the websites above, you can select what you want to listen to by how challenging the recording is, and the topic. I think it also helps a lot if you learning to speak at the same time – the skills support each other – and listening a lot will vastly improve your speaking, because you will have learnt how to communicate information in a natural way, and by paying close attention to the sounds, and trying to imitate them, you will improve your pronunciation!
Practice listening regularly. Create a listening schedule for yourself. For example, listen to your favorite songs in English every Wednesday night. When you’re listening to the song, write down the lyrics. Then check those lyrics with the lyrics online. Find apps for your smartphone to help you. Here’s one for Android. Here are some more helpful links:
- 11 English Podcasts Every English Learner Should Listen To
- Learning English Listening For Beginners (a YouTube playlist)
- Phim Tieng Anh
Gabi (New Zealand)
- ‘Watch’ TV with the TV behind you.
- Listen/watch multiple times the same audio/video/movie.
- Listen for context not content only.
- Listen for meaning. Ask yourself: ‘what makes sense’? (use logic)
- Listen to British programs as they are clearer and easier to understand than American
- English. Once you are more comfortable, try listening to American programs.
- Find the written version of the audio. Listen first, read, listen again.
- Get a friend to read something for you to practice listening.
- Watch a movie as visual scenes help to ‘listen’.
In my experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:
1. Not talking when others are speaking
2. Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
3. Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word
The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.
Don’t focus on individual words. Focus on the context. If we are talking about your family, why would I ask you about your doctor?
Watch the news in English on YouTube. You can watch it with English subtitles. Watch English movies and TV shows with no subtitles.
Gill (South Africa)
Don’t try to understand each individual word. Try to understand the gist of what you’re listening to. Listen to audio books that are interesting to you. Watch movies in English and copy what they’re saying.
Knowing good pronunciation first makes listening easier. Then you know what to listen for. The students that spoke the best English did a lot of practice with audio; TV, music, podcasts.
Watch English films, listen to podcasts, English songs, news in English. Replaying things on YouTube multiple times is good. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and listen or pause and try to repeat the last sentence that the speaker said.
Lisha (South Africa)
I think one could improve their English listening abilities by watching TV series/movies & also listening to English songs in their free time. They should also try to spend time with native English teachers in the city. Listening to audio tapes while reading could also help.
Watch films in English. Go to English clubs often. Find a language partner. This is someone in your city or online who you can speak English with regularly.
The one thing I think that will invariably work given time is dictation read in increments with students writing down the dictation. Kinda boring, but given regular dictation it will work.
Go to an English club, practice with listening app, video chat with native speakers (prepare a script to follow). Don’t neglect grammar or phrasal verbs as they can be confusing.
You should listen to English which is one level harder than where your skill level. If it’s too easy there’s no point. If it’s too hard you will be discouraged.
Make sure to listen for keywords that are in the question. This will help pinpoint clues and potential answers.