English as a language can be a tough nut to crack for many. Whether it’s the grammar or the innuendos, the intricacies seem to be limitless. These intricacies become even more apparent while listening to English. Different standardized language tests use English listening skills as a marking criterion. But beyond the tests, it’s important to hone the listening skills to truly master the English language. So, what are the secrets to improving English listening skills? Let’s have a look.
Why are English listening skills important?
A language propagates in three key ways – through writing, speaking, and listening. These three make up the basis of communication and wrap the scope of usage of any language. While many people are concerned about writing and speaking only, listening skills are also equally important. The proper usage of any language depends on how well it is understood. Because every communication isn’t limited to writing and reading only.
There isn’t a shortcut way of developing listening skills. Just like reading, speaking, and writing skills, it requires a lot of practice and patience. Not everyone universally learns something. There are several ways to develop English listening skills. Let’s discuss some of the most effective ways.
How to improve your English listening skills?
Find out the purpose
People learn something out of need. The need motivates a person towards the ultimate end goal. Some people might develop their English listening for workplace needs, some as a hobby, or others for standardized English proficiency tests. The importance or the urgency to develop isn’t the same in every case. As a result, it’s important to find out what is the core reason or motivation behind the drive.
There are course modules for developing listening skills for tests. However, developing listening skills for casual needs can take a more laid-back approach. Regardless of the purpose, the end goal is the same and each approach should be backed up by repeated practice.
Rather than going all in one day and disappearing from learning for several days, make the habit of microlearning. Each of the English skills is a rolling skillset which means they need repeated practice and a learning curve to ultimately master them.
Many people make the mistake of giving up after a few days of practice. This isn’t something that will develop overnight. There are several ways to develop the listening skills of English. All of these methods should be divided into small tasks and practiced daily. The mindset of constant practice will eventually perfect the process.
Listening to Podcast
Podcasts aren’t that popular or well known in Bangladesh. It's like a radio show where a host talks about a certain subject or has guests for fun and engaging sessions. Countless free and paid podcasts extensively cover a range of subject matter.
These podcasts can be a great source of listening material. Take in slowly and try to understand each line as it goes. Most of the podcasts are pre-recorded so it's possible to pause and note down.
It won't be possible to understand everything that’s been said on the first day because it's hard to keep up with the native flow as a beginner. However, this is where consistency comes into play. With daily listening and noting strategy, it's possible to get better at understanding everything that’s being said.
Watch and Learn
Watching people speak can be a good learning curve for developing listening skills. Listening isn’t just about interpreting word by word, it's also about reading the tone and understanding the expression. As a result, listening to a conversation from a first-person POV will give a better real-time experience. Whether it's picking up a new phrase or a new word, there is always something new to learn out of an engaging conversation.
Listen and Read
The best way to develop listening skills is by combining listening with reading. The most effective way to do this is by watching English movies and series with subtitles. Listening and reading the same thing creates a simultaneous learning experience which helps to better remember things. The eyes and the ears work in unison to make the learning more engaging.
In addition to that, there’s always the issue with an accent. Some accents might be harder to pick up compared to others. The most practical way to understand and practice listening to accents is by listening to the audio/videos with subtitles. This will help to pick up the pronunciation better. A month of repeated practice can help an individual to get better at catching meaning through thick accents.
Use the White Noise
Here white noise means background noise. Often people listen to music or play TV shows as they are busy with work. This is a typical case while cleaning a home or doing other chores. What many people don’t realize is that it can be a great source of learning as well.
Playing English music or shows in the background of your work doesn’t necessarily mean attention should be given to it. The brain is designed to subconsciously pick up things that are happening in the background. It can be a good passive learning experience without having to do anything.
Variate the Speed of Listening
Initially while getting started with listening, it's better to slow down the listening tape and take it word by word. But as the practice keeps progressing, the learner can increase the speed of playback to catch the meaning of every word and sentence more quickly.
Now, what might be the need for that? Humans have a general speaking tone which is somewhat similar in most cases. The idea here is to train the brain to process words faster. This will enhance the listening capabilities as well as increasing proficiency.
Developing listening skills is all about practice. No matter what it is, how it is, practice is the only key that will bring proficiency in this skill set. The ways mentioned above can be a great starting point. Practicing and implementing these learnings will surely hone the listening skills of the learner and alleviate his/her expertise level.