• Milestones


A lot of my students ask me this question, but really the only way to improve your listening is practice. There are some strategies that can help you do this.

A lot of learners say that English speakers talk too quickly, but actually a big reason that it’s hard to follow English speakers is because of all the features of connected speech we use: linking, dropping sounds, changing sounds. No wonder it’s confusing. But as you become more aware of these features, your ability to identify words and understand what people are saying will develop.

Also, as you learn vocabulary your ability to understand English conversations will improve. Of course, the more words you know, the easier it is to understand native speakers.


1. Listen to different types of materials.

There are so many different kinds of things that you can listen to and you should try to experience as many as possible so you get used to listening in different contexts:

· songs

· TED Talks

· university lectures

· people communicating in daily life

· audio books

· BBC news – you can watch short videos and read the story too

· documentaries – there are lots on YouTube

· podcasts

· films – with subtitles

2. Predict what you will hear.

Try to guess what you are going to hear before the speaker starts talking. In your experience of your own language, what kind of information will be exchanged in the situation / context. What kind of speaking pattern makes logical sense? What kind of vocabulary do you expect to hear?

3. Focus on stress.

Native speakers will stress the most important words in a sentence or conversation. You don’t need to understand EVERY word. We don’t even do this in our first language. Listen for the stressed words and let your knowledge of the context help you fill the gaps.

4. Practise every day.

The secret is ‘little and often’. Perhaps set aside a certain time each day to practise your listening. But don’t spend so long that you get bored. 20 minutes every day is better than two hours, once a week.

5. Use the audio scripts at the back of your course book.

Most English course books have scripts at the back of the book for each recording. Always listen to recordings at least twice without the script and then use the script to check you understood correctly. Colour all the words you don’t understand and then look them up in a dictionary.

6. Listen to what you enjoy.

Always listen to things you are interested in. If you listen to something boring, your brain will just turn off.

What are you interested in?

What would you really like to know more about?

Listen to something that really motivates you.

Good luck and ‘Happy listening’.