So you want to improve your listening? Start with your habits!
Nothing will stress you out more than the dreaded listening tests you will encounter while learning English. It is, without doubt, the most challenging part of an ESL learner’s journey through the language. Students who thrive and enjoy writing down their ideas and speaking about their homeland will freeze when it comes time to try to listen and comprehend many different accents in English. However before working yourself up into a panic, stop! Ask yourself one thing: are you giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed?
Think of any skill or talent that you have, were you as good as you are now the first time you did it? Of course not! So getting better takes time and effort but here are some habits you can change right now to help you maximise your chances of being a good listener:
Listen with purpose
It doesn’t take a genius to listen to your favourite artists on Spotify or YouTube and think that you are improving your listening skills. Although it is always beneficial to listen to as much English as possible, are we really helping our comprehension skills? Have you ever listened to a song and understood the meaning behind the lyrics? You will benefit greatly from listening to a song/book/podcast with comprehension in mind. So don’t just sing the lyrics back hopelessly in the mirror while holding a hairbrush or nod along to what your favourite podcaster is talking about, write down some comprehension questions beforehand. What is the speaker/artist’s main points?What is the general mood of the audio and how does the speaker convey it? Any listening is always better than no listening but remember to listen with a purpose!
Challenge a mate
A problem shared is a problem halved
Listening for comprehension can be a lonely path to take so why not bring a friend along? Working collaboratively is always a sure way to make an activity or task a bit easier. With that in mind then try and find someone in your class who would also like to improve their listening skills and push each other to greatness! Why not both listen to a long passage or excerpt from a book and write down as many notes as you can and compare your thoughts afterwards? You will be amazed at the things you may have missed and you will both be able to help each other in different areas you need to work on. After all, what are friends for?
Don’t get bored, use the resources out there
*NEWSFLASH*It’s not 1989, you have a thing called the internet. Use it.
We’ve all been in those loooong, difficult listening exams which consist of boring situations about train journeys and university lecturers talking about snails. Sadly it’s a fact of life in many English examinations. However, don’t let those experiences put you off trying to improve your skill. In 2018 we have YouTube, TED talks, news websites, Vimeo, Facebook, Instagram all at the touch of a button. There is no excuse for not listening to all different kinds of content in English. The best way to learn is to find stuff that you enjoy listening to and using that to improve. It’s out there: go find it.
Most importantly, just do it
Think about the moment you sit down to start studying something then all of a sudden you remember you need to clean the oven or organise all of your clothes by colour. Yep, procrastination is the same in any language! Of course, there will be times when you just don’t want to listen to that TED talk about why not washing your hands correctly is killing the dolphins and that’s ok! Listening to something when you are tired or unfocused may not be a great idea but be sure to re-arrange a better time to do it, but do it! The biggest issue we have in progressing is that we don’t put in the time overall to grow and get better. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your advanced level of English. Work hard and you will get the rewards eventually. Now stop reading and start listening!