Understanding spoken language is a very common problem for its learners. Regardless of someone’s writing or reading skills, a lot of people have a problem with actual speaking – partly because of fear and partly because of worrying that their English listening skills are not good enough. Sometimes even thinking about this embarrasses them. It causes “fight or flight” behaviour where the person would rather flee than actually face up to speaking in English.
But don’t worry – everyone can overcome their fears. They are not so powerful as we sometimes think. Do you know how to do it? There is a simple answer – courage. And how do you get the courage to speak in English? When you exercise and develop your skills. It’s a cycle of cause and effect. The more you use the language, the more confident you are, the less you worry about using the language. Not so difficult, right?
If you are ready to learn, let me offer you 5 ways to improve your listening skills.
Watching movies is a great way to improve your listening skills. You can do it alone, without any pressure from people around you.
Depending on what your English level is, there are few possibilities:
1. Movie in English with subtitles in your language. This is a really good way to understand how English actually works. Listen closely how you translate in your head what the actors are saying and then check how close the truth you were. If you can’t translate like this yet, do the exact opposite – quickly check the subtitles and attentively listen how it sounds from actor’s mouth. No matter which option you choose, watching English-language movies helps you get used to the language.
2. Movies in English with English subtitles. This is one of the best things you can do to improve your listening skills. Here you can use two of your senses together – sight and hearing. It helps you sensitize your ability to listen out for words you already know.
3. Movies in English without subtitles. This is for when you start to feel brave. Watching English movies this way forces you to trust your ears and to focus very hard. Remember one thing: if you didn’t understand, don’t worry – it’s just a movie. Just rewind and watch it again!
Here are some extra tips for you: watch a movie you’ve already seen in your language and watch a movie that is suited to your current level of English. You have to remember that watching the cartoon for children and watching an episode of House M.D. with all of this medical terminology are absolutely different things!
READING BOOKS AND LISTENING TO AUDIOBOOKS
Together, of course. This works the same way as watching English movies with English subtitles” – it forces your ears and eyes to work together. It helps you not only know how the words you’re looking at sound and also helps you know how the words you’re hearing look. The more senses you use when learning something, the bigger chance you have that it will stay in your brain. That’s why a lot of people learn by reading out loud.
It’s also important what book you read. For beginners, the best is a book for children with basic vocabulary and grammar. For people looking for something a bit more difficult, I recommend young adult fiction, especially romance novels. Most of them are actually not that hard to understand, trust me.
LISTENING TO ENGLISH RADIO CHANNELS OR LONG SPEECHES ON YOUTUBE
Actually, this is the easiest one on this list. Why? Because you don’t have to force yourself to understand! Of course, you can try by listening carefully and catching single words or even full sentences but this is not the point of this exercise. The point is to get used to hearing a different language.
Listening to people speak English throughout the day either on the radio or online enforces a habit which allows you to not panic when you hear it spoken in real life.
PUTTING YOURSELF IN A SITUATIONS WHERE EVERYBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH
Please, interpret this however you want!
The first thing you’ve probably thought about doing was taking a trip to an English-speaking country. It may sound crazy, but here’s a little advice from me: if you can – go! It’s the best way to learn a new language. The proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” really stand true here. Nothing Can help you learn a language as good as being in the country where people use it. It’s going to teach you listening, speaking, writing and reading skills all at once.
But what if you can’t do something like this? It doesn’t matter! Just remember one thing – it doesn’t stop you from trying and searching for knowledge. Just look around! Maybe there are entertaining extra-curricular activities in English in your city? There are more possibilities to improve your listening skills than you think.
Naturally, the best way to improve your listening is by conversing. When you have direct contact with someone it forces you to actively listen. This is the exact opposite of hearing radio channel and not caring about what they are saying. By listening actively, you have to be really involved in a conversation. It’ll help you understand how people normally speak in English.
Maybe you can meet other interested friends once or twice a week to spend some time speaking in English? Or maybe you can practice by speaking with a native speaker on Skype? Just remember, do not afraid to ask your partner to repeat something or to speak slower. The most important thing is to intercommunicate, not how fast you get through the conversation.
TIME FOR PRACTICE
You have read through my top five tips to improve your listening skills – now it’s time to go and practice, practice, practice! Don’t forget to leave a comment describing what helped you the most in understanding spoken English!
Want some more tips on overcoming your fear of speaking English? Have a look at this blog post.