mistakes English listening

5 common mistakes in practicing English listening

In this article, we will look at the mistakes, which people commonly make when developing their English listening skills. And, of course, we will give our suggestions to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – The more complex the audio, the better.

People with a low level of knowledge like to take more difficult material. They think, “Why should I waste time on something simple?” After all, with quick start with complex material, you can quickly learn to recognize complex words and sentences by ear. It means saving a lot of time.

How to do it right: Choose the audio at your level. It is very important! If you listen to the audio material with unknown words or difficult grammar that you have not studied, you will have to understand a lot. To do this, you will have to parse all the unfamiliar words and grammar. It means that such listening will take a lot of time and energy. Most likely, you will simply quit this activity.

Mistake #2 – Taking any material that comes to your hand.

Sometimes people prefer not to waste time choosing audio materials and take the first thing that comes to hand: an interview with an unknown artist; advice to motorists or a recipe for a pie. Although in fact they are not interested in listening to it.

How to do it right: Now you can find a lot of all kinds of audio materials on any topic. Choose what is interesting to you. So you will not only learn English, but also receive interesting information for you, learn new words that you can use. If you are far from politics, watching the news in English will not bring you any benefit and pleasure.

Mistake #3 – Listen without understanding

The biggest misconception is that you can improve your listening skills by turning on audio in the background while you are doing something. This misconception appeared due to the fact that people think, even if you do not listen to something carefully, the brain still perceives information. And some even argue that turning on English podcasts at night will wake you up with an understanding of English. But of course it is not!

How to do it right: You won’t improve listening just by playing a movie/music/podcast and doing your business. In order to improve your listening comprehension, you need to make an effort and focus on this (especially at the initial stage).

To get the result, you will have to:

  • Listen to the audio material
  • Parse the text
  • Listen to it a few more times

Only with the effort, you will gradually improve your skill and your English will get better and better.

Mistake #4 – Try to translate every word

A lot of people translate literally every word into their own languages while listening to the English speech. And they do this with each sentence they hear, and it doesn’t matter that you have spoken the translation of only one sentence, and the speaker is already finishing the fifth.

How to do it right: When you hear English, don’t try to translate every word. Imagine that you are listening to a lecture in English. While you mentally translate one sentence, the lecturer will already reach the middle of the next material. Try to immediately understand the speaker.

Mistake #5: Listening only to audio, not chatting with real people

Why do you need to try to find someone to talk to when you can just play a podcast? It is much more convenient, websites like BBC  News or breakingnewsenglish.com provide thousands of articles with audio and the recordings are in good quality. That is why people think that listening to audio recordings is much better than listening to live speech of people.

How to do it right: Listening to the audio is definitely very useful and convenient. But such speech is not the same as the speech of living people. After all, only by communicating with different people, you can get used to different features of speech. But if you’re a shy person or not confident enough to talk to a native speaker, try listening to real life conversations might be a good idea, a website that we recommend is esl-lab.com, they have great content there!


The list above is just a few common mistakes, you will probably make a lot more mistakes in the progress of learning English, but that is okay, everyone makes mistakes all the time. The important thing is to realize what doesn’t work for us and fix it so that we don’t lose too much of our valuable time and energy.

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