Many ESL learners struggle with English listening, even those who otherwise have quite a high overall language level. The speech tempo seems too fast, words sound unrecognizable, the many different accents are confusing… Is English listening indeed that hard?
The truth is, listening in English is just like any other skill: you can master it with some patience, effort, and regular practice, no black magic involved. You can also do it even faster and more effectively if you do it right.
In this article, we have gathered some of the key tips that will help you get better at English listening.
Listen to the recording a few times – as many as you need
It often happens that after the first listening you can hardly understand anything. Play the recording another time! The first time you listen to it, you’ll get a general idea and get used to the speaker’s pronunciation. The second listening will help you understand more details.
Listen more than two times if needed, but be careful: if you can’t understand anything even after the tenth listening, the recording probably doesn’t match your English level.
One of the reasons why dailydictation.com is useful is that it separates listening exercises into sentences, and you can repeat a sentence easily!
Create proper conditions for listening
A noisy environment and faulty equipment can seriously affect your understanding, especially at lower levels. Whenever possible, do your best to eliminate such interference.
You don’t have to practice English listening in a sound-proofed room or buy the most expensive sound system there is. But here are a couple of things you can do:
- choose a quiet place of practice whenever possible
- consider getting a pair of affordable good-quality headphones or speakers
- find modern materials/recordings for listening – they will always have better quality than old cassette tapes
Don’t overuse the dictionary
Don’t pause the audio to translate, especially when listening to it for the first time – when listening in everyday life, you will rarely have an opportunity to do this, and the constant pauses will slow down the process and lower your motivation.
If you can, listen to the recording first without any pauses and try to understand as much as you can. Then listen to it again, making pauses and writing down new vocabulary.
However, not every new word needs to be translated. You can often understand the meaning of individual words from context, which is an essential skill.
Listen to different speakers
There are lots of dialects of the English language, and some words can become unrecognizable from one to another.
You can learn every accent there is to be able to understand them all. However, the more you practice listening to English speakers with different accents, the higher your English listening level will become – and you will be able to understand lots of different people with lots of different accents.
A website that you can visit to practice listening with many different English accents: elllo.org, they provide excellent listening materials and everything is free!
Listen to what you love
Motivation and interest play a great role in successful language learning in general and in developing your English listening in particular.
Imagine listening to a lecture on finance in English if you know nothing about the topic and don’t find it interesting: it is easy to get lost in all the terms even if you are an advanced learner, as well as to get bored and demotivated.
Listening to familiar and interesting topics will make English listening easier and more fun, and, as a result, you will make progress much faster.
At dailydictation.com, we have many topics about history / culture / daily life in English-speaking countries that you can practice on!
Another website that we always recommend is esl-lab.com, they have many great recordings of fun, real-life conversations with questions, quizzes and transcripts.
English listening can be hard! You must put in some effort – just as when learning other skills – but with the tips above, hopefully you will improve much faster.