You have been studying English for a long time. You have a good knowledge of English grammar and you know lots of words. You can read things in English and you can communicate well in writing. You have trouble understanding what people are saying, however, and it’s impossible for you to watch English movies or TV shows without subtitles. Does that describe you?
You are not alone. Listening is usually the slowest skill to improve. For most language learners, listening is their weakest skill. There are two reasons for this:
- You may be pronouncing a word incorrectly, and therefore you can’t understand the word when it’s pronounced correctly.
- You are listening for the wrong words and sounds. Natural spoken English is a mixture of stressed & unstressed words, linked words, contracted words, and reduced words. Many words are not fully pronounced.
Here’s an activity that you can do to improve your listening skills and get used to the sounds of natural spoken English. I learned this activity fromCarl Kwan, and I’ve expanded on his method.
Choose a short audio clip at your level.
If you are a beginner or low intermediate, choose something that is about 1-2 minutes; more advanced learners should choose longer clips that are about 3-5 minutes. Make sure you also have the words to the audio clip. You need to be able to check your work!
Here are some suggestions:
Super Easy Reading
Intermediate & Advanced
The English Teacher Melanie Podcast (American accent)
BBC 6-Minute English (British accent)
BBC Words in the News (British accent)
ESLPod (American accent)
1. Listen to the whole audio clip once without looking at the words. Relax. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic.
2. Listen to the entire clip again. It’s easier to hear and understand what you’re listening to when you’re relaxed and not panicking.
3. Listen to the clip, but pause the clip every 5 seconds.
- After you pause the audio, write down a word, phrase or anything you can remember from the clip.
- When you have finished and listened to the entire clip, read through your notes completely.
- It’s OK if you don’t understand every word, but can you understand the general theme of what the speaker is saying?
4. Repeat step 3. Check your work. Correct your work. Add any new words you heard.
5. Read through your notes completely again. Try to finish the sentences. If you wrote down one or two words, can you figure out the sentence from those words? Use your knowledge of grammar to try to complete the sentences.
6. Hide your notes. Listen to the clip again, but this time stop after 10 seconds. Again, write down the main words you hear. Check your work compared to what you wrote down in step 5.
7. Listen to the clip completely one last time while reading your notes.
8. Compare your notes to the actual words.
- What words did you get right?
- Did you have trouble hearing certain words?
- Are there any words that you should have heard [words that you already know] but did not? Why? Is your pronunciation wrong? Was the word unstressed in the sentence? Was it linked to a word before or after it?
- Look up any new words that you don’t know.
9. Listen to the clip while reading the words. Check your pronunciation of words you know but didn’t hear or understand when you were listening.
10. Hide all your notes and the words. Listen one final time to the clip. It should be easier now to understand what the speaker is saying.
11. After about a week, come back and listen to the clip again to refresh your memory.
NOTE: Your listening skills will not improve overnight. Like anything in life, it takes a lot of practice! If you practice consistently 3-4 times a week, soon you will start to see an improvement in your listening skills.
Good luck and happy studying!
Read this lesson in Japanese. (Easykaiwa.seesaa.net)
I will try this!
Thank you Melanie :D
Márcio Martins says
Hello, thank you for this post. I need to improve my listening, so I'll try your tip.
I'll b trying this activity as I'm really obsessed with my listening. I need to improve it so I'm gonna give it a go but again the problm is wrong pronunciation.
Very thanks Melanie for yours english lesson…I put them on cd so I can listen them into my car while i drive…
Hi from Italy
Melanie I am very happy because I have found this awesome blog. It's helped me a lot improving my english skills.
Thanks for doing this job.
Hi from Mexico
Thanks a lot teacher Melanie. It is hard for me understand when the people speak with me. My reading improves everyday, but my listening … I think that it does not better.
Oh, my God! This is great! I've been trying to do it, and really! I'm very excited. I'm improving so much!
Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!
Hugs from Brazil, Melanie
! This is great! I've been trying to do it, and really! I'm very excited. I'm improving so much!
great wishes to you
Quan Nguyen says
Thank you so much! Melanie.
I’ll try to learn English everyday. I hope my English get better soon.
Thank you Melanie, This is great. a very special thanks from Pakistan.
I will follow your advices also. My listening skill is not good. I had listening everyday but i just hear them not listen. Listening is hard skill as we learn a language. Thank teacher Melanie again :)
Roly Kurniadi says
Thank you very much for the tips
I’ll try to listen to your listening lesson as often as possible..
I’m Roly from Indonesia
abode aose says
I have tried this tip and it works . Thank you very much for this tip
I’ve never ever seen like this beautiful web blog before.i visit almost 3 to 4 days in a week and would like to so as soon as i’ll be letting you know about myself how well i’m going.
I am thrilled to hear that this blog has helped you so much, Akbar!
I wish you the best of luck with your English studies,
mohamed yashin says
henceforth i also spending time for English everyday.Thank you for your valuable advice madam.
Danny Silva says
I absolutely agree with your tips about how to improve the listening. Then, to include in the part you said the listening problem can be a wrong pronunciation, I had this problem yesterday. I played an audio sentence and the first time I misunderstood it. So, I was so confused, but I read the sentence, and I used a translator and also I heard the right way to pronounce these words, and I was repeat them many times, so at the end I was pronouncing the words very well, and I heard again the sentence and could understand perfectly. This sentence is very diferent from you read it to you pronounce it.
The phrase is: The fossil fuels are carbon dioxide (fossil and dioxide sounds so weird)
Thank you teacher Melanie
thank you its a good advice and I think its a good advice
Anna Nguyen says
I am really appreciated to the knowledge you’ve given to us. May God bless you.
A great post indeed on How to Practice Listening.
I teach English pronunciation in Northeastern Thailand to about 700 elementary school students. There is no doubt in my mind that Listening is the most important skill to develop for fluency acquisition and I couldn’t agree more with you on all the tips you recommend. I always tell my young students to learn with their ears and not with their eyes. I always show them movies and cartoons and ask them to write down words or group of words they heard. I also like to use the “Magic English” cartoon series from Walt Disney with my younger students.
Bye and see you again on Facebook!
Hi dear,it may seem a bit usual but I’m iranian.do you know persia?
well,I’ve been studying English for many years & I found your website so helpful.it’s awesome .
thank you so much.
prashan weragoda says
thak u very much…………….
I have found your tips exactly meet my needs! Thank you very much!
I am Sunny from China. I have STUDIED English for 15 years but could not communicate well!
These days I’ve been focusing on listening skill search and meet you here!
I could now understand VOA Special. but normal speech is still difficult for me!
I think you know my problem either. Yes I could not hear connected speech, unstressed words or syllables and weak forms. usually i find they are what i’ve already know!
i will follow your tip!
and i hope your great work keep on!
All the best!
Thanks a lot teacher Melanie:) I’ve trying learn an english by myself for a 1year. And i’m getting better.I watch a movie,read an article,and listen to interviews by my favourite people. I’ve a lot of dreams.I hope your lesson will help me to reach my dreams. Thank you,
All the best <3
The teacher melanie you r great .. ur advice is really cool.
rishabh goel says
I am very thankful to my teacher Melanie who helped me to improve my english.
rishabh goel says
Teacher Melanie your system of teaching is very good. I am proud to be your student. Your material is arranged in a systematic way. Anyone can subscribe your blogs and learn English free of cost. I have improved my listening skills which was challenging for me. Thank you teacher. I respect you.
Hey Melanie – Hi again :)
I must say, you are a fantabulous teacher that I came across ever.
Thanks you very very much for this blog.
It’s really helpful. Now its in my dream list to visit canada and meet you in person. :)
this article held my breath, I stopped by and got deeply attracted as soon as I read the portraiture of myself…
Not to say, I’ll try these tips ASAP!!!
I swear I must perceive every single words over National Public Radio!!! -in a week!!!
My most headache is linked-word, reduced-word!!!(besides I don’t understand what is contract-word). You are absolutely right, we know words, but we’re hearing wrong words!!
Hi, thank you for your advice.
Kaushal Kumar says
Hi Melanie ! I really wanna thank you for Imparting your knowledge with us .
You have such a kind heart that you are giving us your efforts to help us learning english through your Perfect Blog. it is helping me lot Mam. It is very hard to appreiciate about this blog. I mean i lack of word lefft in the appreciation of this blog.
May God Bless you and give you The Happiest life !
Hi From India.
Alex Raju says
Thank you so much. That was very much me and it helped me a lot. This helped me not only in listening skills but also helped me to be more patient.
Hi Melanie! I accidentally found your lessons on the Internet. I’m trying to improve my English skills, and Your tips are very useful for me! Thank You very much for Your work! With huge respect from Russia! Serge.
Hi, miss melanie
it is realy a nice work you do on this website I am very happy to get this website I hope I could improve my ponounciation realy its my wish if u have any other advice let me know,please
Iam an #ENGLISH teacher and I want to be awesome more and more
I think the website is great, with a lot of great resources. I had a question about the listening exercise. You mentioned that you should revisit the audio in about a week. Should I assume then that the audio transcript be not read until after having revisited the audio? Thanks a lot!!!
Cristina Barata Feyo says
I have already given the link to your blog to other Portuguese teachers dealing with English in Portugal because I’ve found it a great tool within the teaching field.
Once again thank you for sharing!!
Hi M.S Melanie
After being trying at home and searching around the web for quite a long time finally i had found you… by the grace of God.
thanks for your state of the art advice.
God Bless you.
Winor the 7 Day Adventist
That was awesome tip how to improve our english listening skills tips I really like it.
It can cheers me up
Thank you Melanie :-)
Thank you so much M! Excellent advice! I’ll try it.
From time to time I do something like you post here with your postcast.
Thanks again and greetings from BA – Argentina
Thanks for all this tips. They are so great to study. Thank you again!
Sung, hoseung says
Thank you. Your advice is very helpful to me. I’ll trying to speaking English very hard. Have a nice day!!!
Thanks, I’ll try this
Betuel Balyo says
Thank you Melanie, my best teacher.
By Betuel Balyo, Indonesia-Papua
It is a the first time I am visiting your website. I have been visited a number of English websites. You are impressive!!!
Thanks for your dedication and your help, I’ve studied English for a long time but I failed to improve my listening, I will try with this method.
Cesar Lopez, from Perú