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How to improve your listening skills

Learning Skills | Grammar | Listening | Reading | Speaking | Vocabulary | Writing
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Listening plays a huge part in learning any language. The first thing you did as a child was listen - you couldn't talk, or write or speak, so you listened. Unfortunately as we grow up a lot of us lose the skill of listening, but like most things, it is something you can improve on.

The first thing to do is learn to listen actively. Learning a language is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument. You can listen to music for enjoyment, but if you want to study the music you have to listen more critically. It's the same with languages; you need to make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that someone is saying but, more importantly, pay attention, and try to understand the complete message behind the words.

If you can't get hold of listening materials, watching films, TV shows or videos are a good substitute. If you're not sure what films to watch, look at my recommended films pages.

ESL listening materials, can help you to begin with, but they, along with films and radio or TV shows are scripted, which is why a lot of people find it difficult to follow real conversations. In a real conversation there will probably be background noise, the speakers will um and ah their way through, they will stop halfway through sentences and begin again. It's difficult to keep up and to filter out background noise and filler words. Listening to talk radio or TV chat shows can be a bit more challenging, and more realistic, so push yourself. It's all good practise.

Don't be a native speaker snob. Listening to other learners is another great way to hone your listening skills. There are so many accents out there, you need to be able to understand more than RP. You will thank me when you land at Heathrow and get into a taxi.

! On the Network:- Every Tuesday we publish a listening session using the Live Chat page and Spreaker. You can listen to the text and read the comments on the Live Chat page. Previous episodes are archived on YouTube.

Every week Amatsu reads out the News Round Up from the English magazine.

Amatsu also reads out people's corrected posts from the lessons on Learn English Online.

We run several voice sessions every week. We use different platforms, so check the calendar for more details.

Little and often is a good idea, so try our Interesting Facts pages. Every week we write some interesting facts and there are accompanying sound files for the most interesting ones.

There is always a bit of light-hearted fun on the Have Fun with English page. There are new videos or listening files every month.

You can join the forum and once you are a Full Member, you can ask Lynne to read a short piece of text out loud. Yes, she takes requests.

Go to some TTS (text to speech) web sites and use their free services. Some of the results are surprisingly good. We particularly like Acapela TV for their talking, fluffy bunnies.

Get onto Second Life or Open Sim. Virtual worlds are the one place we've found where you're pretty much guaranteed a conversation - it's an adult environment, and you won't always want to listen to the people you meet, but for every blood sucking vampire who asks if they can bite you, there are at least ten, nice people who just want to socialise. If you want a list of nice places to go, just contact us on the forum or look at some of the places we have already visited (sometimes sims close, so it's best to ask us).

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