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Listening Skills 101

Category: Language Training | 2018-08-02

Do you remember when you were learning a language in school, and your teacher played tape recordings of dialogues for you to practice your listening skills? Or you would have to pretend to be on the phone with another student to practice your phone skills?

Well, we’re all adults now, and it’s time we moved beyond activities like this in classes. There’s such a wide range of opportunity to practice your English listening skills nowadays, that we’re sure you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs. And they’re much more exciting than listening to tapes and filling in worksheets.

How to Practice Your Listening Skills

Improve Your Listening Skills


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1. Podcasts

Listening to podcasts is an excellent way of improving your listening skills. There are so many different podcasts nowadays about a whole range of topics that you’re sure to find something that interests you.

One of the benefits of a podcast is that you can rewind it and listen again if you’re unsure of something.

Don’t think that just because you’re not fluent in a language you can’t listen to podcasts in it. Even if you only know a few words, listening to a podcast will help you to hear those words in context, as well as get you used to how the language sounds. Tonality and pace vary from language to language. As such, listening to a podcast can help you hear how a language is spoken by a native speaker, which is excellent practice!

2. TED Talks

I love showing TED talks to my students. I think they’re a great way to practice listening skills, while promoting discussion on a wide range of topics.

TED talks are short, 10-20 minute videos by experts on all different topics, all for free on their website. I highly encourage you to watch a video at least twice, as sometimes the speakers can talk quite quickly. If you get stuck, TED also provides a transcript of the talk so that you can read along with the video.

3. Netflix

My students usually get quite excited when I tell them their homework is to go home and watch Netflix. It doesn’t feel like homework at all, does it? But the thing is, watching TV and movies in a foreign language is another great way to practice your listening skills, without it feeling like work!

Netflix is great because you can turn on subtitles to read along with the program. I recommend watching a show in English with English subtitles for extra practice, but anything will do.

Sitcoms like FRIENDS, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Parks & Recreation, and Scrubs are great shows for English language learners. Each episode is only around 20 minutes long, they’re light, funny, and may even help you understand cultural references you may not have gotten before. A show with a laugh track will let you know if you missed a joke, too, so you can rewind it and watch it again!

4. Radio

In a similar vein to podcasts, listening to the radio is another excellent way to practice your listening skills.

The radio is a great way to keep abreast of the news, and it may even be a little easier for you if you’ve already heard the news stories in your native language. Of course, there are country-specific stories, but that’s part of the fun!

The BBC (England) and NPR (America) are two of my favorite radio stations to listen to online. Give it a shot, and let us know what you think!

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5. Practice Makes Perfect


In the end, like anything, practice makes perfect. The more you listen to things in English, the better your listening skills will be.

Even having the radio or a podcast on in the background will help. For example, I like to turn on a podcast in the language I’m learning in the morning when I’m getting ready for work, and in the evening when I’m making dinner. That’s two hours each day of extra language practice added to my day that I normally wouldn’t have time for otherwise. You don’t always have to be actively studying vocabulary words to be practicing your language skills.






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Putting it all Together

Practicing your listening skills will help you not only in conversation, but will even help your skills on the telephone! What do you have to lose?

Do you have a tried and true method of practicing your listening skills? Share it with the rest of the community in the comments below!

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