How to improve your English listening


Listening Course

If you have difficulties in listening to and understanding English, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common problems for English learners! It’s frustrating and embarrassing when you can’t understand, but in this lesson I’m going to explain why it’s so difficult and teach you how to improve.

Listening to English and successfully understanding it is difficult for three reasons.

1. Many English words are pronounced differently from their written form

We have lots of words with silent letters like thought, island, and muscle. Also, many letters can be pronounced in different ways, like the a in apple, father, and game.

So you might easily recognize words in writing, but then when you hear words with the same letters being pronounced differently, it’s harder to recognize them.

2. When native English speakers talk fast, we link the words together

Native English speakers often shorten and connect the words when speaking fast. We don’t pronounce every individual word clearly.

So the question “How are you feeling today?” sounds like, “Howya feelint’day?”

And “I’m going to have lunch” sounds like “I’m gonna’avlunch.”

This linking happens in all spoken English sentences, and it’s one big reason that it’s so difficult to understand.

3. English learners get too little listening practice

Most English learners read too much and don’t listen to enough English.

But remember that babies and young children learn English by listening first – for several YEARS! – and then learning to read later. Getting more English listening practice is essential if you want to become fluent in the language.

Okay. Now that you know why listening is difficult, here is how to improve it.

There are two elements: practicing every day and practicing the right way.

Improve your English listening by practicing every day

Create the habit of listening to English for at least 15 minutes daily, but ideally as much as possible. Even if you’re busy and you don’t have much time, you can listen while driving to work or school, while taking public transportation, exercising, or doing housework.

What should you listen to?

Well, one option is to listen to the audio from my courses at EspressoEnglish, especially my Listening Course.

But if you’re looking for some free options, check out:

Improve your English listening by practicing the right way

What does this mean? Well, there is a right way and a wrong way to practice English listening.

The wrong way to do English listening practice is this: you try to listen once, but you don’t understand every word and so you get frustrated and you give up and stop practicing after the first try. That’s a very common experience, but it won’t help you make progress.

To do English listening practice the right way, the first step is to relax and know that it’s completely normal to have limited understanding the first time you listen.

You should listen at least three times.

Listen the first time for the general topics; don’t try to understand every word. Just try to understand the main ideas.

Then, listen again and now try to understand some more specific details. Again, remember that it’s okay not to catch every word.

Listen the third time while reading the transcript, the text. Now you can pay attention to the individual words and see if your previous understanding was correct.

This type of listening, from more general to more specific, is the most effective way to practice and improve your English listening ability.

Your action item for today is to try it! Go to one of the websites I mentioned earlier, and listen to one program three times. If you make a habit of English listening every day and you practice the right way, listening three times to the same audio from general to specific, your understanding of spoken English will improve over time.

Improve your English listening by taking my course

You can also improve your listening skills by joining my Listening Course, which has 45 lessons with exercises that help you go from understanding the general idea, to specific details, to specific words. The audios in this course are available at both slow and fast speeds, so you can listen at whichever level feels most comfortable.

Whether or not you choose to sign up for my Listening Course, I hope this lesson has given you some practical tips for working on your listening and learning how to understand English better!

Improve your understanding when listening to English

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How to improve your English listening

Links for English Listening Practice:

Difficulty understanding spoken English?

How to improve your English listening

Photo: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you have difficulties in listening, you’re not alone – this is one of the most common problems for English learners.

It’s frustrating and embarrassing when you can’t understand spoken English – but in this lesson, I’m going to explain why it’s so difficult and teach you how to improve.

Listening to English and successfully understanding it is difficult for 3 reasons:

#1 – Many English words are pronounced differently from their written form.

We have words with silent letters like thought (silent GH), island (silent S), and muscle (silent C and silent E). Also, many letters can be pronounced in different ways, like the A in apple, father, and game.

#2 – When native speakers talk fast, we “link” the words together.

Native speakers often “connect” the words when speaking fast; we don’t pronounce every individual word clearly.

“How are you feeling today?”
Sounds like: “Howrya feelin’ today?”

“I’m going to have lunch.”
Sounds like: “I’m gonnahav lunch.”

This “linking” happens in all spoken English sentences – and it’s one BIG reason that it’s so difficult to understand.

#3 – Too little practice.

Most students read too much and don’t listen to enough English – but remember that babies and young children learn English by listening FIRST and reading later – so English listening practice is essential!

OK, now that you know WHY listening is difficult, here is HOW to improve it. There are two ways: practicing every day and practicing the RIGHT way.

English Listening Tip #1 – Practice Every Day

Create the habit of listening to English for 15 minutes daily. Even if you’re busy and you don’t have much time, you can listen while

  • Driving to work or school
  • Taking public transportation
  • Exercising
  • Doing housework

What should you listen to?

Here are 3 sites with great audio (and accompanying text):

English Listening Tip #2 – Practice the Right Way

The second tip for improving your listening is to practice listening the RIGHT way.

What does this mean? Well, there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to practice English listening.

The WRONG way to do English listening practice:

  • Try to listen once
  • You don’t understand every word and you get frustrated
  • Give up and stop practicing after the first try

To do English listening practice the RIGHT way, the first step is to relax and know that it’s completely normal to have limited understanding the first time you listen.

Effective English Listening Practice:

  • Listen the first time for the general topics. Don’t try to understand every word; just try to understand the main ideas.
  • Listen again and now try to understand some more specific details. Again, remember that it’s OK not to catch every word.
  • Listen the third time while reading the transcript (text). Now you can pay attention to the individual words and see if your previous understanding was correct.

This type of listening – from more general to more specific – is the most effective way to practice and improve your English listening ability.

If you want to improve fast, the English Listening Course will help you train your listening effectively.

This course uses a structured process of listening exercises – it’s the same process I use with my private students:

listen-to-english

  • Before the listening, I’ll pre-teach you some key vocabulary, so that you won’t be completely “lost” when you hear new words.
  • Listen the first time for the general idea only.
  • Listen again, now trying to understand the specific ideas.
  • Listen again, now trying to get specific words.
  • Finally, you can listen a last time with a transcript – so you can clear up any doubts and understand 100%.

 

This method is helpful because it helps you make step-by-step progress towards understanding EVERY word.

In addition:

  • Recordings will be available at both slow AND fast speeds, making this course perfect for learners at any level of English. You can listen to the slow recordings to help boost your confidence, and to the fast recordings for an extra challenge.
  • All the topics are completely new – they are on subjects I have never before covered in Espresso English lessons or courses – so you’ll learn a lot of new vocabulary, too!

English Listening Course Information

tinycheckbox 45 lessons with text and audio

tinycheckbox Slow and fast audios available

tinycheckbox You get permanent access to the lessons online & you can download them, too.

 

English Listening Course

45 Lessons – $45

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Course Details

  • 45 text and audio lessons (PDF and MP3 formats)
  • Lessons may be accessed online or downloaded