Listening tips

It’s important to listen to a wide variety of authentic material to really get a feel for the language you are learning. Get tips on ways to do this.

Listening is a crucial language skill for interacting with people in conversation, but for beginner learners it can be a difficult skill to master.

The LLC has a range of listening materials to choose from—audio CDs, DVDs, computer software, digitised sound files, and eTV. Listening material is also on the web—free podcasts are available on a variety of topics from various radio websites.

Strategies for listening

  • Prepare for listening tasks. Think about the subject—what ideas will be introduced? What vocabulary do you already know on the subject?
  • Listen several times to the same passage. Start by trying to understand the general meaning or the main idea. In this stage it helps to listen for key words and to stop the audio frequently and predict what is going to come next. Later, practise listening intensively for specific information and take notes. Try to guess new words from context and build up your understanding by listening several times.
  • Summarise—after listening, briefly summarise what you’ve understood, to recap and recall new vocabulary.
  • Details—listen to short dialogues to practise listening for detail. Take notes.
  • Variety—aim to listen to a variety of authentic material and challenge yourself by listening to native speakers who speak at normal speed and with different accents.

Activities for listening practice

  • Watch movies on DVD or eTV programmes, and practise listening for the gist or the main idea. You’ll gain greater familiarity with pronunciation and the grammar structures, as well as expand your vocabulary range. Great to pick up colloquial language too! Write a summary or review.
  • Discuss—listen to a recording with someone else. After each listening, discuss what you both understood. Set yourselves questions for subsequent listenings.
  • Use transcripts (audio scripts)—these are written versions of listening passages, often at the back of the book or in a separate book. If the resource you’re using has these, try:
    • listening first without looking at the transcript, and then listen again – this time following the text by reading the transcript.
    • transcribing (writing down) the whole passage as you listen. Then check your work against the transcript for correct punctuation, spelling and accents. This is similar to dictation. Try this even if there’s no transcript – more of a challenge!
  • Listen for pleasure to music in your target language.

Inspired by: Fernández-Toro, M. & Jones, F. DIY Techniques for Language Learners, London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), 2001, pp. 86-98