There are different reasons why listening is considered an essential skill for an ESL speaker. However, I notice many of my students not focusing on listening skills. They are more into speaking. Remember! Listening is a prerequisite to talking, and in a conversation, it’s equally important as speaking.
Is English Listening Practice Important?
Listening is undoubtedly a core skill to develop for any ESL speaker. Only speaking cannot help you to take part in a good conversation because, during a conversation, you also have to listen to the other person(s) and respond accordingly.
If you have been raising a kid, you have probably noticed how they learned their mother tongue. Of course, they learned through listening to their surroundings, right?
I always recommend my students to start learning English with listening skills first. This is because listening appears easier than the other three language skills. However, as a beginner, if you want to start with the other skills, you may get frustrated.
So, it would be best to focus more on listening at the beginning of your English learning journey. You should practice both in active & passive ways.
Spare a Specific Time Every Day to Practice Listening Actively
If you want to master English listening skills, there is no alternative to consistent practicing. Like having lunch or dinner, you must make it a mandatory activity in your daily routine. No matter what happens, be determined that you’ll practice every day.
You may select a particular time (evening, afternoon, or morning, for example) when you will practice listening every day for at least twenty minutes. However, I would suggest not taking too much pressure. Instead, you should select the time of the day most convenient for you and the duration you can continue effortlessly.
However, many of my students who are already in their professional life complain that they don’t get that much time to practice due to their job or business. Well! That’s practically a significant problem. In that case, I would recommend you make your strategy can give you the best output.
For example, you can practice listening for 20 minutes by listening to any English audio while on the way to the office by bus. Now, you think and decide when and how much time you can spare to practice listening every day.
Do your best and be consistent. Go slow at the beginning, and move on gradually. I always suggest my students not to hurry and not to put much pressure on themselves. Even to me, rather than practicing for 2 hours a day and remaining inactive for the next 3 days, it’s better to take 4 days to practice 2 hours, 30 minutes each day.
Expand Your Range by Varying Listening Materials
Well! Most of my students ask me about the resources they should depend on to practice English listening. In that case, I ask them to take complete freedom in choosing sources of listening practice. Yet, they must ensure that anything they are listening to should be in correct English.
Another question I always get from the students is, “Should I listen to native speakers?” And my answer to this question is, “It’s not mandatory.” So, yes, it is my answer.
It’s not necessarily mandatory to listen to native speakers to practice listening. Instead, I suggest you start with non-native speakers at the beginning of your English journey.
Then, of course, listening to someone from your mother tongue whose English is native-like is the best. It’ll help you to understand English better and feel motivated.
If you start the practice by listening to native speakers, you may not understand most of the things because of their native accents. This may result in frustration and make you demotivated to practice further.
However, once you start enjoying practicing listening, you can then pick some native English speakers’ talk for listening practice.
Find out different sources that you are comfortable practicing with. Don’t just depend on one particular source of listening practice. It’ll make things boring.
For example, if you listen to English news in the morning, you should go for English songs in the afternoon and TED Talks in the evening. You may also bring these changes on a daily basis. Use a source today, change it and select another one for tomorrow.
Not only the source type, but you may also bring changes within the sources. For example, suppose you listen to BBC 6 Minute English every day. In that case, you should look for a different topic every time. If you listen to something related to science today, you may listen to something related to politics tomorrow.
You may also take help from books like Cambridge English Skills Real Listening and Speaking 1 with Answers and Audio CD (Amazon link) to ensure an organized practice of English listening skills.
Don’t Go for Lengthy Audio, Practice in Chunks
To practice listening, I always discourage selecting long audio. However, if you really like to listen to long audio, such as books like Harry Potter 1- 7 Audio Collection (Amazon link), you should go for chunks.
For example, the first part, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 8 hours and 18 minutes long. Should you listen to it at a time? No. You should listen to it in chunks. You must listen to them just to enjoy the story. Don’t bother about the meaning of the words or anything. Just listen and enjoy. Go slowly and get engaged with the story.
Now, what should you do for other audios except books? For instance, how will you listen to any long audio that gives instructions? So, If you have selected any audio of 20 minutes, divide them into 4 parts, each in 5 minutes.
Try to understand the first chunk first, then the others. If you can’t understand the primary context of the first chunk, listen to it again ad then move to the next one. Once you are confident that you have developed adequate listening skills, you may gradually go for longer chunks.
Believe in Micro-learning
If you are a beginner at learning English, I would advise you to practice for 15-20 minutes daily for the first one or two weeks. Then, in the coming weeks, you may increase the duration to 30 minutes and gradually the most you can afford.
Also, I would recommend dividing the time into segments rather than practicing for a long time.
For example, suppose you have decided to practice listening for 1 hour every day. It’s not a good idea to spend 60 minutes in a raw. Instead, divide them into three, 20 minutes each. Practice 20 minutes in the morning, the other 20 minutes in the afternoon, and the rest in the evening.
Yet, I would still suggest enjoying the time while you practice. Once you feel you are not enjoying yourself, you should take a break and try later. Learning English should be fun, not something that you are bored or afraid of.
Focus on Passive Listening Practice Too
Well! Besides active practice, I always advice my students to focus on passive learning. Passive learning is affordable to everybody, regardless of their profession. It takes almost no effort to practice English passively.
So, I encourage my students to ensure passive listening practice whenever and wherever possible. There can be so many ways to practice listening passively. For example, suppose you come back from the office by bus every day. If you find someone talking in English, you may overhear that English conversation.
However, overhearing is morally not a good practice. Yet, you may do it to follow the patterns people use while talking in English. In that case, you must not focus on the information and should not disclose it to someone.
You may also find people sitting beside you in cafes or restaurants and conversing in English. You can overhear the conversation. However, you may not understand all the words, but listen and try to find out what they are talking about and how they are doing it.
Listen to Audio and Read Them at the Same Time
Listening to something and looking at the written version of it at the same time is very effective for listening practice. If you are a bookworm, you can easily practice listening while you read.
For example, if you buy Collen Hoover’s new novel, It Starts with Us (Amazon link), you may also grab its audio version. You can listen to the audio and read the book simultaneously. It’ll help improve both your listening and reading skills.
Also, while watching movies, TED talks, or YouTube videos, you can follow the subtitles beside listening. It’ll help you improve your spelling and vocabulary as well. Most importantly, it will help you catch the pronunciation of the words.
Write What You Listen
Listening to something and writing whatever you hear can be an excellent way to make your English listening practice more effective. If you can parallelly write while listening, it will help you assess whether you can catch the words.
You may not understand all the words, but taking notes about those words can help you learn them instantly or later. Therefore, it will help you to improve your listening skills and enrich your vocabulary. Also, writing while listening can significantly improve your writing speed.
Listen to Sports Commentary & Other Audio with Speed Variations
Sometimes, as a beginner, it may seem that the speaker is speaking too fast. Thus you may not understand most of the things said, which can be frustrating for a listener. In that case, you can lower the speed of the audio. Then, once you level up, you can catch the same speaker at an average speed.
So, nowadays, many audio players will allow you to select your recommended speed to play any audio file. Even you can get that option online on many live-streaming apps.
You can also listen to sports commentary and try to find out how they describe what’s going on in the match. In many cases, you may find so many words unfamiliar to you. However, you can try to find out the contextual meaning of the unknown words and expressions with the help of the video’s visual clues and the commentator’s tone.
Moreover, you can apply the speed variation strategy if you listen to any recorded sports commentary.
Record Any Topic of Your Interest & Listen to Yourself
Listening to yourself can also help you improve your basic listening skill. But, unfortunately, you will hardly find someone who has ever considered listening a skill until they become a language learner or communicator. Thus their general listening skills are not always good. Listening to your own recorded voice can help you to help you improve.
So, what can you record? I always suggest that my students practice with those they are very interested in. For example, suppose you like to know about the history of humankind. Pick a transcript of a video lecture on it, and recite and record it.
Now listen to yourself. You will surely find it interesting. In the beginning, you may find it awkward. However, as time goes on, you will find it very interesting and effective as well. As it’s your own voice, you can connect very well.
For beginners, listening to yourself can help improve your listening, speaking, and pronunciation skills. Listening to yourself can also help you think in English.
Go to Bed Listening to English Songs or Audiobooks
As we cannot immediately sleep as we lie in bed, this can be a perfect time to practice listening. You can either listen to some soft English songs or an audiobook by your favorite author.
You can listen to the same song for a few days and try to sing the song loudly or within yourself. It can help you improve your listening, vocabulary, speaking, and pronunciation. However, if you don’t like to listen to the same song for some days in a row, you can select different songs every day.
Try to get entertained by listening to songs or books. Don’t always be very conscious about practicing English, or you may find practicing listening boring.
Make Practicing English Fun by Choosing Activities Interesting & Effective
Learning a language can be very interesting to many people, whereas it can also be boring to some people. Whether you find it boring or exciting depends on you as you select the strategies to go forward with your English journey. So, I always expect and encourage my students to make learning English as fun & enjoyable as possible.
So, how can you do it?
You can, for example, listen to serious things or silly and trivial comedy shows. I never advice my students to listen to too serious things. Just listen to authentic English, and that will make all the difference. Don’t stress yourself too much. Go slow and win big.
Find your topic of interest and practice listening. You can also play some ESL games (Amazon links), which are really fun and effective in improving your English listening and overall skills.
So, who never heard the saying, “Practice makes a man perfect?” Whatever skills you want to achieve, practice is the only way to master them.
I have discussed some key ways how you can practice listening everywhere. However, if you follow the tips I mentioned above, you’ll be able to practice regardless of time and place. And if you maintain regularity in practice listening, I believe you will see some real changes within a short time.
Thanks for reading.