By Singapore Teaching Centre, British Council

05 December 2022 - 10:00

How to choose the best English listening course

Listening is an often overlooked communication skill. In this blog post, we’ll explore how it can be the key to mastering English, and how to start improving from today.

Why are English listening skills important?

According to research, adults spend around 70 per cent of their time communicating. On average, 45 per cent of that time is occupied by listening – quite significantly more than the 30 per cent spent speaking, 16 per cent reading and nine per cent writing.

Given this, why do we often focus more on speaking skills than listening? It’s simply not possible to be a good communicator without giving listening the attention it needs, but it becomes even more essential when you are learning a second language.

Choosing an English listening course

There are four components to any English course: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each is learnt in different ways, and each of these macro skills is needed to develop fluency. If your goal is to become more at ease with using English in everyday scenarios, a general English course will help you to achieve this by focusing on the fundamentals of listening and speaking, as well as grammar and vocabulary.

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When looking for the best English listening course, it’s also useful to consider some of the more practical factors. How much time can you commit to studying? How far are you willing to travel? Convenience can make all the difference to your learning experience.

Learn more on General English courses

Three strategies to improve your listening comprehension

Listening for gist

When listening for gist, you are looking for general meaning, rather than specific details. Even if you can’t understand every phrase or sentence, this strategy will help you piece together a message from the content words (nouns, adjectives and verbs) you hear. 

Inferring meaning

If you are struggling to understand the words that are being said, look to other clues. What inferences can you make from your prior knowledge of the situation and the person speaking? By using contextual information, you can begin to decipher meaning.

Practise as much as possible

Listening is an active skill and the more you practise, the better you will get. The good news is that there are several easy ways to make English listening comprehension a part of your day-to-day life. Line up podcasts and short TV programmes (ideally with subtitles) on topics that genuinely interest you, and challenge yourself to speak in English as often as you can. 

Learn more on General English courses

About our General English course

Our General English course is designed by experts to build your confidence and fluency in spoken English for everyday life. As a student, you’ll receive one-to-one advice and support on using English in the real world from our team of highly experienced teachers, with regular individual feedback specific to your needs. In addition to your lessons, which can be delivered part-time, or one-to-one and in small groups at flexible times and locations, you’ll also enjoy free MyClub membership. MyClub is the British Council’s weekly program of social activities, workshops and events for all students, giving you the opportunity to make new friends from around the world.

Visit our course page for more on how General English could be the best English listening course for you.

If you would like to learn more, explore our range of full-day professional communication skills workshops.