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.
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.
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.
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.