Part 4: 5-Part Guide to Improving Your English Listening Skills

If you’ve been following this series on improving your listening skills in English, then you have already been practicing with subtitles, keeping a notebook to expand your vocabulary, and have checked out the awesome listening website, YouGlish.

Part Four: Talk Back

Part 4 Improve Your Listening Comprehension Skills

Listening to TV, movies, and videos and studying vocabulary is a great step to improving listening skills, but until you practice listen, understand, and respond to someone speaking the language you’re learning, you’re only doing part of your practice.

You need to add some talk-back time to your listening practice!

One easy, low-pressure way to do this is through an app like Duolingo. In addition to practicing vocabulary, reading, and writing, you can even practice listening and responding to simple statements.

While no app is perfect, Duolingo is a great example of a no stress way to listen and respond to English. As a side benefit, it can also help you improve your pronunciation, which of course is important when you want to have a conversation with someone in English.

Have you tried Duolingo or any other language-learning apps? Which ones? What do you think of them?

Check back next week for the last part of the series!

Go back to Part Three here.

Go on to Part Five here.


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Part 3: 5-Part Guide to Improving Your English Listening Skills

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series on how to improve your listening comprehension!

Check out Part One here, and Part Two here.

Now on to Part Three! Instead of a strategy, this part revolves around a great listening resource.

Part Three: YouGlish

Part 3 Improve Your Listening Comprehension Skills

After my first two strategies, you’ve been using the Subtitle Strategy, and keeping your vocabulary notebook with you at all times.

But maybe you want to hear specific words or phrases and how English speakers say them. That’s where the innovative and helpful website YouGlish comes in!

Screenshot 2018-06-06 at 2.00.37 PM

All you do is enter the word or phrase you want to hear in the search box, choose what type of English speaker you want to listen to (American, British, or Australian) and click “Say it!”. YouGlish then finds a long list of YouTube videos that have that word or phrase in it, and cues up each video to the exact spot where the speaker says it. Brilliant!

Many of the videos are talks or speeches, so you can listen to the speaker saying the phrase in “real” conversation, and there are dozens upon dozens of videos that you can listen to for any phrase you want. Best of all, all the videos have subtitles so that you can see exactly when your search phrase is mentioned.

Try out YouGlish. What do you think?

Check back next week for part four!

Go back to Part Two here.

Go on to Part Four here.


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Part 2: 5-Part Guide to Improving Your English Listening Skills

If you read my last blog post, then you already know why listening skills in another language can be difficult and frustrating to improve.

But luckily for language learners everywhere, there are some easy tips you can follow in order to improve your listening comprehension. Read on for part two of my five-part series on how to improve your listening comprehension skills in English.

Have you tried any techniques to improve your listening skills? Or do you have a question? Leave a comment!

 

Part Two: The Notebook Necessity

You might wonder what a notebook has to do with listening. In one word: vocabulary.

Yes, you need to train your ear to understand hearing the target language, but you also need to learn as much vocabulary as possible. When studying another language, you’ll run into (run into = encounter) all types of vocabulary – formal language in textbooks, slang and cultural references in conversation and on TV, and informal language from many sources.

Keeping a small notebook of new words or phrases, as well as what they mean in your native language, can be helpful for studying – and studying these new words in your notebook is a great alternative to mindlessly scrolling through your phone during your “down time” (down time = time when you don’t have anything to do).

Write down new vocabulary words while you are reading, while watching a TV or movie (you’re using The Subtitle Strategy, right?!), or – even though it’s a bit more difficult – during or just after a conversation.

Not a paper-and-pen person? Keep notes in your phone in stead.

If you want to take your vocabulary studying up to the next level, create vocabulary cards (English on one side, the translation into your language on the other) from paper, notecards, or with a website like Quizlet or Cram.

How do you learn new vocabulary?

Check back next week for part three!

Go back to Part One here.

Read Part Three here.


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Part 1: 5-Part Guide to Improving Your English Listening Skills

Listening to speakers in another language can be challenging at first. Often, the pronunciation is different than you expect, due to differences from your native language, the dialect of the speaker, or the situation.

For example, if “r” in your language is pronounced like an English speaker’s “h”, every time you hear or pronounce an “r” in English…it will sound wrong!

Or maybe you’re unfamiliar with the speaker’s dialect or accent. A native English speaker can be from London, Sydney, Toronto, or New Orleans – and speakers from those areas pronounce words very differently. Maybe everything you’ve studied uses British speakers, which explains why when you watch a TV show with a character from the southern U.S., you might be quite confused.

In addition to that, the situation can affect how someone speaks. When I’m teaching a class or making a presentation at work, I speak slowly, clearly, and formally. But when I’m out having a cocktail with my friends, I speak very informally and more quickly.

All of this means that listening can be quite difficult! Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help you improve your listening comprehension skills.

Part One: The Subtitle Strategy

One of the simplest and least stressful ways to practice listening comprehension is to watch TV shows, movies, or videos – but in a structured way.

a) If you have the option to watch with the audio recorded over in your native language, don’t do it. This won’t help you at all!

b) Watch with the audio in English, and subtitles in your native language. You may only need to do this step once, but feel free to repeat it so that you really remember what’s happening in each scene.

c) Watch with the audio in English, and subtitles also in English. This is a step you’ll want to repeat as many times as you need to in order to feel like you recognize and understand the connection between what you’re hearing and the words on the screen.

d) Finally when you’re ready, watch with the audio in English…and no subtitles! If you still find it too difficult, start the steps over again and hang out in step c as long as you need to.

Even after all these steps, you might not understand every single word, despite watching multiple times. This is because there might be cultural references or idioms that aren’t easily translated, but for general listening comprehension improvement, that doesn’t matter. Focus on the “big picture” of what’s happening in each scene.

The subtitle strategy alone won’t give you perfect listening comprehension skills. (You’ll need more “improvised” listening and speaking practice, which we’ll get to in later steps.) Still, this method can really improve your vocabulary and even a bit of your grammar knowledge, in addition to basic listening skills.

Keep going! Read Part Two here!


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Friday in a Flash: “Not my cup of tea”

Time for a quick idiom lesson!

“It’s not my cup of tea.”

For example:

A: Do you like watching baseball? A bunch of us are going to a bar to watch the Yankees game this weekend if you want to come.

B: Hmmm. Baseball really isn’t my cup of tea…but it’s better than staying home. Sure!

—————————————

After reading the conversation above, what do you think “not my cup of tea” means? Keep in mind, this idiom started in British English (although it is very common in American English) and Brits love their tea!

So if you guessed that “it isn’t my cup of tea” means something you do not like or are not interested in, then you are correct!

Now, try and use it in a sentence of your own! Post it in the comments or send it to me at amanda@teacheramanda.com.


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