Learning a second language can be difficult, especially when it comes to listening and understanding it in everyday conversation. Native speakers will often speak quickly, have strong accents, or use casual terms and grammar, making it harder for those just getting used to the language to follow what they are saying.
Since most adults spend around 45% of their time listening, the ability to hear and understand is a key factor in learning a new language, particularly one as complex as English. Here are a few ways to help ESL students improve their listening skills.
Listening is an important way of learning new information, and helps us complete everyday tasks. It allows us to hold conversations, build relationships, and gives us context for the things we learn. Active listening means that you have a purpose in mind when you listen.
For example, we listen to the radio to know what the weather or traffic will be like. We listen to a conversation at work in order to prepare for our day. News reports update us on current events. By listening actively, we have a personal interest in what we are listening to.
Active listening can help you engage with the English language on a deeper level
In order to engage with the English language and increase your level of immersion, try actively listening to something you find interesting. This can be anything from podcasts to audiobooks, or news segments to radio shows, but you must have a purpose in mind when you listen to them, or else you will not get the full benefit of the experience.
It is also important to use a lot of different materials and sources to improve your listening skills, not just what you study in your Cambridge English courses. They say that ‘variety is the spice of life’ and the more variety you have, the more enriching experience you will have when you try to improve your English listening in lots of different ways.
By using many different sources, students learn to listen in different ways
A good start is to try to start conversations with plenty of different people in order to hear the language spoken in different voices. With today’s technology, there are also many resources and tools students can use when trying to improve their ability to understand English.
When focusing on listening, try to use what is known as real audio i.e. not what you hear in the course book. This is a more realistic form of the language you want to learn. For instance, very few people talk the same way in real life as they do in movies or television. In order to get a realistic version of the conversations you might encounter in your life, look for sources of real audio such as TV commercials, weather reports, or talk shows.
When we are actively listening, we follow certain stages throughout the process, including receiving information, interpreting it, and responding to it. The more information we can understand, the better we can respond to it.
It is important for students enrolled in a Cambridge English Program to keep this in mind. In the end, if you do not do the work required to learn a second language, you will not see the results you want. It can be a challenge, but you will find that the more you practise and the more effort you put into improving your listening skills, the less difficulty you will have in ultimately becoming fluent in English.
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