Listening Tips & Tricks

01. Listen to the radio news or watch a television news programme at the same time every day. How many stories are there? Note down what each story is about (think: when, where, who, what).

02. If you can, record the programme and listen to/watch it again to check details from the first time. You are not do this in “real life” but it is very useful practice and it means you find out what you got right the first time and this will boost your confidence.

03. Alternatively, record a news programme without listening to/watching it. Then play only the headlines. Stop the tape and predict what the stories will be about. Then listen to check your predictions. Use one of the stories as a dictation text. Listen several times and write down what you hear.

04. Don’t force yourself to listen for too long. Set yourself realistic goals. For example, when listening to the weather forecast, just listen for the temperature and weather conditions for your city/area for the next day. Don’t worry about information which won’t affect you.

05. If there are similar programmes in your language and in English, compare them. Is the content exactly the same? Are the opinions given similar? What are the differences?

06. Native listeners don’t often listen to or understand 100% of what they hear. Non-native listeners shouldn’t try to either. Work on strategies to find out what people are talking about – listen for clues about topic, the speakers’ opinions/feelings and the type of relationship they have (eg boss and employee, colleagues, wife and husband). Practise on the bus by eavesdropping on (secretly listening to) other people’s conversations. Or, try to work out what a tv/radio programme is about when you’ve missed the beginning.

07. Use free automatic phone helplines to practise listening (often used by banks, tourist and travel information centers, embassies and government departments). Set yourself a task (eg opening times, the cost of a particular item) and use the computerised helpline to find the information. Don’t forget that discovering the service can’t answer your question is a positive result, not a failure of your language skills. If you are studying with other people, you could use phone helplines to make a quize for them and they could write questions for you too.

08. If you are watching an English-language film with subtitles in your language, listen to check if the subtitles are accurate. Are they a direct translation or just a summary of what is said? If you hear a bilingual announcement, is the grammar exactly the same? Notice the differences and the similarities.

09. Watch a television soap opera every day so you get to know the story and characters. Knowing the background and context makes listening easier.

10. Enjoy listening! Use an English-language workout video and “kill two birds with one stones”. Listen to songs in English and learn your favourite lyrics.

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