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Strategies to Improve English Listening Skills

As a new English speaker, your language skills are progressing well --grammar is now familiar, your readingcomprehension is no problem, and you are communicating quitefluently -- but listening is still posing a problem.

First of all, remember that you are not alone. Listening comprehension isprobably the most difficult task for almost all learners of English as aforeign language. The most important thing is to listen, and that means asoften as possible. The next step is to find listening resources. This is wherethe Internet really comes in handy as a tool for English students. Afew suggestions for interesting listening selections are CBC Podcasts,  AllThings Considered (on NPR), and the BBC.

Listening Strategies

Once youhave begun to listen on a regular basis, you might still be frustrated byyour limited understanding. Here are a few courses of action you can take:

·        Accept the fact that you are not goingto understand everything.

·        Stay relaxed when you do not understand-- even if you continue to have trouble understanding for a while.

·        Do not translate into your nativelanguage.

·        Listen for the gist (or general idea)of the conversation. Don't concentrate on detail until you have understoodthe main idea(s).

First,translating creates a barrier between the listener and the speaker.

Second,most people repeat themselves constantly. By remaining calm, you can usuallyunderstand what the speaker had said.

Translating Creates a Barrier Between Yourself and the Person Who Is Speaking

While youare listening to another person speaking a foreign language (English in thiscase), the temptation is to immediately translate into your native language.This temptation becomes much stronger when you hear a word you don'tunderstand.

This is only natural as we want to understand everything that issaid. However, when you translate into your native language, you aretaking the focus of your attention away from the speaker andconcentrating on the translation process taking place in your brain. This wouldbe fine if you could put the speaker on hold. In real life, however, the personcontinues talking while you translate. This situation obviously leads to less-- not more -- understanding. Translation leads to a mind block in your brain,which sometimes doesn't allow you to understand anything at all.

Most People Repeat Themselves

Think for a moment about your friends, family, and colleagues. When they speak in yournative tongue, do they repeat themselves? If they are like most people, theyprobably do. That means that whenever you listen to someone speaking, it isvery likely that they will repeat the information, giving you a second, thirdor even fourth chance to understand what has been said.

Byremaining calm, allowing yourself to not understand, and nottranslating while listening, your brain is free to concentrate on the mostimportant thing: understanding English in English.

Probably the greatest advantage of using the Internet to improve your listening skillsis that you can choose what you would like to listen to and how many and timesyou would like to listen to it. By listening to something you enjoy, you arealso likely to know a lot more of the vocabulary required.

Use Key Words

Usekeywords or key phrases to help you understand the general ideas. If youunderstand "New York", "business trip", "lastyear" you can assume that the person is speaking about a business trip toNew York last year. This may seem obvious to you, but remember thatunderstanding the main idea will help you to understand the detail as theperson continues to speak.

Listen for Context

Let'simagine that your English speaking friend says "I bought this great tuner atJR's. It was really cheap and now I can finally listen to National Public Radiobroadcasts." You don't understand what a tuner is, andif you focus on the word tuner you might become frustrated.However, if you think in context, you probably will begin to understand. Forexample; bought is the past of buy, listen is no problem and radio is obvious.Now you understand: He bought something -- the tuner -- tolisten to the radio. A tuner must be a kind of radio. Thisis a simple example but it demonstrates what you need to focus on: Not the wordthat you don't understand, but the words you do understand.

Listeningoften is the most important way to improve your listening skills. Enjoy thelistening possibilities offered by the Internet and remember to relax.