If you have been studying English for a while, but when you are in a group of native speakers, you struggle to understand what they are saying, you are not alone.
Listening is one of the hardest skills to master – especially in the UK, where there are so many accents and a lot of local slang, it can be difficult to keep up.
Background noise or lack of visual cues when, for example, you use the telephone can make things especially difficult. Don’t worry, there are easy ways you can start to improve right away, and you don’t need to spend hours practicing. These methods can become part of your daily routine and you will see a difference really quickly.
Podcasts are an amazing way to improve your listening skills. They are free and you can literally find any topic that you may be interested in. The best part is you don’t need to allocate time out of your day to listen to them, you can listen while on the train, having a walk or doing chores. There is so much well produced, interesting content out there that there’s no way you can get bored or feel like you are studying.
Seems like an obvious one, but if you really want to improve listening, challenge yourself by watching without any subtitles at all. If that is too difficult, put on the English subtitles – but never ever use subtitles in your language – the key is immersion and even if you only catch 50% of what is said, you will train your ears and hopefully pick up new vocabulary along the way.
Try learning the lyrics to some of your favourite songs – this is a fun way to practice listening and even though it is not the same as listening to conversation, it can help a lot with recognising words and getting used to sounds in English.
Listen in to conversations
I find the tube a great place to do this – provided you can hear anything over the noise of the train. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through your phone, listen to people around you. Often, it’s quite interesting and a great way to hear a variety of accents. You can do it anytime you are out and about too, in a café, walking around a museum. There are always announcements to hear and people chatting loudly.
Record some of your class
As long as your teacher and classmates agree, recording some of your English class and listening back later can be a great way to revise the lesson and also have more listening practice. It can also help with your homework and if you couldn’t understand everything the teacher said, you can listen back and make a list of questions to ask next lesson. This takes a bit more time out of your day than the other methods but if you want to focus on listening it can be a great way to improve during your study time.