This activity is also one which makes my learners react in different ways. Some don’t mind listening exercises, whereas others hate them, because they say it’s hard to follow a conversation at normal speed.
When I’m learning languages, I much prefer listening tasks to speaking tasks. But, even if you prefer to speak, you have to be a good listener too, or else how are you going to have a good conversation?
I think that one of the reasons why people struggle with listening is that they never do any purely listening activities. They watch things that give them plenty of visual clues, or they put on subtitles. However, if you need to have telephone conversations, for example, you don’t have any of this visual information, and real life conversations aren’t subtitled! So it really is a good idea to build at least some audio activities into your learning programme.
The other problem is that people choose the wrong things to start with. For example, you may love comedy, but English comedy may have a lot of references to things that you aren’t familiar with because of the culture, or plays on words, which may make it a bad choice for listening practice.
When I was learning Turkish, I found some radio documentaries about different countries of the world. The speech was slower than in a film and the presenters spoke clearly. I found this much easier to follow and understand than some of the tv series that people had recommended for listening practise, and because I understood more, I enjoyed it more.
Also, the news can be good – particularly if you find a short news broadcast. You may already be aware of some of the topics, and there don’t tend to be a lot of unnecessary, filler words in the news, so it’s sometimes easier to follow.
Everyone has different interests, but don’t forget that there are podcasts, Youtube videos and documentaries on most subjects, so don’t immediately go for the fast-paced action thriller that will have fast-paced dialogues as well.
Another problem that people have is that they are so busy working out what they are going to say next, they don’t really listen to their conversation partner. This is a problem because firstly the other person is likely to notice, and secondly, what another person says is just as important if you want to have a good conversation, ask relevant follow-up questions and learn something from what they are telling you – including new vocabulary. Try to think about this next time you are having a conversation in English.
Audio books and your chance to get a free book
On the subject of listening, audio books are a good way to improve your listening skills. I’ve spent hours listening to German audio books, and, as well as being something that I enjoyed, it has really helped with my vocabulary. You can listen in bed, on the train, in the gym, in the kitchen – and you can fit it in when you’re doing other things.
If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).
Link for the UK
Link for Germany
1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.
These are affiliate links, but I only promote things on my website or in my newsletters that I use and enjoy. I am an Audible member and I am very happy with the service.
Sometimes the hardest thing is to find something good to listen to. So your task is to identify one or two things today and bookmark/subscribe to them so that the information is already there when you need it.
If you would like to, let me know what you have decided to listen to and if you decide to get a free audio book, which one you chose.
Also, if you’re stuck for ideas, ask your English-speaking friends what they like to listen to.
If you’re interested in podcasts, don’t forget that there is an English with Kirsty podcast, as well as a wide range of podcasts on any subject you can imagine. Check iTunes or your favourite podcast app for inspiration!
More from English with Kirsty
After 3rd February 2016, the whole challenge will be available as a PDF. Sign up here for your copy: