Listening in English

     I'll never forget when I first crossed the border from the United States into Mexico.  It didn't take long for my head to start spinning.  The sound of everyone speaking a language I couldn't understand drown out every other noise I heard on the bustling street.  Soon, the noise turned into a clatter so loud that it overwhelmed me it gave me a headache.  "Make it stop!" I screamed inwardly.

     I am sure I'm not the only one that has felt this level of desperation after being completely immersed in a foreign language for the first time.  So how can we dip our toes in the language pool without becoming a passive, and paralyzed listener?  The answer lies in active listening practice.

     Don't get me wrong, there is some value in passively listening to an audiobook, a podcast, or a public speaking event but there are many ways that we can actively listen to English as well.  We can listen to music while we read lyrics and jot down words we don't know or watch tv with the English subtitles on and do the same.  We can buy an audio course that has comprehension exercises or take an online listening course, or the best way to listen actively is to have a good ole' fashioned conversation with a native speaker. 

 

Listening to Music, Audio Books, and Watching Videos in English

There are many benefits to listening to English music, audiobooks, and watching videos in English.  Let's take a look at the benefits of each one below.

     Listening to English music is a fun way to immerse yourself in the language.  It is a great way to get English into your daily routine because it's easily accessible, offers plenty of vocabulary about normal life situations, and you can listen to it both actively and passively.  

     So, the next time you get in your car to head home from work turn to an English radio channel.  Try out some English pop or rock music. They have great beats, rhythms, and melodies to drive to.  Try to sing along even if you don't understand the words.  This way you will be getting both passive and active listening practice.

     When you find some songs that you like, try to remember their names then look up the lyrics to them when you get home.  Sign up for a good streaming music service like Spotify and put your songs into an English playlist.  Now listen to the songs while you read the lyrics.  Circle any words you don't know and look them up.  Now, listen again while keeping the newly acquired definitions in mind.

     The final thing that you can do is head to YouTube and find the Karaoke version of the songs if they are available.  Now it's your turn.  Crank up the tunes and sing along!  Practicing out loud can increase your confidence, improve your pronunciation, and fluency not to mention your mood.

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Indefinite Pronouns Video and Worksheet

Indefinite Pronouns English Video and Worksheet

Computer Technology Video Worksheet CP.j

Computer Technology English Video and Worksheet

     Listening to audiobooks is a passive exercise but an enjoyable and relaxing one.  Just kick back and begin to play a book.  Who isn't taken back to their childhood when they hear a story being read to them out loud?  It can be very productive and useful too.  How do you think we began to understand how our native language is put together?  By listening to our caretakers read to us.  Listening to audiobooks improves comprehension, pronunciation skills, and they are also convenient to use.

     First, the speech in English audiobooks is usually much slower than in real-life conversations.  That makes them a good in-between medium to help you segue into being able to understand native speakers in their typically rapid conversational pace.  Practice listening to a wide variety of material will help improve your listening skills in a way that other mediums cannot.

     Next, listening to audiobooks will help you improve your pronunciation skills.  If you listen to words over and over, you are more likely to remember how to pronounce them correctly.  Unlike television programs or music sources, audiobooks have readers who speak slowly, clearly, and pronounce each word perfectly.  One of the added perks that audiobooks have over other mediums is that they have crystal clear audio without background noises.  This helps the listener to focus on the words and their exact pronunciation, not everything going on around them.

     Last, audiobooks are convenient.  There are tons of e-books that you can purchase and then download from the internet but many of them are free.  You can load them on your cell phone and listen to them anywhere.  Most audiobooks also keep the listener in mind by recording chapters that can be listened to in a short period of time.  Therefore, depending on how much time a user has they can listen to a single chapter or an entire book all in one day. 

     Listening to audiobooks is not only a convenient way to learn English and comprehend it better but the possibilities are endless when it comes to audiobook topics.  You can listen to novels, self-help books, or even poetry.  Whether you peruse the shelves of your nearest bookstore or surf the internet for audiobook websites, you are certain to find something entertaining and educational.

     Watching and listening to English television programs or videos is another great way to improve your listening skills.  It will not only help you with comprehension as a whole but will help you to understand different accents, dialects, slang, and colloquial terms.

     Just like with any other language, English is not spoken the same in every country in the world.  English can even be very different within the different parts of a single country much less the world.  English accents, slang, and colloquial terms also vary from region to region.

     Watching television programs can help you to understand regional differences through their vocabulary and speech patterns.  It is especially useful for grasping the subtle nuances of the language because you are able to watch people in action.  The nonverbal language that videos provide brings a whole new level of listening comprehension not gained through listening to other media.

     Nonverbal language is an especially important factor in English comprehension.  Normal speech is animated and that’s what people enjoy watching.  Listening to English with nonverbal cues not only gives us a superior understanding of how natives feel when they speak but opens the door to deciphering cultural norms and increases our comprehension of the language as a whole.

     Just like with music, passively listening to or watching videos is a good activity to improve your comprehension of English but some guided active listening will help you improve even faster.  

     When you begin to listen to a television program or video actively, choose something short like a sit-com.  If possible, listen with the subtitles in your native language first in order to get the general gist of what the video is about.  Next, listen with the subtitles in English and jot down any words you didn't recognize.  When you finish the video, look up the words and write down their meanings.  After that, watch the video a third time.  Pause it when you come across one of the words you didn't know and practice saying it out loud.  Now, you are ready to watch the video again with no subtitles.  Finally, watch the video a last time with the subtitles in English back on.  Pretend you are an actor and read the parts out loud as you watch the video.  This will help cement the language into your long-term memory. 

City versus Country Video Video and Work

City versus Country English Video and Worksheet

Listening to Other English Audio 

     There are many more avenues at your disposal that will help you to improve your English such as audio courses, tutors, and podcasts.  Let's take a look at their individual benefits below.

     For starters, one of the most effective ways you can improve your English listening skills is by purchasing a listening comprehension program.  These programs provide conversations acted out by native speakers.  Unlike audiobooks, however, these stories come with background noises, music, and other sound effects.  This is done in order to create a listening experience that is as close to real-life as possible.  

     Listening comprehension programs also come with transcripts and exercises.  The transcripts often include notes about the scenario, scenes, and accents.  Some even translate key parts into English for easier understanding.  The exercises can include fill-in-the-blank statements, multiple-choice questions, or True-False activities.

     Another place that has audio exercises is online websites.  There are a variety of sites that offer free audio and some sort of comprehension activities to go with them.  You can find audio websites that offer everything from current news topics, conversational English, and short stories.  Internet audios generally come with a transcript too so you can read for clarity and spelling.

Subject Pronouns Video Worksheet CP.jpg

Subject Pronouns English Video and Worksheet

Health and Personal Hygiene Video Worksh

Health and Personal Hygiene Englis Video and Worksheet

     Private tutors are a fantastic option for increasing your listening abilities.  But where is a good place to find one?  First, you need to decide if you want an in-person or online tutor.  An in-person tutor may be hard to find and could be more expensive than an online one.  With the advances of video chat programs and classroom platforms, in-person tutoring is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  

     Online tutoring is probably your most likely option.  But again, how do you find a good one?  The answer doesn't so much lie in what website you hire one from but the questions you ask the tutor before you decide to hire.  

     One of the first questions you should have answered is how much experience the tutor has.  Try reading the tutor's profile or send him/her a text if this option is available.  You also need to make sure that the tutor is a native speaker from a region that you want to learn from.  For example, if you want to learn English in order to travel to England, don't hire a tutor from the US.  British English and English spoken in the US are very different in many ways.  It is also wise to be certain that the tutor has some cultural experience with the language.  In other words, try to pick a tutor with as much experience teaching online classes as possible, that was born and raised in the English-speaking country that you either want to go to, or speak with the people from.

     Also, be certain that the tutor has an organized learning plan that suits your level, pace, and skills.  Make sure that the tutor will hold you accountable for your learning experience and progress.  

     There are plenty of tutors that won't check off all of these boxes so be careful.  Hiring an inexperienced or underqualified tutor can not only turn into a gigantic waste of time and money but the negative experience can set back your learning experience significantly.

     Finally, let's take a look at podcasts.  Podcasts are another great way to learn English.  With podcasts, you will learn correct pronunciation, be able to learn on the go, and choose your lesson topic.

     Podcasters record their audio with native English speakers so you will learn a lot about pronunciation and other important nuances of the language.  The best podcasts are structured journeys that guide you through the language via topics.  These language journeys are usually divided into levels of expertise and have plenty of every day, as well as not so common, topics available to listen to and learn from.  You can choose from going to the dentist or renting a car, to black holes in outer space and the quantum theory.

     You will also be able to learn anywhere and at any time.  You can learn while you are cleaning the house, walking your dog, or driving to work.  Everyone has enough free time when it comes to having time to listen to a podcast.

Friendship Video and Worksheet CP.jpg

Friendship English Video and Worksheet

Listening to English Conversations and Speeches

     The last avenues for listening to native English that we will go over in this article are public speeches, exchange apps or "Meetup" groups.

     If you live near an English-speaking community one of the best ways to expose yourself to the language is to attend public events.  You can go to a rally, a festival, a reading, a church service, or even a play.  Get a local calendar to track events in your area.  Even if part of the event is not in English you will still be exposed to a crowd of people speaking English.

     You might even get the chance to practice your conversation skills with some of the native speakers.  At the very least, by exposing yourself to events in English you will also be exposed to English culture which is a large part of communicating the language effectively.  Listening at these events will also help you to understand native speakers talking at their normal pace.  This is likely to be a much faster pace than an audiobook or podcast, so brace yourself!

     Just be patient with yourself and don't let panic set in.  Don't expect to understand every word and don't let an unknown word paralyze your ability to stay tuned into the conversation.  

Quantifiers Video and Worksheet CP.jpg

Quantifiers English Video and Worksheet

Imperatives Video and Worksheet CP.jpg

Imperatives English Video and Worksheet

     Language Exchange Apps are a very popular way for language learners to help each other out.  The concept is simple.  Person A is a native speaker of language A but wants to learn language B.  Person B is a native speaker of language B and wants to learn language A.  Put the two of them together and voilà!  One person speaks their non-native language while the native speaker corrects and explains things to them, then they trade places.

     There is no method or syllabus, no structure or pressure either.  It's just two people with a mutual desire to speak to someone with a different native tongue and get help while helping in return.  Language exchanges are especially helpful for developing language proficiency by increasing fluency and comprehension skills of both parties.

     Language exchanges not only enhance listening and speaking skills but they help to improve reading and writing skills as well.  Most apps require that potential language partners communicate via email in order to decide if they want to video chat, which makes typing back and forth necessary.  The typing forces the participants to use all the possible ways of communication available to them, which in turn increases their ability to do so.

     The last option we will discuss is joining a "Meetup" group.  Meetup is a website where people who share similar interests can get to know each other online and then meet up.  It is designed to connect people with something in common like interests and hobbies.

     Meetup is a community of people who come together because they care about the same thing.  Everything from computer coders, to seamstresses, bankers, to stay-at-home moms, you name it, there is a good chance that there is a Meetup group for it.

     If you can't find a meetup group in your area for what you are interested in then you can create one.  Soon, you'll be meeting like-minded souls at real-life gatherings.  You and other members can get together to discuss and practice activities that are related to your shared interests.  

     There is no limit to the number of groups you can create or join as many as you have time for and meet away!  You may, however, want to find a English speaking group that is interested in the same thing that you are or you can join a group of people like yourself who are trying to learn English.  Either way you will begin to practice English in real-time with real people and the best thing about it is that it's free!

Present Simple Tense Verb Be Video and W

Present Simple Tense with Verb Be Video and Worksheet

Conclusion

     The main takeaway that I hope you leave this article with is that there are many useful ways that you can improve your English listening skills.  Whether you listen to audiobooks, podcasts, music, videos, audio courses, public events, or practice with a language exchange partner or hook up with a Meetup group, you can practice when you want to, how you want to, and where you want to.  Your opportunities are endless, so what's stopping you from getting started?

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