Many of my students ask me for advice on how to improve their listening skills.
If you have been learning English for a while, the chances are that you have started to watch some movies or TV shows in English. Maybe you listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos too. If you use the English subtitles to help you understand and want to improve then you need to develop your listening skills.
One way to do this is to practise active listening techniques. Active listening is when you listen to someone speaking in English and you try to understand as much as possible. The best way to practise this is by using some audio files that you can pause and replay as many times as you like. Ideally, you want the audio to have subtitles or a transcript so that you can check anything that you cannot understand.
You can use YouTube, Netflix, TV shows or movies, but there is a great website that I use with my students called http://www.elllo.org/. This site is brilliant because it has many free “audio lessons” which all include a short conversation between two people in English. These audio clips are usually less than 5 minutes and they come with a transcript and even some questions to check your understanding.
A good exercise is to listen to the audio several times. The first time you should just listen to the whole clip. It’s alright if you don’t understand everything, but try to pick out a few words or phrases and make a mental note of them. Then listen again, and you will probably find that you can recognise a little more than the first time. Repeat this one or two more times. When you feel that you cannot possibly recognise any more words, then you can look at the transcript to help you fill in the missing words. At this point, you should listen again while reading along with the text. You will probably find that there were some more words in the text that you knew, but hadn’t heard clearly. You will also find some brand new words that you might be able to understand from the context. If you can’t understand them, you can look them up in a dictionary and that will help to build your vocabulary.
This routine is great for improving your listening and comprehension as well as building your vocabulary. It also allows you to learn how people speak naturally and this will help you to become more fluent when you speak.
I love the http://www.elllo.org/ site as it makes it easy to practise for a few minutes a day. I believe that if you do a little studying every day then you will always be improving.