Before we jump in, answer this.
What do you think is the most commonly used skill when it comes to communication?
If your answer is speaking, think again. Listening is a part of what you call a receptive skill and is one of the most used skills among the four skills. Listening impacts not just how you communicate, but can also have a positive impact on your learning process when done right.
Let’s pause learning English for a second. Imagine how you learned your first language.
You listened. You might be well-versed in your native tongue right now, but think about how you got there. You had a silence period, where you actively listened to people talk, and picked up words, grammar, intonations, and more before you could start talking. The same is the case with English. You need to start actively listening to master speaking.
When you learn a language, there is no doubt that you need to pay attention to all four skills, ie, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Learners tend to focus more on speaking and neglect listening since they are more focused on perfecting their speaking skills as the end goal might be to speak English fluently for the majority of learners. Listening, however, can benefit you more than you think.
- Takes less effort
By this, we do not mean listening skill is easy to acquire or that they should be taken lightly. Listening only requires you to pay attention. Reading might be difficult when you are at the beginning of your language-learning process. Speaking might require you to gain confidence, have basic knowledge, and a person to correct your language before you speak. Listening calls only for your attention and is easy to practice on your own.
- Your vocabulary will improve
When you listen, you will understand new and complicated vocabulary. For example, if you have ever been confused about why ‘minute’ is sometimes pronounced as mine-ute and other times ‘min-it’, listening to the word in different contexts might help you understand the difference.
- Grammar becomes easier
Instead of rote-learning grammar, listening to others speak can give you a better idea of how to use tenses, conjunctions, etc.
So, let’s get to the actual question here.
What should you listen to if you are new to learning English?
It goes without saying that you need to surround yourself with English speakers from whom you will be able to pick up vocabulary, intonations, and much more that is required to become a fluent speaker.
- Movies and TV shows
Movies and TV shows are entertaining ways for you to exercise your listening skills. They can help you exercise your long-format listening skills and also lets you understand the language through context. Ask yourself if you are watching this to improve your grammar, and your vocabulary, and listen actively with purpose. Revisit things that you do not understand, and try to understand new words and phrases.
Audiobooks can be a fun way to use your listening skills. Instead of reading your favourite book, try listening to them.
Yes, YouTube does come with visuals. However, these visuals might be helpful to you when are listening to something new as they can get you some contextual meaning. TedEd’s visuals with their audio are one such example. With the variety of content on YouTube, you can easily find what works for you and enjoy your learning process.
Podcasts also have a variety of content on them, and you can choose what works best for you. There are also podcasts dedicated to English learners that you can utilize. Another benefit of podcasts is that apps like Spotify let you listen to your show at normal, slow, or high speeds. You can reduce the speed of the podcast to understand the context better and of course, re-listen to it when you do not understand something.
Now, how do you actively listen?
- Use materials that will actually interest you
You do not want to find yourself sleeping halfway through a movie or a podcast trying to exercise your listening skills. Therefore, choose materials that you find engaging. Make a list of topics that interest you, and try to find podcasts, audiobooks, or movies that you are ready to revisit and learn from.
- Make notes
Be it meetings, or if you are trying to listen to a podcast, or watching a movie, note-taking can come in handy to know what you do not understand in the material. Try to make an outline of the material you are listening to. This will also help you in realizing how well you can understand English through the context.
- Have a goal
Instead of listening for the sake of it, try to have achievable goals that you can achieve towards the end of your session. Your goals can look anything like learning five new words, learning tenses, and more.
- Make it a habit
You cannot listen to a podcast and expect to understand it the same day. Patience and effort is the key when it comes to mastering your listening skills.
- Pair it up with a reading for brownie points
Listening and reading skills are what we call receptive skills, and are key when it comes to learning English. Reading and listening lets you pick up new vocabulary, understand grammar, and will make English easy to understand.
So how can you do this?
Listen to an audiobook and try to read the text version of the same. If you are watching a movie, try watching it with subtitles and exercise both your receptive skills.
- Our final tip
Have fun with your listening process and remember these points the next time you are trying to work on your listening skills.
While reading, writing, and speaking skills are mandatory to learn English, Talkeo believes that by refining your listening skills you can improve your overall language. We help you improve your listening skills by encouraging you to listen to voice notes via WhatsApp, and through calling activities. This upgrades your vocabulary, speaking, and pronunciation. Get your first-hand experience at Talkeo.