Q&A: How Can You Train Your Listening Skills?

March 5th, 2018 · 30 mins 21 secs

About this Episode

Elisabeth asks:

“How do you fit hearing comprehension into your daily routine? I find myself daydreaming a lot during my hearing comprehension time.”

What are you training, exactly?

Listening comprehension will aid you in understanding spoken language. For most independent language learners, listening comprehension is what starts bridging the gap between reading a textbook and moving on to confident and independent language use.

For Elisabeth as a French learner in particular, there’s a lot to unpack. French has a lot of silent letters, liaisons, weird silent bits that you cannot know from listening.

The Speak & Spell Connection

It’s important to train the four core skills - all of them: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

About That Daydreaming Problem

Is it really a problem to be daydreaming during your listening sessions? There are different levels of listening.

What you don’t want to do is set yourself up for failure or disappointment, so before you switch that input on it’s worth focusing on whether you are here

  • for pleasure
  • to get the gist
  • to study

If you’re too tired for study, don’t worry about that aspect and set your expectations differently.

Paying lots of attention, extracting 100% of meaning and nuance, listening in detail

  • Podcasts often require attention and demand a lot of attention
  • When you’re listening for study, you will want a transcript!

Listening for the gist, being happy understanding most

  • TV can be a good practice element for this, where there’s a narrative to follow - films too. Decide if you want scripted or spontaneous dialogue.
  • Subtitles are absolutely ok, and there are strategies for weaning yourself off them

Understanding very little, “immersion listening” at an early point

  • I always remember Ron Gullekson’s quote about making himself uncomfortable as early as possible
  • This is great for exposure, but beware - if it’s just a wall of sound, you’re not doing much good. You need to be able to distinguish where a word starts and ends.

Listening for Training — How To Go About It

  1. Know your target language’s pronunciation rules
  2. Determine what your audio is about, make sure you have some structures and vocab ready to go
  3. Listen without reading, just see what you can get, make your notes, stop and start, vary the speeds
  4. Repeat
  5. Enlist the help of a transcript if available - ideally you do want that transcript there but you can also transcribe the text yourself or summarize it to read it back to a tutor
  6. Discuss with a tutor, get them to ask you questions…or if you’ve got no one on hand, read a translation of the text

PAY ATTENTION to what you got wrong. In my experience, it’s easy to overestimate your skills.

Where can you go to find good listening material?

During selection of materials, consider:

  • Level right for you?
  • Language register (formal/informal) right for you?
  • Topic interesting?
  • Affordable and accessible for you?
  • What do you need to understand, what do you want to understand?

Remember: “A polyglot cannot survive on audio alone”. Combining with text, visual and even speaking is very crucial for a balanced approach.

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