How to improve your English listening

Speaking a language involves understanding it. It’s one thing to have a perfect understanding of grammar, and another to understand your interlocuteur. 

We have all felt anxiety when speaking to a native speaker, the scenario is easily describable. An English speaker poses you a question and you don’t understand it. You start to sweat, you politely ask if they can repeat the question,  you go red and in the stress of the moment, your response becomes incomprehensible.

It has probably not escaped you: English is not pronounced as it is written. Its phonetics are a real puzzle,  who knew knight is pronounced ‘nite’ and not ‘k-ni-gahtah?’ To make matters worse, English is primarily taught through written materials, such as books, resulting in an unbalanced learning, which does not favourise understanding of the spoken word. This makes listening practise all the more essential, to familiarise yourself with pronunciation. 

So how exactly to improve one’s listening and where to find the revelevent resources? 

1: Podcasts

Podcasts are valuable resources, updated as often as every day, they provide you with a never ending supply of listening material. They are also easily accessible as you save them on any device and listen to them whenever you want. As there are also podcasts on every theme, you are guaranteed to find a podcast to match your interests, which makes learning English all the more fun! If you are interested in news, for example,  check out the daily New York Times podcast! You can select your podcast depending on the type of language you want to learn, whether it be casual, or formal!

2: Songs

Songs are another fun  way to immerse yourself in English: songs. Songs are really a gold mind as they present the advantage of 

  • being catchy, (thus the words are easy to remember)
  • training your ear to understanding fast spoken English
  • Introducing you to lots of slang

3: The Radio

Radio is another great way to improve your listening, however, there are two caveats

  • The English used is usually quite formal, so you may not be exposed to everyday spoken English
  • Its live nature means that you cannot pause and rewind to rehear a word. For this reason, radio is only recommended for advanced learners.

4: Movies and Series

There is an endless supply of English speaking movies and series, and not only will they improve your listening, but will also give you a glimpse into Anglo Saxon culture! Once again, there is something for every taste and every level, and their addictive nature encourages you to continue learning and transforms learning English from an arduous task to an enjoyable one 

If you do not want to pay for any TV subscription, you can always use YouTube!

If you find the English difficult to understand, you can at first use subtitles but you should quickly wean yourself off them, as in real life, there is no subtitle option!

Now you have the resources to improve your listening, we advise you to practise regularly, at least weekly! You actually kill two birds with one stone as your accent will simultaneously improve as you understand and learn how words are pronounces. You will make fewer pronunciation errors, without even realising it, after having heard certain words several hundred times.


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