Listening Strategies

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Want to know how to improve your listening skills in a foreign language?

Let me teach you how to improve your listening…

When it comes to listening, most language learners complain about one of two problems: (1) words run together and they can’t make out any of the vocabulary, or (2) they can’t keep up with the speed, translating one sentence but then missing the following sentence. Simply doing more listening isn’t going to help. Strategic listening is.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Find your Goldilocks spot. Pay attention to what you can understand without too much struggle (this is too easy) and what you cannot understand without struggling a bunch – looking up every other word – (this is too hard). Focus on listening to language that’s in between (this is just right). You won’t know every word, but you can still understand most of what’s being said and get the overall meaning of what’s happening. Find a television program (perhaps it’s a children’s station or a soap opera) or radio show (maybe it’s a cooking show or a call-in show) that is at this level for you. Listen to language at your Goldilocks level.

Having trouble keeping up with the speed? Check out the post on how to adjust audio speed.


2. Make a goal.
When you listen to your language, make a goal to listen for something specific – some element of the language. For example, this can be just listening for all the numbers, or maybe the proper nouns, or pronouns, or past tense verbs, or feminine adjectives (you get the idea). Try to listen for just one element of the language. This does two things. First, it allows you to not have to listen to everything, which is often overwhelming for learners. You get to take a break! Second, it builds yours skills to be able to focus your ears, listening for a single bit of information. You will begin to develop your listening skills and be able to pick out information and put together the pieces.

Interested in more? Check out my blog post 3 Second Language Listening Strategies

For more advanced strategies, please contact me.

I’m a strong believer that the root of many listening problems lies in how you learn your vocabulary. Be sure to check out vocabulary strategies too!


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