What Is Listening?
"Listening" is receiving language through the ears. Listening involves identifying the sounds of speech and processing them into words and sentences. When we listen, we use our ears to receive individual sounds (letters, stress, rhythm and pauses) and we use our brain to convert these into messages that mean something to us.
Listening in any language requires focus and attention. It is a skill that some people need to work at harder than others. People who have difficulty concentrating are typically poor listeners. Listening in a second language requires even greater focus.
Like babies, we learn this skill by listening to people who already know how to speak the language. This may or may not include native speakers. For practice, you can listen to live or recorded voices. The most important thing is to listen to a variety of voices as often as you can.
To become a fluent speaker in English, you need to develop strong listening skills. Listening not only helps you understand what people are saying to you. It also helps you to speak clearly to other people. It helps you learn how to pronounce words properly, how to use intonation, and where to place stress in words and sentences. This makes your speech easier for other people listening to you to understand!
How to Hear English Everywhere
Two simple definitions
But did you ever ask yourself: "How did I learn my own language?" In fact, you never really "learned" it at all - you just started speaking it. One day, when you were about two or three years old, you started speaking your language. A few words at first, not full sentences. But you spoke. And very soon you made progress without even thinking about it. It was like magic!
But it wasn't magic. It was the result of hearing. For two to three years before you spoke, you heard people speaking your language all day, and maybe all night. You heard people speaking your language. Maybe you listened to people, but more importantly you heard. them. Then, as if by magic, you started to speak. All that hearing was necessary for you to start speaking. For two to three years words went IN to your head. Then words came OUT of your head! That is why hearing (and listening to) English as much as possible is so important to you now. The more English you put in, the more you'll get out!
So how can you hear a lot of English when you're not in an English-speaking country or family? Fortunately, there are many ways of hearing English in almost all countries of the world.
RadioYou can receive English language radio in most countries. Two of the best international networks are the BBC World Service and Voice of America. Both of them have special programmes for learners of English. You can find information about times and frequencies for your country on their web sites. Clickhere for links to radio stations.
TelevisionTV is an excellent resource for hearing and listening to English. The pictures help you understand what is being said. If you don't have access to English-language TV, you may be able to watch TV on Internet.
InternetIt is now a lot easier to hear English by Internet. If you're reading this at your computer, you can probably listen to some English-language radio news right now, without even moving! To be able to listen to radio on the Internet, you'll need to have special software called a "player" installed in your computer. Most sites work with two players - the RealPlayer from RealNetworks and the Windows Media Player from Microsoft. Don't worry. Both these players are free and you may already have them installed on your computer.
Music/songsSongs in English are everywhere, even on foreign-language radio and TV stations. Listen to them often. Buy some cassettes or CDs, or make recordings, and try to write the words for an entire song. But choose one that is not too difficult. That means it should be reasonably slow, and with real words sung clearly. Some pop songs are very unclear and are difficult even for native English-speakers to understand fully!
CinemaOutside the English-speaking world, many large cities have cinemas that show films in English, usually with sub-titles. Make it a habit to go to these films. If you need to read the sub-titles, at least you'll be hearing English even if you don't understand it.
VideoVideo has one really great advantage. You can play it again . . . and again. You can use video to watch film cassettes that you buy or borrow. If there are sub-titles, you can cover them with paper (which you can remove if you really don't understand after listening several times). And you can use video to record programmes from television and then watch them several times to improve your understanding.
FriendsTry to make friends with English-speaking people so that you can practise your English through conversation. Of course, this will practise your speaking as well as your listening. And if you don't have a lot of time to go out and meet people, at least you can chat a little by telephone.
Finally, don't worry if you don't understand everything you hear. Hearing comes first! Understanding comes next!