I have been learning English for years. I can read English articles
quickly, even if they are very long. But I still have problems with
listening because I cannot grasp the topics. Can you give me suggestion
how to improve my listening skill?
have had a number of questions on how to best develop listening
skills. These come from a wide variety of web page readers, from
students who are pursuing their studies through English-medium courses
to doctors from abroad who are practising in England and find difficulty
in understanding what their patients say to them. At the end of
this answer, after the theory, we have some listening
most, if not all of you, the main problem is that the English that
you listen to has to be processed in real time. There is no time
to pause or think. You cannot 're-process' listening material, as
you can with a written text that you are reading. So, if you miss
important information as the dialogue or discourse proceeds, there
is the danger, if not likelihood, that you may 'lose the thread'
of what the dialogue or discourse is about.
course, if you, as the learner, are taking part in a conversation
with an English-speaking person where the listening and speaking
roles and responsibilities are shared, there are techniques available
to you for holding the dialogue up or slowing it down.
this example, a visitor from Romania, Gabriela Granescu, has phoned
her English friend, Penny Adams, to ask her how to her home in the
West Country from Gatwick Airport:
Penny: You need to get the rail coach link...
Gabriela: Excuse me?
Penny: There's a coach link from Gatwick to Reading.
Gabriela: What is coach link?
Penny: A coach is a type of bus.
Gabriela: A coach is a type of bus?
Gabriela is dealing with the problem of topic clarification by using
such stock responses as 'I don't understand' or 'Excuse me', or
by echoing part of the preceding utterance as an indication that
she is in difficulty. These explicit signals are crucial in open-ended
conversations such as these, as they will always elicit a repetition
or reformulation and so give the listener both time and opportunity
to make a relevant response.
course it may become a little irritating to the person you are speaking
to if you do this all the time. And it is clear that not all listening
situations are ones where you are taking part in dialogue and need
to exercise speaking skills simultaneously with listening skills.
is therefore advisable to look at ways of improving your listening
skill so that you can process any variety of spoken discourse more
authentic listening material
approach that I suggest you explore from intermediate level onwards
is to collect as much authentic listening material as you can find
and, of course, focus on topics that you are interested in or have
some knowledge of. (No listening, after all, is done in a vacuum.)
Source materials might be anything from favourite films with a soundtrack
in English available on video to radio or TV programmes of interest
that you can make a recording of. It is important that the material
should be not more than a little above your current level of understanding.
advantage of having a recording of at least some of the material
is that it offers the possibility of playing the tape a second (or
even third or fourth) time and thus having another chance to process
the information once more. It is important, of course, not to overdo
this, otherwise the objective of the exercise - attentive listening
and processing the information as efficiently as possible - will
is important that most of the listening material that you work with:
should be at, or only slightly above, your level of language difficulty;
should be well contextualised so that it enables you to make predictions
about the likely development of the topic.
If you can ensure this, listening will become so much easier. In
this exercise, the contextualisation provided should help you to
understand what the listening text is about.
listen to these conversations. You will hear different people talking
about a variety of different things. As you listen, see if you can
work out which is the correct answer from the list given. Only one
answer is correct.
In this first example, the interviewer is visiting a dairy farm
in Worcestershire. She is talking to Andy Morris, the farmer, about
milk production. But something else is happening. What is it?
the sticks represent swords and the bells represent tools.
b) that the sticks represent either swords or tools - opinion is
c) that the sticks represent implements that might be used in planting
d) that the sticks represent implements that might be used in preparing
is a strategy used in football to ensure that both teams have equal
b) used to be permitted in football, but is now no longer allowed.
c) is a term used to describe any situation where new rules are
introduced before the task is completed.
the course of the farming interview, a calf is being born. The discussion
goes like this:
We're actually just standing outside one of the sheds where one
of your cows is calving. Farmer: As usual, yes, they know when to do it. They always
interrupt you. Interviewer: Does that mean that in any minute you're just
going to have to rush off and help? Farmer: Well, no, no. She's done it before, so she should
be all right. And it's coming out the right way, so…
the folk-dancing discussion, the sticks are thought to represent
implements that might be used in planting seeds. Stan Jones,
the folk dancer, confirms:
stronger body of contention is that they are in actual fact implements
- tools. Some of these dances relate to fertility, to planting seeds,
to planting corn, to planting beans. So, if you can imagine the
stick movement being associated with dibbing in beans, then you've
got the fertility dance.
the football discussion, 'shifting the goalposts' is confirmed as
a term used to describe any situation where new rules are introduced
before the task is completed. 'Shifting the goalposts' was never
actually permitted in football. John Ballard comments:
...Another one I think we could particularly concentrate on 'widening
or shifting the goalposts' which really is about changing the rules
as the situation develops… I supect that's what happened in the
very early development of the game [of football] actually, when
they didn't have fixed widths. I'm sure there was some cheating
that went on.