Listening Skills - Passive and Active Listening

Marzo 11

Practising listening skills can be one of the most difficult parts of language learning.  Unlike reading, writing and speaking, you are not in control of what you hear. So, how can we practice this essential skill?

Essential Vocabulary

  • pay attention – prestart atención
  • carry out – realizar
  • promise – prometer
  • exchange – (here) intercambiar

Practising listening skills can be one of the most difficult parts of language learning.  Unlike reading, writing and speaking, you are not in control of what you hear. So, how can we practice this essential skill?

Listen to the radio and watch movies?

Sadly, this is one of the worst ways to practise listening by yourself. There is no pressure on you to understand or even follow what is happening: the consequences are minimal. This type of listening is known as passive listening.

So, what should we do?

You have to practise by actively listening. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay attention to what you are hearing, but rather that there are consequences to not understanding the message of what has been said.

Intense Active Listening

The best place to practise listening is (obviously) in the classroom with an English-speaking teacher. Here, you will have to understand commands and instructions in English and carry them out. If you want to practise this type of listening further, there are some other options:

  • Join a conversation class. Here you will get the opportunity to practise speaking and listening. If you are asked a question, you have to answer!
  • Meet some of your classmates for coffee and promise to speak only in English.
  • Find a native speaker to do a conversation exchange with.

 

Easier Active Listening

We also practise an easier form of active listening in class when we do listening activities. So, if you still think that listening to the radio or watching TV in English is a good idea, then

  • What is the plot?
  • Who are the characters?
  • Where is it set?

Also, take notes as you are watching and at the end, write a quick summary of what has happened.

You can find short videos to watch at http://ed.ted.com/ which all have multiple-choice and discussion questions at the end.

However, if you usually listen to podcasts or the radio in English when you are running or travelling to work, taking notes may not be possible. So, another way of making your passive listening more active is by shadowing what you hear. This means that you say the words at the same time as you hear them. This can be very difficult at first, but it gets easier with practise.

Final Note

Speaking and Listening are part of the same process. Therefore, if you want to improve your listening skills, you should also try to improve your pronunciation. Knowing that yellow is pronounced with /j/ at the start and not /dʒ/, or that native speakers say /dʒə/ and not /duː juː/ (do you), will reduce the amount of time your brain takes to process the words when you hear them.

 

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