Listening Strategies

How can I improve my listening?

  • Think of where you are.

    What do you expect to hear in this context? Answering this question sets up a schema or a framework in your mind that will help your comprehension.
    • You've likely been in this place or in a similar place before. What do people talk about when they are here?
      • If you are in a bank, you expect to hear talk about money, bank account numbers, deposits, withdrawals, and transfers.
      • If your are looking at a listening exercise in a textbook, use the chapter title and pictures to get oriented.
      • If you are listening to a story or watching a movie, think about where the people in the story are.
  • Listen for stressed words.

    • The words that are getting stressed (these are the words that are spoken the loudest, the highest, or the longest) are the most important words. Unstressed words are for grammar or it is information you already know from earlier in the conversation.
  • Listen with a purpose.

    • Just try to get the gist of what is said (the main idea).
    • Listen for a specific detail you need to know.
      • For example, if you are at the airport and you hear an announcement, you only need to listen for information about your flight, not all of the flights.
    • Listen for the words in your lesson's vocabulary list if there is one.
      • Once you've found them, listen again — this time, trying to notice the phrases in which your key words are used. This is called collocation. I like to think of it as 'friends' — these words like to be together. This will help you understand how words are used. Then when you use these phrases, you will sound more like a native speaker.