This post is focussed on settling doubts about listening skills. There are, of course, various ways of practising listening that need to be done during the preparation of exams or in the learning of English. But there are also some very simple things that listeners can look out for in the process of listening to English dialogue; also see our previous post on listening for exams (HERE).
These key phrases should help listeners on their way to deducing the answers to tricky exam questions:
I couldn´t agree more
You took the words right out of my mouth
You have hit the nail on the head
Tell me about it!
I agree in principal
That´s true up to a point
I agree to a certain extent
I´m not sure about that
We don´t see eye to eye
We are on a different wavelength
We seem to be reading from a different play book
For more key phrases, you should take a look at our post on agreeing and disagreeing (HERE)
As we mentioned earlier, there are different ways of practising listening skills. What students need to understand is that the improvement of listening skills cannot be done overnight. It is a fairly long process and can take months and not days. The important thing is to not lose motivation and to begin immediately. It is really important to use two forms of listening, INTENSIVE and EXTENSIVE listening.
INTENSIVE LISTENING: This is all about analysing the language. It can be very time consuming and often boring. What students need to do is break the text down to understand every word, phrase, sentence, expression and grammar structure, to make sure they fully understand the text.
Ideally, this should be done with audios when you also have the transcript available, if not it can be hard to understand everything. You should try to find interesting texts with lots of useful and commonly used vocabulary, like news articles or blog posts. See www.appf.es, esl-lab or listenaminute for this. The texts should also be quite short (1-3 minutes) or it will take a long time.
EXTENSIVE LISTENING: This technique is all about general listening and getting the general meaning of audios. This in the language learning field is known as listening for gist. If you can understand the main features of a text, there is no need for more. Focus on the what, who, where and when.
You should use various forms of media to do this, such as series, movies (ones you have already seen), songs and podcasts. Preferably about high frequency topics and people with different accents; I would suggest the websites podcastsinEnglish, audioboom or Englishfromacrossthepond.
Students should listen in these ways:
- Listen to English songs with the lyrics
- Watch TV with English subtitles
- Listen to podcasts
- Do example exams
- Speaking with both native speakers and other language learners
The final thing to mention is the need for repetition. In exams you can normally only listen to audios twice, but at home you should get used to listening to things multiple times. It doesn´t matter if you need to listen 5, 6, 7 or even 8 times to a text, it is all good practice.
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*My advice would be to always listen again to an audio after you do an exercise. When you have the answers, you should listen to it again to see where the answers are. Focus on the intonation and the way they emphasise the answers.