Tips for Improving Listening


We live in a noisy world. Perhaps we hear too much, so we try to ignore a lot of the sounds around us.

When learning a language, however, we need to listen effectively.

So how are your listening skills?


Listening is a real challenge for language learners.


Students with good grammar, reading and writing are often shocked and disappointed that they don’t catch the words and sentences in conversation, announcements, films or listening tests.

If you are one of them, here are some tips to help you.

In English, as in some other languages, it can be difficult to recognise where one word ends and the next word begins.

For example, an orange might sound like a *norange and you wonder “What’s a ‘norange’ . I don’t know that word.

One way to overcome this challenge is to practise understanding chunks of language rather than individual words.

It is helpful to memorise and pronounce everyday phrases such as ‘How was your weekend?’ , ‘What are you having for lunch? ’ and ‘How did you go in the test?’.

Say them quickly and slowly, and this will help you recognise them when you hear them.

Another important aspect of listening involves understanding that some parts of a word ( syllables) are stressed more than others, and the weak syllables all tend to sound the same.

In comparison, for example, the -a- is strong and clear, but the other vowels almost disappear.

For this reason, you might feel that native speakers talk too fast.

Being aware that spoken English is very different to the way the words look on paper can help you manage this feeling.

Try pronouncing such words like native speakers and listen carefully to the way they are different to the spelling.

This will help you recognise them in speech.

Above all, really listen to what you hear and don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Could you repeat that, please?’ rather than guessing.

As you progress, you will soon be pleasantly surprised that what was once a meaningless string of sounds has become a meaningful sentence!

I hope you find these tips helpful.


Gregory Byrnes (Assistant Director of Studies, Langports Sydney)


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