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Improving Listening Comprehension

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See also: Using music to improve your listening

Many learners struggle with listening and it limits them in using their language in a conversation because while you can get by using only the phrases, grammar and words you have learnt, the natives won't speak the same way. Therefore your listening comprehension should usually be at higher level than your speaking skills.

Common troubles and possible curesEdit

Too much unknown vocabularyEdit

Work on it. Learn the vocabulary from your course, read a lot, use an SRS or word lists and so on.

Be sure to look up the pronunciation when you aren't confident about it, even though extensive listening to native sources can help immenselly in the area.

Wiktionary offers transcriptions for many words (especially the English and German versions of the site). If you don't know IPA, look for recordings - at http://forvo.com/ (where you can ask for a recording too) or wiktionary. Many other online dictionaries have been working on audio as well.

They speak too fast!Edit

They usually speak at a normal speed, it's the learner who needs to catch up. The only cure is practice suitable to your level and getting better and better.

You may benefit from using transcripts, but always keep in mind that they are just a crutch.

Pronunciation troubleEdit

All the skills are connected together. If you don't know how the pronunciation works, it will be hard for you to understand others using it. Return to the introduction of your course, which probably included the pronunciation guide, repeat after audio or do some shadowing to fix this.

Anything elseEdit

Practice

Practicing your listening comprehensionEdit

BeginnerEdit

1.Listen to audio of your course, repeatedly if needed. Assimil is a very good course to build listening comprehension but quite anything else with audio will help.

2.Podcasts. Basically short audio of spoken word on various topics.

3.Audio of a graded reader.

4.Songs! One of the best places for practice in this area is lyricstraining

5. Listening-Reading Method.

From intermediate upEdit

  • Audio for learners:
    • advanced courses
    • GLOSS (a collection of lessons rather than a structured course; the materials are "semi-native" and the content is interesting)
    • exam preparatory textbooks
  • Audiobooks are a good solution if your reading is better than your listening. Be sure to find an unabridged audiobook.
  • Podcasts. From now on, you have a much larger area to choose from.
  • TV shows! A larger chunk of listening practice with some common topics and characters. You can start with subtitles (even those in English or your native language) but be sure to change to the target ones as soon as possible. And then take the leap and turn them off. Don't panic, your listening comprehension should improve a lot in just a few episodes.
  • Sports. The visual context helps immensely, as does your background knowledge. It's very easy to watch sports online in a variety of languages, using the flash player or p2p programs.
  • Movies.

Just as usual: Things you enjoy will work better because you'll have an easier time sticking with them.

Further readingEdit

  • Consider getting the book "Language is music", which was written by Susanna Zaraysky, who's a polyglot and musician. The book focuses on using audio materials, such as music, films, radio etc.
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