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How to improve your listening

Why do we find it difficult to understand spoken English?

There are other factors in this respect:

1- The same letter (vowel and consonant) can be pronounced in different ways
In the table below, we can see that to pronounce one sound we can sometimes use
more than one letter, making the process of listening and spelling a little bit more


pen, copy, happen

soon, cease, sister

back, baby, job

zero, music, roses, buzz

tea, tight, bu6on

ship, sure, na7onal

day, ladder, odd

pleasure, vision

key, clock, school

hot, whole, ahead

get, giggle, ghost

more, hammer, sum

church, match, nature

nice, know, funny, sun

judge, age, soldier

ring, anger, thanks, sung

fat, coee, rough, photo

light, valley, feel

view, heavy, move

right, wrong, sorry, arrange

thing, author, path

yet, use, beauty, few

this, other, smooth

wet, one, when, queen


kit, bid, hymn, minute, business

mouth, now, ground, council

dress, bed, head, many, said,


near, here, weary, cheerful,


trap, bad

square, fair, various, beer

lot, odd, wash, cough, swallow,

because, knowledge

start, father

strut, mud, love, blood, enough

thought, law, north, war

foot, good, put,

poor, jury, cure

eece, sea, machine, believe

nurse, stir, learn, refer

face, day, break, neighbour,


about, common, standard

How to improve your listening


price, high, try, buy

happy, radiate. glorious

choice, boy

thank you, inuence, situa7on

goose, two, blue, group, rou7ne, n


suddenly, co6on

goat, show, no

middle, metal

2- We need to know the word stress

In English, just like in Catalan and Spanish, multi-syllabic words have a stressed
syllable. We say PARty and our voice goes up in the first syllable. We will call this the
stressed syllable.

In our language, we have clear norms to how pronounce stress in words, in English
there are very few norms to this effect. And if we stress the wrong syllable the native
English speaker might not understand us. Here are a few norms to use word stress:

3- There are many connected speech phenomena

This is a common situation in language classrooms:
Classroom teachers often slow their speech to facilitate learner
Listening materials are full of clearly pronounced and well articulated speech.
As a result, language learners often develop their listening and speaking skills based
on these artificial situations.
However, when they meet authentic native speakers, learners are often shocked to
find that they dont speak in the ways that they expect.

The language outside of the classroom seems unfamiliar and fast. Students
are unable to know when the word begins and when it ends limits or to
recognize words or phrases.

How to improve your listening

Connected speech, also commonly referred to as reduced speech involves the
contracted forms, reductions, elisions, and liaisons used by native speakers in their
oral speech.
For example this sentence:
I dont have to go but I kind of want to cause it sounds like fun

might sound something like this:

I dont hafta go but I kinda wanna go cuz it sounds like fun!

Students who do not receive adequate instruction or exposure to authentic discourse

are going to have a very rude awakening when [they try] to understand native speech
in natural communicative situations.
More information about connected speech in:

Strategies to practise your listening

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your listening activities:
Use a video recording (or video) to practice and carry out your listening
strategies. Listen to an extract more than once, using different strategies.
For example, listen to it one time and try to understand the general meaning or
main idea. Try to listen to the key or more important words, and pause to try to
guess what is going to follow. Listen to the recording several times.
After a few times listening to it, focus on pronunciation and pay attention not
only to consonants and vowels but also to the rhythm and intonation of
sentences. Can you guess the emotions of the speaker?
Use a short section of the recording to do a dictation. If you find it difficult,
repeat the exercise several times. This will help you not only discriminate sounds
but also improve your spelling.

How to improve your listening

Listen to a recording with someone else. After each listening exchange
information on what you both understood. Set yourself questions for subsequent
Use the recording to practice other skills apart from listening. For
example, listen and pause the recording to pay attention to the sentence
structure, to the syntax or to the new vocabulary.
Read a graded reader which comes with a CD. Most publishing companies
publish graded readers for beginners to advanced students. Many of them come
with a listening CD and the transcripts. It is a great exercise to read when you
are listening to the story to improve your discrimination and pronunciation.
Some publishing companies are

http://www.macmillaneducation.com/catalogue/readers/readindex.htm Macmillan
http://www.cambridge.org/elt/readers - Cambridge University Press.
http://www.penguinreaders.com Penguin Readers.
http://www.link2english.com Mary Glasgow Magazines.
http://www.burlingtonbooks.com Burlington Books.
http://www.blackcat-cideb.com Black Cat.
Do as many exercises as possible with the multitude of resources on the
Web. Here is a selection:




Listen to the songs and write the lyrics

at the same time.

Dictations online.

Dictations by levels.

How to improve your listening




Listening exercises adapted to different

levels and based on news.

Exercises for basic, intermediate and

advanced level.
Exercises for the basic, intermediate


and advanced level with instructions in



Links to websites where you can listen


to English news, stories, poetry, etc.

Listening comprehension resources


designed specially for English students

and classified in 8 levels.


Listening podcasts with scripts


Listening podcasts with scripts

Listening podcasts with scripts