Improving all speech skills plays an important role in learning English. Many courses do not focus on the communicative side of the process. However, in most cases, it is communication in the language that is the main goal. How to improve your listening comprehension – we will tell you in the article.
Knowledge of grammar and a rich vocabulary is very important. It is also important to be able to apply this knowledge in practice in presenting your thoughts. There remains one more thing – the ability to listen and hear.
The reasons for the difficulties Difficulty listening to English can have several causes.
“Weak” English One of the main subjective reasons for misunderstanding is poor knowledge of the English language. Knowledge of the basics of grammar and the development of an active vocabulary will greatly facilitate the process of perceiving foreign speech. We are talking about an active vocabulary, because it is important to immediately respond to a construction or a stable expression. You will not be able to “re-listen” or “re-listen more slowly” during a call. Despite the fact that verbal communication often involves simplifying language material, reducing words and phrases, this can become another difficulty. In order to speak more or less freely, using new vocabulary and grammar, you need patience, practice and time for all this to “settle” in your head.
Lack of practice The second subjective reason for causing difficulties in the perception of English by ear is the lack of practice. Perfect knowledge of grammar and vocabulary in writing or when translating texts does not at all imply fluent communication in English. Sometimes speech difficulties can arise even in the native language. Another reason can be an emotional state – excitement, fear, or overexcitement from the joy of communication. In this case, concentration is lost, attention falls, and you focus on only one thing. We will tell you what will help to get rid of this a little later.
Let’s talk about factors that you cannot influence in any way.
Features of the speaker’s speech Unfortunately, perfect pronunciation and accent can only be found on audio recordings that accompany training courses. It’s great if they exist and can train you. But such “refined”, clear and precise speech is not often found. Accents, dialects that vary from region to region, personal characteristics of the speaker, “parasitic words”, slang – this will need to be adjusted.
Recording quality (when it comes to listening) Let’s go back to recordings with English texts or radio broadcasts. A bad signal or incorrect recording will make it difficult for you to understand English. Unfortunately, you are powerless here – you need to tune your ear.
Do not despair if such a problem exists in your life. Listening to English is a skill that can and should be developed. So, here are some tips to help you cope with listening comprehension difficulties.
Tips for developing your English listening comprehension Practice Try to speak the language as much as possible to listen to the interlocutor. Free conversation clubs can now be found in most cities. Many of them exist at universities or foreign language schools. The teacher will supervise you and help you learn to express your thoughts in English. In such a company, you want – you don’t want to listen. The Internet is a great resource for communication. Some forums are specially created so that registered users can exchange Skype contacts and practice communication in English. Here are some sites that practice learning through live communication:
Listening to recordings regularly The key to success is regularity. Imagine what listening is – your indispensable water. Allocate 15 – 20 minutes for audio lessons in English, even on a very busy schedule.
Overcoming the anxiety before communication
In most cases, worry is the fear of making a mistake. Since school days, we have been scolded for poor grades. Let it go. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Your participation in the conversation is more important than a computer-verified perfect grammar. Breaking down a language barrier can be tricky, but you can start by simply allowing yourself to be wrong and not berating yourself for it. You are not being judged – they want to talk to you.
Watching TV shows or movies in English This will greatly enrich your spoken English and help to train your ear to abbreviations and slang expressions. Start with films you’ve already seen with Russian translation. Help yourself: first turn on subtitles, but after a while, turn them off and continue watching, listening to the English speech.
Finally, the most important advice is to choose the material from which you enjoy! Songs, films, cartoons, audiobooks – listen to what brings you joy in English. This will provide additional motivation.
We wish you success in your learning and listening skills development!
Some people think that there is a special gene that allows you to learn several foreign languages in a lifetime. In fact, knowing five to eight foreign languages is not a special gift and not even years of hard work. Believe that everyone can do it, and follow the 12 rules from seasoned polyglots.
1. Learn the right words in the right way Learning a new language means learning new words, a lot of new words. Some people think they have a bad memory for words, give up and quit teaching. But here’s the point: you don’t have to learn all the words of the language in order to speak it. Basically, you don’t know ALL the words in your native language, but you can speak it pretty well.
Just 20% of the effort to memorize new foreign words will provide you with 80% of your understanding of the language. For example, in English, 65% of the written material includes only 300 words. These words are used very often, and this scheme works for all other languages. You can find these frequently used words or a specific topic and frequently used words for that particular topic.
2. Learn related words You already know a lot of the words of the language that you are going to learn. Whichever language you start learning, you know at least a few words, so starting from scratch is essentially impossible. Kindred words are “true friends” of words in your own language that mean the same thing.
For example, in Romance languages - French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and others – there are many related words with English. The English language originally borrowed them from the Normans during the conquest, which lasted several hundred years. Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, tradition, communication, extinction and thousands of other words with the “-tion” ending sound the same in French, and you can use them right away once you get used to the pronunciation.
Just change “-tion” to “-ción” and you get the same words in Spanish. Changing the ending to “-zione” – Italian, “-ção” – Portuguese. In many languages, there are words with a common root that sound a little different. But still, you will have to try very hard not to understand what is at stake. For example, hélicoptère (French); porto, capitano (Italian); astronomía, Saturno (Spanish).
3. You don’t have to travel Another reason (or an excuse, it depends on how you look at it) for refusing to learn a foreign language is that people cannot visit another country in which they speak this language. There is no money, time, etc. Believe me, there is nothing in the air of another country that would make you suddenly speak a foreign language. There are cases when people live in another country for several years and do not learn the language.
If you need to immerse yourself in a foreign language, you don’t have to buy a plane ticket – you can do it online. If you want to listen to conversations in a foreign language, here is the Tunein.com website with over 100,000 real radio stations from all over the world.
There is an app of the same name for smartphones on iOS and Android (free), in which you can find several radio stations in the language you are learning and listen to them every day, anywhere. If you prefer to watch videos in your target language, find the most popular videos in your target country on the YouTube Trends Dashboard.
Go to the Amazon or Ebay of the country you want to learn (e.g. amazon.es, amazon.fr, amazon.co.jp, etc.) and buy your favorite foreign language movie or TV series. You can use online news services from different countries, for example France24, Deutsche Welle, CNN Español and many others. To read materials in a foreign language, in addition to the same news services from different countries, you can add reading blogs and other popular sites, and you can find them on the Alexa website. If you find it difficult to translate foreign articles so quickly, Chrome has a special plugin that will help you gradually learn different expressions in a foreign language by translating parts of the text. That is, you read the text in your native language, and some parts of it – in a foreign one.
4. We train on Skype and not only Let’s say you start learning a foreign language. It will take a little time to learn the basic words and repeat what you already know. And then immediately connect with native speakers and start talking to them.
You don’t need a lot of words for the first dialogue, and if you start a conversation immediately after you have learned them, the vocabulary gaps will appear on the same day, and you can add the missing expressions to your vocabulary. In four to five hours you will have time to learn a few words in another language, and among them it is advisable to include words and phrases such as “hello”, “thank you”, “Can you repeat?” and I do not understand”. All words for the first dialogue can be found in phrasebooks.
Now about how to find a native speaker and impose your society on him. And it’s not as difficult as it sounds. For example, on Italki.com you will find professional teachers, informal learning, and even just conversation partners.
Moreover, training is very inexpensive, for example, you can find Chinese and Japanese courses via Skype for $ 5 per hour.
5. Don’t waste your money. The best resources are free It is worth paying for the constant attention of native speakers, but, as you can see, the courses cost a penny at all. As for the rest of the learning curve, it’s not clear why pay hundreds of dollars if you can get it all for free. Duolingo has great free courses in different languages.
Everything here is presented in a playful manner, so learning the language will be more interesting. If you already know English and want to learn another language, FSI and Omniglot provide a number of free courses. BBC languages teach basic phrases in over 40 languages, while About.com provides information on specific aspects of different languages under the Languages section.
With the help of the Interpals service, you can find a pen-pal from another country, and on My Language Excharge, you can find a person who also wants to learn a language and correspond with him in the target language. And here are some more resources to help you learn languages:
a huge database of words with voice acting for correct pronunciation awaits you on Forvo; in the Rhinospike community, you yourself can suggest phrases and words that you want to listen to in a foreign language, and they will be voiced by native speakers; if you cannot find the voice acting of the desired phrase, in extreme cases there is Google Translate; on the Lang 8 resource you will find proofreaders – native speakers who will correct your texts, and you, in turn, will correct the texts of people learning Russian. 6. Adults are better at foreign languages than children Now that you know so many resources to start learning a language, you have to deal with the biggest challenge. This is not grammar, vocabulary, or lack of personal resources. This is self-doubt and misjudgment of one’s potential.
The most common misconception, followed by the phrase “I give up,” is, “I am too old to learn and be fluent in a foreign language.” There is good news. One study from the University of Haifa found that adults are better at learning a foreign language than children.
Unlike children, adults intuitively understand grammar rules that have not yet been explained in foreign language lessons. Plus, there hasn’t been a single study to prove the opposite.
7. Enrich your vocabulary with mnemonics Mechanical repetition is not enough. Even though multiple repetitions can literally burn a word out of your memory, you can still forget it. In addition, there are some words that do not want to be memorized in any way, despite the constant repetition.
For such “stubborn” words, you can use mnemonics – the art of memorization. You come up with some short funny story about the right word and, with the help of associations, remember it tightly. You can invent it yourself or use special resources, for example memrise.com. On this resource, users come up with different stories for easier learning of languages and sciences. You can freely use ready-made stories and create your own.
8. Love your mistakes Languages are not acquired in order to store them for themselves – languages must be used. And when you are just starting to learn a language, it is important to immediately start communicating, while clumsy, with an accent, using the poor vocabulary that you have managed to acquire.
Of course, you can put off talking with foreigners until you can say in a foreign language, “Excuse me, could you kindly tell me where the nearest restroom is?”, But “Can you tell me where the restroom is?” carries the same information, only without unnecessary bells and whistles.
You will be forgiven for being straightforward, you are just learning a foreign language, and everyone treats with understanding. Don’t think that native speakers will be angry with you for having the nerve to speak to them in their native language so clumsily.
The best thing you can do is not try to speak perfectly. Love your mistakes instead. When you learn something, you make mistakes all the time. You practice, improve your knowledge and move forward.
9. Create reasonable goals Another mistake in most approaches to learning foreign languages is the lack of a specific and reasonable goal. For example, if you decide to start learning English from the New Year, when will you know that you have achieved your goal, have you “learned” it? Goals like this only bring endless chagrin, something like, “I’m not ready yet, I haven’t learned the ENTIRE language.”
Reasonable goals have five essential characteristics: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited. To begin to strive for your reasonable goal of learning languages, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the European classification by levels of proficiency.
This will help you set a specific goal and track your progress. Many European language schools now have the same classification, so perhaps many of you are familiar with it. A is beginner, B is intermediate and C is advanced. And in each level there are two more subdivisions – weak (1 lower) and increased (2 upper). So, for example, a beginner who has advanced in learning a language is A2, and a weak advanced one is C1. And most importantly, all these levels are easily determined using tests.
Official educational institutions can test you and issue a language proficiency diploma. These tests can be taken in English, German, French, Spanish, Irish and other official European languages.
Typically, “proficiency” begins with an upper intermediate (B2). This means that in social situations you will be able to speak in the same way as in your own language. You can easily chat with a friend at the bar, ask the person how he spent the weekend, and talk about your aspirations and relationships with people.
Of course, this is not the level of the language in which you can conduct your professional activities. This requires a higher level – C2 (advanced advanced). But you will not work in all the languages that you learn?
To make your goal achievable, lower your requests. For example, if you work in English, strive for the C2 level, and teach German, French and Spanish only up to the B2 level, which is quite enough for speaking, reading, watching films and programs in these languages.
10. From spoken (B1) to perfect possession (C2) To constantly improve your level of spoken language and learn to speak fluently in just three months, you need to train constantly. You should talk in a foreign language for at least an hour a day, and it is advisable to choose different topics in order to learn more and more new words that are used in the conversation.
For example, you can start your daily workout by asking the other person how they spent the day and talking about your experiences. Then go on to discuss what you have been told, talk about your thoughts and opinions. Talk about your hobbies, your aspirations and goals, what you don’t like, how you are going to spend your vacation, etc.
Going from B1 to B2 in a short time is difficult and you will make a lot of mistakes. But, as mentioned earlier, mistakes are your progress and movement forward. After regular practice in speaking, you will begin to better understand grammar rules. However, this approach does not work with everyone: some people find it more convenient to learn grammar from the very beginning. When you get to level B2, the real fun begins. You can already get a full-fledged thrill from communicating with native speakers. But talking is not enough to jump to the next levels.
You will have to read newspapers, professional blog posts, and other articles that cannot be called “easy reading.” You can train yourself to read news from well-known foreign newspapers every morning, and it is advisable to take topics from different categories.
Achieving perfect language proficiency (C2) is even more difficult. If you take an exam for this level and fail, pay attention to your mistakes. For example, if you passed your spoken language and grammar, but ruined your listening, it is clear what to look for in the future. Your workouts should include listening to foreign radio stations, interviews, and other audio material.
11. Learn to speak without an accent Factor 1. Your accent and intonation The emphasis is clear. If you can’t pronounce “r” correctly in English, any native speaker will recognize you as a foreigner. You are not used to making such sounds, and the muscles of the tongue are not properly developed. But that can be changed: A good YouTube video detailing pronunciation can help you get rid of your accent.
Intonation is much more important, although it is often overlooked. Step, rise, fall and accents in words. To make your speech similar to that of native speakers, you can follow the musicality and rhythm of speech from the very beginning and try to copy them. You can practice copying intonation on the special resource The Mimic Method.
Factor 2. Social and cultural inclusion No matter how well you know a foreign language, people of other nationalities will not recognize you as their own. Perhaps they will not even speak to you in your native language, and you will have to use either Russian or English (provided that you learned another language, it will be a little offensive).
And the point here is not even that you do not look like a resident of this country outwardly – to a greater extent you are not similar in behavior. You dress differently, behave differently, walk, gesticulate, hold your hands – it’s not like foreigners do.
What to do? As with intonation, you can simply copy the behavior. Observe people, pay attention to all the features of behavior, and you will very soon notice the differences. If you copy your behavior, speech rate, body language, and other factors, foreigners will begin to speak to you in their native language.
12. Become a polyglot If your goal is to learn several languages, you can start learning all at once, but it is better to stop at one until you reach at least an intermediate level and can speak it with confidence. Only then can you move on to the next language.
1. Learn grammar, not words “Kalusha dribbled on the fluff and honored the bottle.” Why is the story of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya understandable to the reader – perhaps at the expense of vocabulary? No: the whole point is that, knowing the basis of the language – grammar – you begin to understand the meaning of even not the most understandable words.
When learning English, save time on memorizing new vocabulary – it’s better to spend it on taking another look at the time alignment table. When reading in English, you will be able to understand the meaning of an unfamiliar word from the context, but the grammatical meaning of a sentence without in-depth knowledge you will not be able to guess so easily.
2. Do not rush to look in the dictionary When reading and translating from English, many are faced with a kind of Google addiction, when every new or questionable word is immediately driven into an online dictionary. But think about it: if you are distracted by the dictionary on each phrase, are you too tough with the selected reading? After all, unfortunately, the words scanned by the “express” method are forgotten the very moment you close the dictionary page, and useful information is not deposited in your head. At the same time, the text that you read, “stumbling” every second, is absorbed much worse. Try to choose materials for yourself, most of the words in which you are familiar or guessed from the context.
3. Turn off subtitles Watching a movie in English with English subtitles is an effective way to improve your vocabulary. However, if you look at the subtitles all the time, the brain prefers to read rather than listen – and the point of a video in English is precisely to learn to perceive the language by ear. Try watching a movie in English without any transcript, listening carefully to the dialogues. Incomprehensible moments can then be reviewed with subtitles – the main thing is to learn to listen to the speech!
4. Translate “blindly” Try to convey the meaning of a paragraph or several sentences without looking at the text. To do this, read the text once or twice, grasp the meaning and rearrange its content as you see fit. Then, if necessary, the translation can be corrected. So you will quickly learn to convey the meaning (and not individual words) and avoid tracing paper from English.
5. Love the Russian language Do you want to correctly translate from English? Love Russian! Read more works of Russian classics or good journalism. To develop stylistics, you can try to manually rewrite individual paragraphs of your favorite works. Your vocabulary will be enriched, and your syllable and language sense will develop to a higher level.
Mistake 1. You learn words No need to learn words. It is necessary to learn PREPARED PHRASES. When you were a kid, did you learn something like “go-went-gone”? No, you learned “words” like “mamahachuvotetushakalaaaaatku !!!!” Therefore, if you have heard or read a phrase where there is an unfamiliar word and want to learn a new word, never make a word card like “decide – decide”. Instead, write out the entire sentence and underline the new word. And besides, any new word will be remembered much more vividly in a natural context, and not in a combination “word-translation”. Therefore, learn not words, but bright, emotionally colored phrases with new words.
Mistake 2. You think that knowing grammar will make you speak well Having learned all the grammar rules, you will protect yourself from only a small part of mistakes. Imagine: I come to you and say: “Now I will inform you about a single adventure that took place on the territory of my personal full-size dwelling before sunset. A domestic cat I own stole a sausage product from my Belarusian refrigerator, making a conscious effort to open its door. ” Liked? So at least one person will speak Russian? Never! Now try to find at least one grammatical mistake in the story! Likewise, when we focus our efforts on learning grammar, we seem to speak without mistakes, but unnatural!
Therefore, focus your attention not on grammar rules, but on natural phrases in a vivid context! Yes, if you want to speak purely, you need to learn grammar rules, especially complex constructions or such cases when you know that they say so, and when it is not clear. But grammar is dessert! For starters, first and second, please order listening, speaking and learning phrases.
Mistake 3. You think you can learn a language by reading Learn English without reading, but LISTENING AND SPEAKING. By reading texts in English, you will not do anything to improve your speech. The key to speaking is different – listening, repeating and learning vocabulary in context. Reading is necessary to learn and consolidate both active and passive (that is, one that you understand, but do not use yourself) vocabulary. Reading is necessary to become familiar with a very large layer of words, which is used only in books. I have not done any research, but on an intuitive level I feel that in colloquial speech we use 5-8 percent of the vocabulary of the literary language. The rest is in books. Finally, reading is for fun. Therefore, it is imperative to read. But please be aware that reading will not advance you in spoken language.
Mistake 4. You do not repeat the studied material enough Less is better, but better – this rule works 100% in the language. You don’t need to learn a lot of new material. You need to repeat the material covered a lot more times than you are used to. And not in one sitting. Let’s say you need to repeat a new phrase 200 times (yes, that much!) To remember it forever. Better to stretch these 200 repetitions for 3 days, and repeat a little every day in the morning, afternoon and evening. And then repeat another 15 times a week later. And come back again in a month. “Repetition is the mother of learning” is a proverb that is found in so many languages. Therefore – return to the covered material many times.
Mistake 5. You listen and repeat after the speaker instead of expressing your thoughts in language Repeating a phrase after the announcer is one thing, but expressing your thought is another. Have you ever had this: in the classroom everything seems to be fine, but when you need to talk to someone – suddenly some kind of stupor? If so, this means that in the lessons you do not express your own thoughts much. The conclusion is simple – you need to speak the language! But, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to do it alone. Therefore – find yourself an environment for communication in English. It is always possible, there would be a desire.
Mistake 6. You are afraid to make mistakes This is one of the most enduring misconceptions – a language can be learned by diligently and slowly constructing “unmistakable” phrases. Unfortunately, this strategy is a losing one. Firstly, if you speak with pure grammar, this does not mean that this is correct English (see point 2). Secondly, learning to speak well can only be done with a lot of practice. And by trying to protect yourself from mistakes, you are depriving yourself of practice. Look at young children as they learn to speak. Don’t they make mistakes? They do, and a lot. But they are not afraid to speak, and in the end quantity turns into quality. Therefore – do not be afraid to make mistakes! You can only overcome mistakes with practice.
1. So, how to watch foreign films correctly and useful. Before watching a movie, arm yourself with a piece of paper and a pen – do not forget that if you are watching a movie in a foreign language, this is not quite “relaxation”, but still some kind of work, but pleasant.
2. To begin with, if you are a be
ginner in learning English (1-3 level) – select a movie that you have already seen in translation and remember the general storyline, but not literally, otherwise it will not bring the desired effect (you simply will not pay attention in English).
3. Those who understand English well can choose any film (however, if this is an unfamiliar film to you, it would not hurt to create motivation for yourself: for example, choose a film of an already well-known and attractive director or actor, well, or at least a genre, otherwise fascinating and useful viewing can turn into real torture).
4. Make sure the movie has subtitles. If not, you can always download them online. If you watch an entire movie without subtitles, you are unlikely to learn anything. This applies to everyone, regardless of the level of knowledge of the language. If you download subtitles, make sure that they are synchronized with the dialogues in the movie, otherwise it will be terribly distracting or simply annoying.
5. Watch the movie in episodes – usually before the end of a scene or situation – from 5 to 20 minutes (depending on the level). The first time you watch a movie in English without subtitles at all – try to catch the general meaning. If you are watching a movie with a company, you can try to discuss who understood what after the first viewing: what familiar words and phrases they heard. During the first viewing, it would be good to write familiar phrases immediately on a piece of paper. This will help you better navigate what is happening.
6. Next, watch the episode with English subtitles. Stop the video at incomprehensible moments, write out unfamiliar words and phrases, use a dictionary to translate them. Pay attention to the situations in which phrases are pronounced: if these are situations at the airport, store, bank, you can write out whole sentences so that you can use them later in real life in similar situations.
7. Don’t worry if the first couple of episodes in the film take you more time than you planned: you need to get used to the characters’ speech – intonation, tempo, accents. After the first 15-20 minutes, it will be easier for you to recognize their speech.
8. Don’t worry if you can’t make out the entire movie in one go. Sometimes this can take 3 times longer than the length of the movie itself. You can devote to watching a movie in English from half an hour every day to an hour and a half a couple of times a week, especially if you have already seen the film in translation and know the outcome.
9. Movies that you have already disassembled, you can after some time revisit in English without subtitles (especially if these are films you like). Thus, you will refresh the words and phrases you have passed through and get the most out of the movie without stopping.
10. Finally, if you do not add up with the films and you do not want to languish for weeks in anticipation of the finale – watch the series. At one time, you just have time to disassemble a series of 20 minutes long, or twice a series of 40 minutes long.
Remember that you need a wide vocabulary to understand the film. It is very important to know how words are pronounced correctly, otherwise it will be difficult for you to recognize them in the flow of speech, so when the teachers correct you in the classroom, do not ignore their comments, but mark the accents or sounds in words. This is useful for your colloquial speech as well.