Fluency Masterclass, Part 3: Listening

Welcome to the next part of the Fluency Masterclass. These four articles feature my best tips on how to boost your proficiency in the four core skills of language learning. I believe that balanced core skills are the best way to become fluent and confident. These Masterclass articles are designed to give language learners of any level new inspiration, and a focus on the core skills

Language Learning Core Skill: Listening

I'll let you in on a secret: My listening skills aren't really world famous. I have a tendency to guess ahead in conversations and get excited, cut in, intterupt and so on. Hey, it keeps life interesting! But as with all weaknesses, it's good to work on them a little. So my tips are in fact good advice for listening in any situation. I have found them helpful for improving my attention span and communication skills.


1) Listen from Day 1

Listening is so important in language learning. It's closely connected to the learner's comfort level and pronunciation skills, and in addition to that it presumes NO language knowledge at all! There is no pressure on learners to respond or produce language, no rule that says you have to pay full attention all the time, and it can be pretty entertaining too. So my advice really is this: Listen from day 1. In fact, make that day 1 about learning your new alphabet and copying the sounds you're hearing. The BBC, for example, has some excellent alphabet resources.

2) Make notes, repeat and summarize

This is such a simple and effective exercise. I recommend you start working on it in your native language before moving on to foreign language situations. Next time you find yourself listening to someone talking at length, especially in a face-to-face situation or on the phone, get out the notepad. Make notes of the most important points of what they are saying, and ensure you don't miss any. If a real notepad and pen are likely to come across just a bit odd, try and make mental notes.

This technique is in fact part of a communication approach called active listening. It emphasizes that it is important to identify the message. In language learning, this means: Don't get stuck on words you don't know. As long as you know what the main message is, stage 1 is complete. Repeat the audio a few times to fine tune every word.

3) Use a transcript - or make your own


A big part of language learning success is in recognising which sounds correspond to which letters on a page. Click to Tweet this

Remember that we are not focusing on one core skill in order to block out the others. Listening is easily combined with other skills. You can read along using a transcript. Or in order to improve your writing skills, write your own version of the transcript and then compare it with an official one. You'll be training your spelling, listening comprehension and speed all in one go!

4) Bring back the music

I wrote about the many benefits of making music a part of your language learning on the Fluent Language blog last year. If nothing else, it's fun! Music is such a great and obvious place to start for learning a language. You can work with specific materials aimed at language learners like the Teach Me Everyday series, or just get right in there and work with songs. Why not read up on how to do it on this blog article.

5) Use a really wide range of sources

Your target language has many sub-sets of language groups, and in real life situations you may never know which one you are going to encounter. So especially when you work on listening skills, it's important to cast the net wide. Take turns listening to the news, rap songs, local dialects and whatever you can get hold of. To get you started, note that many news services do a simplified language version of their own news casts, for example DW in German, RFI in French or Sveriges Radio for Swedish.

There is a wealth of further materials out on the web all about this topic, for example the following articles:

Got more tips? Comment away, I want to hear it!!

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