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If you’re reading this post, don’t miss the first part, where I talk about speech shadowing, subtitles and other strategies that will boost your listening skills.
But where were we? Oh, yeah! Listening, listening, listening… poor language learners, always struggling with our listening skills. Well, worry no more, as in this post, I ‘m bringing you another 5 tips that will make listening the least of your concerns when learning a foreign language.
Guessing can sometimes be just as important as actually listening. But before I say more, you should know that there are two processes by which we usually listen; top-down and bottom-up processes. The first is when we make use of all our knowledge of the topic and the context in order to decipher a message. The second means that we are paying specific attention to the individual sounds or words so as to decipher the message. These two processes often take part simultaneously, but in this case we’ll focus on guessing, which is a top-down strategy. For a better understanding of what I’m talking about, let’s see what teachingenglish.co.uk say about this:
Think about talking to your friends (in your first language) in a noisy bar. It is likely that you ‘guess’ the content of large sections of the conversation, based on your knowledge of the topic and what has already been said.
From the quote above, you see how important it can be to bring your own knowledge to the listening process. For this reason, trying to guess what you’re about to hear is essential. Many times we do this unconsciously, but I recommend that, when working on your listening skills, you do it being fully aware of it. For instance, if you’re going to listen to a podcast about mobile phones, try to come up with words related to phones and technology. Think of it as preparing yourself to attend a lecture or a conference. You’ll only make the most of it if you prepare beforehand.
When learning or studying, whatever the subject is, being tenacious and perseverant is crucial. Take into account that our progress will gradually disappear if we stop.
You must think about your listening skills as you do about your fitness. If you exercise regularly, you’ll keep fit. If you exercise regularly and push your limits a little, you’ll get fitter. But if you stop exercising your fitness will start to diminish, and the longer you remain idle, the more fitness you’ll lose. It’s as simple as that with languages. If you want to keep your language skills sharp, don’t forget about them! And this applies to listening.
3. Be positive
Your attitude towards learning is essential, too. Psychologists and educators have already proven how important motivation is as regards learning processes. And, although having a positive attitude does not necessarily mean that you are motivated, it can be decisive, as it will prevent you from losing your motivation the first time to come up against a brick wall. A positive mindset will help you gather yourself every time you hit an obstacle, and will make you find the strength and motivation to overcome it. It will stop you from giving up and will eventually make you reach your goals. Besides, it’s crucial to know how to keep up that motivation and positive attitude.
4. Immersion and exposure
Have you ever heard the following sentence? “If you want to learn a language, go abroad!” I’m sure you have and, well, there’s some truth in it. While going abroad is certainly not the only effective way to learn a language, it is certainly worth considering. Going abroad is so effective because you find yourself immersed in the language, the culture, the society, etc. Consequently, you are forced to read, write, listen and speak the foreign language 24/7, which is great.
However, not all of us want or can afford to go abroad for a prolonged period of time. For this reason, you can try to simulate this immersion in your own country. It probably won’t be as effective, but it will help you a great deal. In order to do that, you have to expose yourself to as much foreign language as possible doing everything in that language: listen to music, to the radio, to podcasts, read, write, talk, etc. The more input and practice you get, the better and more effective your learning will be. No doubt this will have a tremendous impact on your listening skills, too!
5. Target your weaknesses
When talking about listening, we can’t really use the words “mistakes”, “errors” or “typos”, but we can talk about “weaknesses”. We could define a weakness in our listening skills as a particular subject, field, accent, word or structure that we find difficult to understand. For this reason, we must identify our weaknesses and tackle them! If we do that, we won’t have the same problem the next time we come across that particular language feature.
It’s like keeping a list of words we usually misspell. If you keep the list and go over it from time to time, you’ll probably stop misspelling those words quite soon. The same happens with listening.
Remember that, in order to boost your oral skills, listening and speaking, there’s nothing better than using these strategies coupled with language exchange. You just need to download uTandem and start meeting up with new people to practise your favourite language.
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