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Better ways to practise listening

Better ways to practise listening

Listening is one of the hardest skills for many students. 
Make it easy and fun! Do not choose a listening activity that is too hard for you. Choose a listening activity that matches your listening level. If you are not sure what your level is, ask your teacher. 
If you find a listening activity too difficult, you might have a vocabulary problem, not a listening problem. For more ideas, read our blog post: Technology Tips - Vocabulary
Here are some ways to make your listening practise more effective.

1. Daily Listening

The best way to improve your listening is to do a fun listening activity daily.  The easiest time to practise listening is while you are travelling to school (by tram, train, car or while walking). Some other good times to practise listening are while you are exercising, getting ready in the morning, cooking or cleaning your house. Music and songs can be good options too. 

You don’t have to concentrate hard while doing this type of listening because this focus is on the sound, tone and rhythm. Your brain will learn the sound patterns which will help you understand words, grammar and emotion. You will learn this automatically due to repetition. This will improve your speaking and pronunciation too.  

2. Listen – read – listen

When you listen, use your reading skills to help you improve your listening skills. After you have listened twice and tried to answer the questions, read the transcript. You can look for the answers and correct any mistakes. Now, listen again and hear the difference. Your ears need to practise too. 
Other useful activities include:
  • highlighting new vocabulary 
  • highlighting phrases or idioms
  • highlighting grammatical structures  
After each activity, listen again. Listen to the whole text or just the sections that include highlighted words. Can you understand it better this time?
If you don’t have the transcript, you can also use subtitles. It is best not to use the subtitles the first time though, as you will focus on reading and not focus on listening. 

3. Shadow listening 

When you listen, use your speaking skills to help you improve your listening skills. Shadowing is a technique where you read the text out loud with the speaker. Your aim is to repeat the words at the same time as the speaker. When you first start doing this, it may be difficult, so aim to repeat the words as soon as possible after the speaker.  
How to do Shadow listening: 
  • Choose a listening that also has a transcript or subtitles. A short listening is better. 
  • Read the transcript and look up any new words. Learn how to pronounce these words too. Lingro is a great tool that can help you with new vocabulary. 
  • Find a private space where you can talk out loud. Use headphones and listen to the text. 
  • While you listen, say the words. Try to copy the speaker exactly. It is easier if you stop the recording after every sentence. 
  • Replay the recording and copy the speaker each time. Do this as many times as you need. 
Watch these videos for more shadow listening practise:

4. Predicting

Before you listen, predict. This will activate the knowledge you already have. If you think about all the vocabulary and ideas you already have about the topic, your brain is prepared for the ideas that you will listen to next. 

Some ways to do this: 


Read the title and guess what the story will be about. Use a dictionary and look up any new vocabulary in the title.


Look at the pictures and guess what the story will be about. Write the vocabulary words next to the picture and look up any new vocabulary. Talk to your friends and discuss what you see in the picture. 


Read the test questions and predict what the story will be about. Reading the questions will help you predict what kind of information you need to listen for. Sometimes you might be able to predict the answer to the question. 

If you predict the answer, try writing the answer in a sentence the way the speaker would say it. This sentence helps predict what you should listen for. 

For example: 

  • Question: What is the effect of cigarette smoking on family members? 
  • Predicted answer: bad health issues like lung cancer and asthma.
  • Predicted sentence: Passive smoking causes many problems for the children of smokers. These problems can include lung cancer and asthma


Choose a movie or TV show that you enjoy. Pause the movie/show every 5 minutes and try to predict what will happen next. Then play it and compare it to your first ideas. 

You can watch a movie/TV show with sound only while listening for information from the words and the tone. What can you guess about the relationships, location, weather, activities, etc.? Play it again but this time watch the video too. Check your guesses with what you see. 

Try these websites to do more listening practise:
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Now you have improved your listening, you can now find out how to improve your reading skills.