segunda-feira, 11 de julho de 2011

Improve English Listening Comprehension

by Craig

The key to learning a language is getting input that you can understand, or at least easily figure out. It's how we learn our native language and how we learn foreign languages. We start small, with very easy, simple input and gradually increase the difficulty. Language teachers guide learners through this process by matching material to the learner's ability to maximize their language development.

One source of language input is reading. By reading material at or slightly above your language ability is the best way to build your vocabulary and learn sentence patterns: see them in action. Another important source of language input is listening. By listening to English, students can hear proper pronunciation and tune their ear to English sounds. Listening can also help build vocabulary and learn grammar. Both reading and listening are important ways to get language input, essential for learning. I've written about ways to get English reading material in previous posts, so now I would like to focus on how to get some listening practice.

For English learners who don't have the opportunity to live in an English speaking country, getting listening practice can be difficult. In large cities like Taipei, there are more native English speakers than in rural areas, but you may not have many chances to speak with them. In Taiwan we have ICRT on the radio, but for many English learners the speaking is too fast and too difficult. On TV, we have CNN International and a few movie channels, but these also may be too difficult for many learners to understand. So where can people get listening practice at a level that is right for them?


You can find many sites on the Internet that provide free English lessons, including MP3's for listening practice. On my main web site, there is a Useful Sites link with information on some excellent sources for free online English practice and I will add more, so visit often.

One of my favorite sites is There are over 600 2-person dialogs on a wide variety of subjects. The dialogs include useful expressions and idioms commonly used in day-to-day conversations, many of which you won't find in text books. The site includes the MP3 and a transcript of the basic dialog for free! They also offer the option of paying for a more complete study guide, but the free material is very good.

Another site that I often recommend for listening practice is Voice of America Special English. You can read and listen to stories on current events, business, culture, arts, entertainment, US history, health, education and more. What makes VOA Special English useful for English learners is that they speak very slowly and clearly, much more so than the news broadcasts on the radio or TV.

Getting English input you can understand, or figure out with a little effort, is essential for learning. Even if you are taking English classes or have an English tutor, reading and listening must be a part of your regular routine...


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