As language learners we are aware that listening comprehension is the most difficult skill to master. Sometimes we tend to fool ourselves when we notice that we understand almost everything when reading texts, and we hardly find any problem to produce a good written work. But when we face a simple oral sentence talked by a native speaker, our mind freezes and we realise we were not fluent after all.

The purpose of this Blog post is to convince you that everybody can communicate like a native speaker in any language; but the catch is that it involves some work from you.

We have mentioned in past blog posts that listening comprehension and speaking skills go hand in hand to fully understand your second language, and it is a massive step towards absolute fluency.

When you spontaneously understand what is said, your answer comes straight away and communication flows. I presume this is the main reason why you started learning a language in the first place.

Studying grammar structures and vocabulary are important because they are the building blocks of your knowledge; but if you don't improve your listening skills, frustration creeps up and you will be more likely to abandon your journey.

Common errors people make

1- Some people study a second language exclusively with a book and very seldom are in contact with the verbal form of the language. They guess the pronunciation of words by reading the phonetic writings as their only guide.

They are oblivious of pronunciation,accent,intonation and speed. no wonder they can't understand anything when facing a conversation. They are unable to link the words they have painfully learned with the sounds they are hearing and not listening to( Listening involves understanding).

2- The second mistake is not choosing the right audio.

There are a great deal of materials out there. How to choose the right one?

The ideal is to go for audios where you understand 70-80% of what is said; too easy and the exercise is void and if the audio is above your level you will be discouraged.

You should have 15 to 30 minutes of effective active listening. By doing so, your brain will work out the meaning of words you don't know as you put them in context.

If you listen countless times to a grammatical structure, it will be registered and recalled from your memory effortlessly when needed.

3- To think that passive listening will help you bridge the gap

Passive listening as an exercise to improve your listening skills, is a complete waste of time. I do insist that you should practice effective active listening.

The five stages of listening

1- Sound hearing

2- Word recognition

3- Sound identification

4- Assimilation of what is heard

5- Understanding the meaning of the sentence

1-Sound hearing

It's the ability to capture sounds ( to identify a baby's cry for example ).

This is the first state of listening.

2- Word recognition

The sounds of a new language are usually different from your mother tongue, so your brain decides to ignore them because it does not recognise them, the same way you ignore the noise produced by cars passing outside your building block.

you need to train your ears so your brain can recognise these sounds as meaningful.

3- Sound identification

This is the process of matching the sounds to their written forms. You might be able to read a word but not recognise it the first time you hear it. This often happens with words that you just learned and you've never had the opportunity to listen to it. Your brain has not established a connection yet.

4- Assimilation of what is heard

You're listening to something in your target language, the words sound familiar but you are unable to clearly remember what the audio was about when it's over and you certainly cannot repeat the sentences. This is a typical example of lack of assimilation. The main reason is that these words are part of your passive vocabulary pool ( words that you don't actively use ).

5- Understanding the meaning of the sentence at all levels

This is Listening comprehension. Sometimes your understanding of what is said is not complete because the audio is above your level or because there are too many unfamiliar vocabulary (specialist words for example). Other times the speed at which the audio is spoken plays an important role. in this case it would be useful if you slow down the audio at first and gradually restore it to its normal speed until every word is clearly understood.

Download today's freebie were I explain more and give you actionable steps on how to practice your listening skills.


To help you improve your LISTENING SKILLS, GRAB these practice exercises Sheets.