Saturday, September 1, 2012

2+ hours a day to improve your English listening skill

This technique can be used for any language, as long as it’s spoken.

I was inspired to write this post after reading The 4-Hour Workweek

Listening skill is often mistakenly considered the hardest skill among speaking, writing and reading. It’s no doubt the most essential skills because languages mean communication. You can’t speak well unless your listening is well.

But, is listening skill that difficult ?

Truth be told. It’s a fun thing to learn, and easy to master. The question is : How ?

OK, let’s do some observation. 

Here comes the babies ! 

The basic steps for language learning are listening, speaking, reading and writing. The baby follows exactly these steps. At first, the baby often speak his/her own language which could be, obviously, understood by him/her only. So, parents need to make contact through conversation. 

Do they ever ask for the answer ?
No, of course not. 

In fact, the more the parents talk, the faster the baby reply. What would happen if the parents ceased talking ? The baby would be speechless to the mother tongue. They can understand everything we speak to them, althought they can’t reply at that moment. 

That’s the result from continuous talk. 

By repeating this action, the link between linguistic neurons are created and strengthened. 

Gradually, the baby begins to distinguish words, recognize his ( or her ) name, follow the order… Of course, speaking comes after shortly.

Did the parents force the baby ?
No, they smile, they encourage. They give their baby enough mental support to overcome the very first linguistic barrier.

So, there’re two things we derived from the baby experience for harnessing listening skill :

1. Long exposure to the language and,
2. An appropriate mental state ( interesting, fun, comfortable )

The common way 

Some of us often try to improve our skill by listening to conversations in tapes or CDs.

I personally hate this method because it’s tooooo boring ( A talks to B then B replies, like playing ping-pong ). No fun, no excitement.

And it’s still considered a common way for somebody to improve the listening skill.

To me, there’re alternatives . And it’s much much better than those lousy chit-chat.

Be realistic. It takes you only 6 months to understand 80% of any talks. But being a native listener costs you 4 to 5 years to achieve.

Now, show me !

So, there’re 2 ways to improve your listening skill.

First way:

If you love going out and meet and talk, go to the place in which the language is used ( market, bar, club.. ). Already in the country using that language ? Fantastic ! Like Dale Carnegie stated “ … Go out and get busy !”. 

You can make friends, too. Talking to friends is one of the most effective ways to boost your listening skill. Everybody loves someone who is willing to learn their mother tongue. Trust me !

But, if you’re too shy to go out there. Or, just don’t want to go out. It’s OK, too. Here’s the second way. This method is proven to be useful because I did it myself 7 years ago. It’s absolutely fun, effective, and exciting to do.

Second way : 

Listening to your favorite songs 2+ hrs a day

Songs have rhythm, songs have lyrics. They are much better then those bored-to-death conversations. 

Why don’t you give songs a shot ? Before that :

There’re some pieces of advice :

a. Variation is the best.
Songs are food for thought, food for mind. You may be unaware of this fact : Songs affect your moods. They can raise your feeling up or down.

However, keeping your emotions too high or too low isn’t good on the long run. Many love songs and you’ll feel romantic and less energetic. Otherwise, lots of exciting pop songs are likely to make you vigorous, tired and hard to concentrate.

b. 2 hours a day is needed.

Is it hard ? No, you can do the listening while driving, while browsing Internet, while Facebooking or Twittering… You don’t need a full 2 -hour- listening,  at least make it 30 minutes each time. But the accumulation should be 2 hours or more.

c. Use speakers. Since this method requires continuous listening for a long time, so , please, for your ears, don’t use earphones ( or headphones ). Speakers are the best. 

There’s another reason for speakers. Imagine how funny it is watching a baby wearing earphones. Sound consists of waves containing energy. While parents are talking to the baby, not only his/her brain, but the entire body is exposing to the energy. The adaption is much better and faster. 

You don't need to have high-end speakers.I'd like a 2.1 speaker system with subwoofer

d. Start with your favorite songs/artists/bands

Now, for the beginner with English songs, you might want to hear :


They’re one of my favorite bands with various hits. Their songs are amazing sets of rhythm. From slow “ The winner takes it all” to exciting “Voulez vous”, “Head over heels” and “Gimme, gimme, gimme” are absolutely fantastic.

2. The Beatles

Words are not enough when it comes to describe the greatness of this band. “ And I love her”, “Let it be”, truly masterpiece.

3.The Bee Gees 

Another great band with legendary hits. “Staying alive” is supreme, “How deep is your love ?”, “Holiday”, “Words” are fantastic lullabies.

4. Michael Jackson

My idol. “Heal the World” is  a must-hear with meaningful lyrics and beautiful rhythm.

5. Backstreet Boys

Check out “Everybody”, “Show me the meaning of being lonely” and you will love them.

Final words but important - Forget the lyrics

You may not understand the whole lyrics of those songs. It’s natural. I don’t really care for the lyrics. I love the songs. Our goal is to have fun. Just listen to the music and relax ( So, don’t search for the lyrics on Internet )

Make it your habit. Whenever you turn on your PC, let the songs be played. Listen to it unconsciously, put yourself in that environment. Don’t think about improving listening skill, just listening, and that’s all.

How long does it take for this method to be effective ? Results may vary. The more you listen, the faster the result comes. In my case, it took me just a year.

And the truth is, once you can listen well, you’ll love the language so much that you want to improve other skills as well. Believe me !


Check out these collections and fall in love with them.

ABBA - Gold: Greatest Hits

ABBA : The Definitive Collection

The Beatles Anthology

The White Album

The Ultimate Bee Gees (2 CD)

The Essential Michael Jackson

The Hits--Chapter One

No comments:

Post a Comment

Latest Book Deals