How to get started with extensive listening


Listening, like reading, is an essential skill for English language learners to develop. More than that though, like extensive reading, listening a lot and often contributes much more to learning English than just developing listening skills.


Extensive listening in fact is, we believe, essential to English language learning.

Listening, though, is a skill that is often neglected because it can be difficult to teach. So, what is the best way to get started?

The main thing to remember is that the key is 'listening comprehension’ not 'listening incomprehension’. Sound quality is important here but that goes without saying. Reading speed is also important though so using resources that are graded to different levels of ability is very useful.

As with extensive reading, learners should listen to resources that they can understand. The ideal is that around 95% of the spoken text is comprehensible, that is uses words that the learner already knows.

This is vital because well chosen materials can help improve word recognition, even at low levels, but you can’t recognise words you haven’t been introduced to. When learners listen at a level they’re comfortable with, slowly but surely they become more attuned to the language . This then enables them to deal with texts spoken more quickly until they reach normal or near-normal speeds.

So what other characteristics should listening materials have?

First and foremost, they should be meaningful. For young adults the subject matter should not be aimed at younger age groups for instance, or have absolutely no relevance to the audience.

It is also important that they are enjoyable as people are much more motivated to listen to something that is of interest to them.

In summary then, the most important considerations are that the texts for listening to are: meaningful, interesting and comprehensible and it really helps if they are graded.

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