The bottom line: if you want to speak English well, you have to listen to English on a regular basis.
In the previous article (https://forum.devexps.com/english-speaking-practice/the-right-way-to-learn-to-speak-english), you learned that there are two ways to learn to speak English: Implicit learning and Explicit learning. You learned that you must learn English implicitly to speak English well.
In this article, We’ll talk about one of the best methods for learning English implicitly...
It’s impossible to become an advanced English speaker without a lot of listening.
Why? To speak English well, you need to build implicit knowledge of English. The greater your implicit knowledge, the better (If you don’t understand this, go back to the previous article).
And guess what...listening is the easiest way to build your implicit knowledge of English.
Let’s say we take two groups of English students. We tell the first group to studying grammar every day, while telling the second group to listen to English every day.
After six months, the second group will speak English better than the first group – They’ll be better at finding the appropriate words to use, and their sentences will be more grammatically correct.
Why is that? The reason is that the second group has greater implicit knowledge of English than the first group. Greater implicit knowledge = better speaking.
This is why you must listen to English regularly. If you’re not willing to do that, the best you can accomplish is being able to speak basic or intermediate English, but not advanced English.
But it’s not easy because...
Because there are two problems that you might have when it comes to listening:
- You’ve trouble understanding what you hear.
- You don’t have time to do it. And you do it for a while then you stop because you’re too busy.
Let’s tackle each problem one by one.
Let’s talk about the problem you might have when listening to English, especially when watching a movie: you don’t understand what you hear. And this is not because you don’t the vocabulary. If you read on the transcripts or the subtitles, you will understand the material just fine.
You already know the words being used. You just don’t recognize them when listening. So, what should you do?
According to many research studies, an effective way to deal with this problem is to practice listening through easy-to-hard training.
In one study, participants were trained to perform a task related to hearing. And there were three levels of difficulty – easy, normal, and difficult. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group was trained to perform only the difficult version of that task. The second group, however, started with the easy and normal versions first before performing the difficult version.
The researchers wanted to know which group would perform the difficult version better. So, what was the results?
Well, despite having less training with the difficult version, the second group actually performed better.
Practically speaking, this finding suggests that if you have difficulty doing something, instead of just keep doing that, it’s more effective to start with something easy and then slowly increase the difficulty as you improve.
So, how can you apply this knowledge to improve your listening? I’ll tell you. First, you have to make it easy in the beginning. For example, if you listen to podcasts in English on your smartphone, find an app that lets you change playback speed so that you can slow down or speed up what you’re listening to. If you listen on your computer, there are programs that can do that as well.
Then whenever you have trouble understanding, use the app to slow down the audio. And it gets easy, right? You have more time to think, to make words that aren’t pronounced clearly, and to guess the meanings of new words and phrases.
The idea here is to make it easy in the beginning. Listen to slower speeds, to speakers that are easy to understand, and to easy stuff like podcasts and interviews as opposed to movies. Start small.
If you’re not done yet. Easy-to-hard training requires you to go from easy to difficult. Once your listening skills improve, you have to gradually increase the difficulty.
For example, if you’re listening to a speaker that speaks slowly and you can understand everything, instead of listening at the normal speed. Speed it up, you must still be able to understand the content but you could feel a little uncomfortable. This will help you become more familiar with listening to fast speakers.
The idea here is to keep pushing yourself. If you keep listening to something easy, your listening skills will stop improving. So you have to keep challenging yourself. Listen to faster speeds. Also, don’t keep listening to the same person.
Listen to different people with different speaking styles. And then...start watching movies without subtitles. If it’s still difficult, you can slow down the movie by 5% or 10%. Or you can slow it down even more if you don’t mind the slowness.
- Find a media player that can change playback speed so that you can slow down the audio when you don’t understand.
- Listen from easy-to-hard to understand materials like podcasts and audiobooks as opposed to movies (Just forget about movies).
:: For problem #2, I’ll also tell you some detail to find out how to listen to English regularly if you don’t have time.
First, let’s talk about why most people fail to improve their listening. Improving your listening skills takes time. It’s a long-term process. But most people forget that or they just don’t know.
When they practice listening, they use methods that are inconvenient – something that is not easy to do. It’s impossible for them to continue doing it for along time. As a result, most people quit before they get any results.
But how do I know this? Well, I know this because I’ve made the same mistake. I’ve tried several methods that were inconvenient like watching the same movie twice, with subtitles first and then without subtitles.
That was so boring so I quit after the fourth movie. I also tried listening and then writing down what I heard. But that was too much work and I was too busy.
Let’s take this back to you. How do you make sure that you don’t fail as I did? Well, if you want to succeed, the method you use must be convenient. It must be easy to do. If it’s not, you’ll probably quit before you see an improvement.
Let me share with you the most convenient way to improve your listening. It’s very simple. There are only two steps that you need to take:
Here’s the first step: download a lot of listening materials to your phone or mp3 player. Now, the best listening materials are the ones where people are just talking naturally. They’re just having real conversations.
When you use this kind of material, you’re listing to a lot of common, everyday words that people use in real life. So that’s the first step. The next step is very important. Don’t miss this step.
The second step: listen to the materials. But here’s the key: Don’t do it in your free time. Instead, do it when you’re already doing something else. Something that doesn’t require much of your attention.
Listen to the materials while commuting, while waiting in line, while exercising, etc. Use those time to practice listening. So that you don’t have to spend extra time.
Why do we have to do this? Well, the reason is that we want to make it convenient. When it’s easy to do, you’re likely to do it for a long time. And if you do it long enough, your listening skill will definitely improve.
Let me show you something that might shock you. Let’s compare this technique by watching movies, which is how many people improve their listening.
If you start using this technique today, and if you do it for 30 minutes per day, one year from now, you’ll have listened to 10,950 minutes of real English conversations. That’s a lot of listening. And because you’re not doing it in your free time, the amount of extra time spent is zero. That’s awesome!
What about watching movies? First of all, in a movie, there’s not a conversation or a dialogue in every part, right? If you watch an action movie, you might see a fight scene, an explosion, a car chase scene, etc.
Let’s say that on average, the length of a movie is 100 minutes. 50% of those are conversations. The rest is something else. If you watch 4 movies a week, or 208 movies a year, in one year, you’ll have listened to 10,400 minutes of fake English conversations.
Here’s the worst part: because each movie is 100 minutes long, this method requires you to spend as much as 20,800 minutes of your free time. That is really, really sad. Let’s compare the two methods side-by-side.
Now I have a question for you. If you use this technique instead of watching movies, and you save over 20,000 minutes per year, how would you spend these 20,000 minutes? Reading English books to increase your vocabulary? Practicing speaking? Or something else? Now, you know the power of this technique. This is a long term process. It takes time. So please be patient. Fortunately, you know this technique, I know that you’ll succeed.
- Don’t allocate your free time to listen to English (Your free time should be dedicated to speaking practice).
- Listen English during “downtime”. These are times when your mind is not focusing on anything in particular. For example, while riding a bus, walking, exercising, etc.
Knowledge is useless without action. So let’s use what you’ve learned today to create concrete results.
- Install a media player that lets you change playback speed on your smartphone. If you use Android, you can use Rocket Player (Premium version). It’s not free, but it’s super cheap.
- Find English listening podcasts (I suggest for you: https://www.youtube.com/c/PracticeEnglishSpeaking) on subjects that you find interesting, download them to your smartphone.
- Start listening to English during downtime.