Today’s world seems to be louder than ever before. Lots of different sources of noise distract you when you try to listen.
Listening to an English speaker with a strong accent or in an online setting is a challenge.
You are afraid that you are not competent enough. And you’re worried you might not be able to get your job done.
Let’s admit it.
A lot of people feel this way. But they don’t talk about it much. So you may feel alone too.
The good news is this: There are effective strategies to strengthen your listening skills so that you can understand much more in a conversation.
Could your listening strategies use a boost?
Read on for three actions you can take now to understand more in English
What kind of listener are you?
It might sound odd but when you want to strengthen your listening skills, you really need to have a closer look at this question.
- Do you really listen and try to understand what your conversation partner is saying?
- Or are you trying to think of a smart answer after the first few sentences?
- You are distracted as soon as you don’t understand one word or a whole sentence that you forget to listen to the rest of what your conversation is saying?
Before you continue reading take a minute and think about these questions.
If you’d like please write your answers down.
Strategies for listening
Ask for a repeat
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press the repeat button in a direct conversation to listen again to somebody with a strong accent? But you can! By You asking for repetition.
So first of all listen to the general information in a conversation. If you can’t understand your conversation partner ask him or her to repeat. Maybe you caught some pieces and could use them to check your understanding. Try saying:
So, in other words, you are saying…?
What if you didn’t understand an important and specific part of the conversation? Feel free to ask for clarification:
What do you mean by ….?
Give yourself a minute
After your conversation partner’s reply, wait a short moment and “digest” what has been said before you reply. I know you might be tempted to answer directly which is absolutely natural, but it can distract you from understanding.
Start with the big ideas
In most cases you will know what the conversation is about.
So it might also make sense in the beginning to note down some key information you need to get out of the conversation.
Then focus your listening on this key information. It calms down your brain because listening doesn’t seem to be so overwhelming in this situation.
Practice, practice, practice
The last step is to implement your new listening strategies and practice your listening skills.
What is an accent that is difficult for you to understand?
Try to listen to that accent every day. You can find English speakers with authentic and diverse accents in short clips at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds. Listen to a few and then choose a clip that you find challenging and interesting.
What key information would you like to get from the clip?
How much time can you dedicate to strengthening your listening skills every day?
I recommend dedicating at least 10 minutes to your listening skills every day. Maybe on your way to or from work.
Step by step use the other strategies directly in a conversation or get help practicing from an experienced coach in a few lessons. Consider tracking your progress so that you can pay attention to your improvement.
Try these strategies and watch yourself improve:
Listening is a skill that requires practice. Once you have identified your way of listening and what you need to improve it is important to challenge yourself by listening to something that you consider difficult.
You will soon notice you understand a little more every day.
Share your thoughts in the comments.👇
What else can distract you when you are listening in a conversation?
Find out more in the post “International business conversations: Be aware of your own cultural background to build better business relationships”:
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