Why Everyone Needs To Do More Listening

If you’re anything like most English learners, there’s only one skill that you’re most focussed on: speaking.

It’s completely natural. After all, you want to have a conversation, not just sit back and nod your head blindly while the other person does all the talking.

But the mistake that many language learners make is to jump straight into speaking; they fail to appreciate the power of listening.

Steven Krashen stated, in his Theory of Second Language Acquisition that “comprehensible input is the crucial and necessary ingredient for the acquisition of language.”

In plain English, this means that you need to be surrounded by English that you can understand the meaning of, but that you can’t necessarily reproduce.

That’s the most effective way of acquiring a language, not spending hours in front of a grammar or vocabulary book.

Reading is one way of getting this input, but listening is not only a more convenient but a more useful way of building up the amount of comprehensible input you are getting.

Here’s why everyone needs to do more listening, and why you should too.

Improves your comprehension

This might sound blindingly obvious, but if you want to get better at understanding what people are saying, the single best way to do that is to practice listening to people speaking.

You can do this in real-time, by having a conversation, but this has the added pressure of you having to think about your response in real-time as well. 

Instead, if you do something like listening to an English podcast or an English radio show, you’ll be able to focus on just one skill: listening comprehension. 

This means that when it comes to listening to someone speaking ‘in real-time’, you’ll be able to understand them far more easily.

Improves your speaking

That’s right, listening to English improves your speaking skills as well. 

By listening to a native speaker you’ll hear how native speakers pronounce different words, how their sentences flow, how and when they pause, and how they actually speak.

If you just jump into speaking, especially if you are practising speaking with other non-native speakers then you might be able to produce English, but if you haven’t spent time actively listening to how native speakers speak then you will make far more errors with pronunciation than if you had spent time first listening.

Bonus tip, if you want to really improve your speaking skills through listening, I’d definitely recommend starting to use the Shadowing technique.

A true ‘10 minutes a day’ exercise

One of the most common excuses from any language learner is ‘I can’t find the time’.

This is why so many language learning apps try to get to learn in small, bite-sized chunks, but it can often take time to get into the swing of things.

With listening, especially if you are using a podcast to learn English, then this is truly an activity that you can do in 10 minutes a day. 

Make sure you carve out time every day, whether that’s before you have a shower in the morning, when you’re on a break at work, or when you’re out for a run in the evening. 

Put in your headphones, press play, and off you go. It couldn’t be easier.

Listening is an excellent way to work on your English even when it doesn’t feel like you’re studying.

Conclusion

There are thousands of different ways to improve your English listening, and there is an infinite number of radio shows, podcasts, and videos for all levels.

Whether you are an advanced learner and you can listen to podcasts for native speakers, or you are just getting started and you want to watch some videos about how to use phrasal verbs in English, the Internet is full of amazing resources for every level.

The only thing that remains is for you to realise that everyone needs to spend more time listening (yes, including you), make some time in your day for it, and stick to it. 

Good luck!

Written by Alastair Budge for EnglishClub October 2020
Alastair Budge is the founder of Leonardo English, the company behind the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast, a podcast for higher-intermediate English learners.

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