You’ve tried learning more vocabulary. You keep practicing. There’s no reason you shouldn’t understand, but every time you try to have a conversation or listen to anything in your target language, you get lost pretty quickly.
You’re not alone.
Listening to native speech can pose a special challenge for many language learners and trying to improve by listening even more can feel like trying to break through a brick wall. You know there has to be another way to succeed.
Although constant listening practice is one way to improve, it’s certainly not the only way.
Improve listening skills: Repeat after me
Your secret listening weapon isn’t all that secret. In fact, you’ve probably been doing it already.
Instead of just listening, try speaking.
Being able to pronounce phrases and sentences correctly is just as valuable in understanding speech as it is in producing it.
Let’s imagine that you had trouble identifying the English word and in a conversation. It’s a pretty common word, but it’s also usually modified in everyday conversation. Native speakers will often drop the sound of the ‘a’, the ‘d’, or both. If you didn’t try using the word in a sentence, you might not even consider how easy it is to say it differently.
This practice isn’t unique to English speakers either. French learners might recognize this as a liaison. It’s a way of connecting words so that sentences flow more quickly and easily. However, it often causes language learners to miss words they already know in conversations, which means that learning more vocabulary won’t help.
Instead of doing the same thing and getting nowhere, try improving your speech and pronunciation to become familiar with connected speech. The personal experience might be key to picking up on differences in the words you already know.
Always be listening – even with friends!
The next time you want to improve your listening comprehension, try some of these exercises instead.
Say it out loud
Make a conscious effort to speak more often.
Find more people to talk to or read out loud when you study. Remember that you don’t have to sound perfect. Just focus on improving your pronunciation and try to avoid using your native language if possible.
You can use this as a tool for self-study or, if you’re feeling brave, you can ask an instructor or a friend for feedback.
Don’t worry about making an impressive speech and don’t think of it as a presentation or performance. The point of recording yourself speaking is to help you identify where you’re struggling. You can even use your recordings as a tool to follow your progress.
Ask your instructor to use words in context and repeat them
It’s easy enough to look up words in a dictionary, but it’s a lot harder to make it a part of your active vocabulary.
If you’re ever in doubt about a word or its usage, ask your instructor to give you some examples instead of just a definition. This way, it will become easier for you to hear how the words sound in context. Then, be sure to study any new words with relevant sentences to help you identify them more easily when you are listening.
Most people will tell you that if you just keep listening you’ll get better. However, this doesn’t have to be the only way you learn. Use these tips while you study, don’t get discouraged, and you’ll find yourself improving before you even know it.