Nov 27

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READY4TESTS: 5 Steps to Mastering Listening Skills

People often ask us what to do when they can’t understand the program they are are watching or listening to in English. As an English teacher I often hear things like:

‘No matter what I do I just can’t understand it!’,

‘It’s way too fast!’,

‘They speak with their mouth shut, I can’t hear the words, that’s why I can’t understand’

‘You can’t even hear where one word ends and the next one begins’.

And the truth is, training listening skills in a foreign language can be difficult and tiring, not to mention frustrating at times. Makes us wonder how genius of us to have cracked the code of our mother tongue as babies, right?

On this website we often publish activities and interactive listening quizzes related to a particular short video, and some of our readers have also told us that even though they aren’t beginners and their English is at around intermediate level, the videos are just too hard for them to understand. So here is what to do to understand English programs, movies, TV shows, interviews better – and this method WORKS!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Listening Skills


Step 0 – RELAX! It is absolutely NORMAL to find it difficult to listen to real-life English! , that is the way it is really used in everyday life. Give yourself time. These skills CAN be trained, but they CANNOT be trained fast, without hard work and persistence. This means you must work at it and keep up the good work for a long time. Sort of like building strong muscles doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to build new connections in your brain, too! We offer a rich selection of videos on all kinds of topics from the news through interviews to TV shows to make it easier for you to tune in to something you’re interested in and that you’d watch anyway.


Step 1 – Watch / Listen to the full program/video first.What have you heard? What is it about? Sum it up in 1-2 sentences and write your short summary on a piece of paper or in a notebook. It is a good idea to keep a vocabulary notebook for practicing listening and go back to your notes to revise them now and then. You may also write your summary in your first language if it’s easier, but as you’ll get better at listening, you’ll find it easier to write down the key ideas in English.


Step 2 – Watch / Listen to the full program/video again. This time, take notes in English. Write down all the words, expressions, half sentences, sentences (if you can) that you find useful, interesting, or that you are not sure of. Sometimes you don’t know how to spell a word that you heard. Don’t worry, you can look it up later, just write down how it was pronounced. You can try to guess its written form and look it up in the dictionary later.


Step 3 – Watch / Listen to the full program/video with subtitles in English and/or print out its script (if possible). If you are watching TV shows/series, you may choose the subtitles option in settings from the main menu of your DVD or Bluray. For most shows, you can also find the episode scripts on the internet, for example at SimplyScripts.com.

Here at EU English, we also include the script with many of our listening activities, and all of our interactive listening quizzes. Check out this one for example: Friends – Joey and Ross Stuck on the Roof.

The point of watching the program with subtitles in English or reading the script while listening is that:

  • you can complete your notes with more really useful expressions & words,
  • you can find the words you caught but weren’t sure how to spell so now you have the correct spelling
  • you can mark the words/expressions that were difficult to hear (maybe because you pronounce it differently, or they are just hard to understand for some reason).


Step 4 – Listen / Watch parts of the program by pausing it several times and read the script with the program.

This will help you train your ears to hearing all the words so you’ll hear them better next time. What’s more, it helps you memorize words and expressions that can be very useful to know. Pause the video several times if necessary until you can really hear the words in the script.


Step 5 – Listen actively and sum up the program in English. Use the words that you learned from it, try to repeat the sentences you heard and use them to talk about what you heard.


+ 1  – Do the vocabulary activities to make sure that you really learn to actively use the expressions you learned from the video. The video lessons on EU English always contain practice exercises for learning vocabulary or quizzes to practice listening. This way these words will become part of your ACTIVE vocabulary so you’ll be able to use them when you want to.


It is a good idea to do all these steps regularly for a few weeks. Then, when you get the hang of it and get better, you may skip (=leave out) some of the steps, and go from step 2 to step 4 or step 5 straight away. Depending on how easy or difficult the program is, you can decide which steps you leave out. BUT if you use this method regularly, you WILL see results!

Try it and let us know what you think by writing to euenglish.info@gmail.com – we’d love to hear from you!


RELATED POSTS – Check them out!

10 Words in 10 Minutes – The Big Bang Theory: Leonard’s Mother

10 Words in 10 Minutes – The Intern (movie)

Interactive Listening Quiz – The Peanuts Movie


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.euenglish.hu/2015/11/ready4tests-5-steps-to-mastering-listening-skills/

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