Listening Strategies

Listening is the one skill that you use the most in everyday life. Listening comprehension is the basis for your speaking, writing and reading skills. To train your listening skills, it is important to listen actively, which means to actively pay attention to what you are listening to. Make it a habit to listen to audio books, podcasts, news, songs, etc. and to watch videos and films in the foreign language.
You should know that there are different types of listening:
  • Listening for gist: you listen in order to understand the main idea of the text.
  • Listening for specific information: you want to find out specific details, for example key words.
  • Listening for detailed understanding: you want to understand all the information the text provides.
Before you listen to a text, you should be aware of these different types. You will have to decide what your purpose is. Becoming aware of this fact will help you to both focus on the important points and reach your goal.
In order to improve your listening skills, you may apply certain listening strategies that support the listening process. To learn how to do so, read our tips below.

Suggestions for improving your listening skills

Before you listen

  • Think about the topic of the text you are going to listen to. What do you already know about it? What could possibly be the content of the text? Which words come to mind that you already know? Which words would you want to look up?
  • If you have to do a listening exercise, check whether you have understood the task correctly.
  • Think about what type of text you are going to listen to. What do you know about this type of text?
  • Relax and get ready to pay attention to the listening text.

While you are listening

  • It is not necessary to understand every single word. Try to ignore words that you think are less important.
  • If there are words or issues that you don't understand, use your general knowledge as well as the context to find out the meaning.
  • If you still don't understand something, use a dictionary to look up the words or ask someone else for help.
  • Focus on key words and facts.
  • Take notes to support your memory.
  • The speakers' intonation and stress can help your understanding.
  • Try to think ahead. What might happen next? What might the speakers say, which words might they use?

After listening

  • Think about the text again. Have you understood the main points?
  • Remember the speculations you made before you listened. Did they come true?
  • Review your notes.
  • Check whether you have completed your task correctly.
  • Did you have any problems while listening? Are you having trouble completing your task? Identify your problems and ask someone for help.
  • Listen again to difficult passages.