Listening comprehension is a very basic skill one must have in order to be a good English speaker. Why? One of the most common and critical mistakes non-native
speakers of English make is focusing their time and effort in improving their English speaking skills without first assessing and practicing their English listening comprehension skills. A lot of them actually know grammar rules pretty well and can construct even complex sentences. Surprisingly, just when you thought they can communicate well in English, they suddenly come to a halt when asked questions.
Some non-native speakers cannot understand the question/s, because the one asking speaks too fast or because of the speaker’s accent (in case of an Australian or a British speaker for example). They would often ask the speaker to repeat the question several times or request the speaker to speak more slowly, before they finally understand the question. Some, on the other hand, answer the question/s impressively (with not many mistakes in grammar and pronunciation; good explanations and examples; amazing fluency) just to find out in the end that he or she misunderstood the question, and therefore gave an inappropriate answer.
So, how can one’s English listening comprehension skills be improved?
Listen! Listen!! LISTEN!!!
Listen to dialogues in English TV programs and movies. Avoid looking at the subtitles (translation of the dialogues in your mother tongue). Focus on understanding what the speakers are saying without reading the translations.
Listen to an English News Program or Disney cartoons or an English conversation/lecture audio and repeat the sentences you hear. It might be hard at the beginning but when you do this often enough, you’ll find yourself being able to repeat longer and longer sentences. Try to parrot not only the words but also the way the words have been spoken. Be careful though in choosing the audio you will try to imitate. Make sure they are clear and easy to understand.
Catch the Main Ideas
It’s not necessary for you to hear every single word for you to understand a dialogue, lecture and the likes. You just need to listen carefully for the words that will give you the main idea of the topic discussed.
Watch Out for Homophones
At times, you might encounter words that sound like other words, such as homophones (words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings). In these cases, you should not rely just on the sound you heard, but the context on which the word was used. For instance, the words “bare” and “bear” have the same pronunciation, so you have to listen for context clues. If the words “zoo” and “furry” were mentioned for example, you could already guess that it was the word “bear” which was mentioned, not “bare”.