According to The British Council, an estimated 375 million people speak English as a first language and another 375 million speak it is a second language. As many as half of all Europeans speak English regularly and up to a full quarter of all people speak some level of English. One challenging aspect of acquiring the English language is learning how to master English listening. English language learners can improve their English listening comprehension through immersion, conversation and media such as television and podcasts.
One of the most helpful ways to become fluent in any language is to immerse yourself in a culture that uses that language. If you are trying to master English, including listening comprehension of English, then living in an English-speaking country, like the U.S. or England, and going to an English-speaking school may be the best step to becoming proficient in listening. When you are surrounded by peers, instructors and passersby who are speaking English all of the time, you will begin to comprehend the language quickly and naturally.
Regardless of whether your conversation partner is fluent in English or not, having regular conversations in English can help you become accustomed to the nuances, vocabulary and intonation of the English language. The more you actively listen to another person speak to you in English and the more you respond to their speaking, the more proficient you will become at listening.
Films and TV
If you aren't able to immerse yourself in an English-speaking country or have regular conversations in English, you can watch American or British films and television programs. Listening to characters speak in English and becoming engaged in their personalities and situations will help you understand spoken English. Many American TV shows and films can be rented and streamed online.
Podcasts and Audio Books
Because audio books can now be downloaded on smart phones or computers, listening comprehension practice has never been more accessible. If you have a favorite book or a novel that you read in your first language, you might be able to find that same book translated into English available online. Likewise, podcasts -- topics from sports to relationships to religion -- are now readily available in many countries. When you listen to a person speak about a topic that interests you, whether it's a book you enjoy or a podcast about a subject you love, you will be more likely to sustain attention and comprehend what you're hearing, while mastering English listening.
- The British Council: The English Language
- Descriptive Study of Services to Limited English Proficient Students: H. Fleischman and P. Hopstock
- Methodology in TESOL: Michael H. Long and Jack C. Richards
- National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition: How to Be a Successful Language Learner -- Insights and Prescriptions from L2 Learners
- TESL-- EJ: Using Podcasts in the EFL Classroom
Anitra Lahiri is a seasoned English teacher and writer. She has been teaching English since graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree from NYU in 1996. She is also a registered yoga teacher who holds a Master of Science in Natural Health. Her passion is writing about health and spirituality.