Friday 24 July 2009

Learning Method: How to improve your English skills? (Listening)

Chapter 1: The Shortcuts for improving your listening skills

Tip 1: Know your listening materials.
Many learners are too eager to improve their listening skills, they grab whatever might look useful and spend hours and hours practising it. In the end, they took the long distance route. There are a few problems to this:

  1. It might be too difficult.
  2. It might be too easy.
  3. It might be too boring.
  4. It might be too stupid.
  5. It might not be enriching, thus it doesn't benefit the learner.
  6. It might offer strange accents (they often do).
  7. It might not meet your personal needs.

There might be more problems to just the 7 listed above, which is why it is crucial to know your materials before you start.

Tip 2: Know your needs (strengths and weaknesses), choose the right stuff.

Simply, put it, if you don't know your problems, how do you know what materials will help?

Tip 3: Begin with a variety of topics, test your level while discovering your interest.

Once you know what your problems are, you can focus on choosing the right materials to use. However, very often I get "attitude" students, who tell me "I don't like this" or "This is not my cup of tea" before they even try. How do they know they what "tea" suits them if they don't try? Having a prejudice on the once "not-my-cup-of-tea" seriously limited the choice one has. How can one be so sure that they haven't improved their taste over the years? There are always surprises when you allow yourself to expose to more. Once you have found your new interests or new loves, you will improve two times better than you normally do.

Tip 4: Always pick listening materials a little harder than you can cope with.

There is no point you keep practising with CDs or sound clips that you can handle or that are too difficult. Too easy and you don't learn at all; too difficult and your confidence will be at risk. Think of it as challenging MJ's moonwalk before you can walk.

Tip 5: Listen to English songs, whenever you can.

It doesn't matter whether you are concentrating or not, just play the songs, for your leisure or for background music, or just to make your home less quiet. There are both conscious learning and unconscious learning, babies in wombs learn with the latter. You are not too late to do the same.

Tip 6: Listen to (if no time to watch) English drama series, movies, news reports, TV ads, anything.

Like Tip 5, you don't have to pay special attention to it, but always have the sounds around you. This allows you to familiarise with the SPA (Separation, Pace, Accents), these are the problems which can be solved by continuous exposure. If you want native speakers to speak to you, they are always hiding inside your TV screen. This may not be environmental friendly, but who knows, maybe you will understand or enjoy the programs very soon!

All these tips have been applied and shown that they work. Try them out today!

Next entry: Chapter 2: The Shortcuts for improving your speaking skills