Boston school coming soon! Learn more here

Improving Your Listening & Speaking Skills: Why it Matters

Strong communication skills are essential in every area of our lives. In today’s global society, English is often the preferred language for communication between people whose native languages are different. As of 2023, approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide speak English either natively or as a second language.  So, English truly serves as a global lingua franca, connecting people from diverse linguistic backgrounds! English is crucial to getting the most out of the Internet, with approximately 60 percent of all websites written in English.

Mastering a new language requires learning to communicate through listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In this article, we will focus on the first two, as they are the most significant. One university study found that listening takes up 40-50% of the total time when communicating. Speaking takes up the second largest amount at 25-30% of the total.

For this reason, quality English language instruction will emphasize listening and speaking, while incorporating reading and writing in the correct proportions. LANGUAGE ON offers such a curriculum in an immersive language learning experience.  In the immersive classroom, all the course materials and explanations are presented in a level of English appropriate for the student.

Let’s consider some of the challenges learners have in improving their English listening and speaking skills and how they can overcome these challenges.

Understanding Listening Comprehension

Real listening comprehension means that we can gather useful information from what we hear and respond with comments and questions. A universal cultural value is being a good listener, so having good listening skills inspires others to trust us. People who can actively participate in a conversation by asking intelligent and meaningful questions are perceived as being more sincere and genuine.

Listening comprehension is also crucial for making progress in English and other learning experiences as new material is almost always presented verbally, not only in language learning but in other academic subjects.  Even students in creative fields, such as the visual arts and music, will receive much of their instruction in spoken form. 

How to Overcome Challenges in Improving Listening Skills

Students say that they experience some challenges when trying to improve listening skills. The most common problem is that the speech is too fast; this can be a problem with live speakers, as well as recorded speech as in movies and TV shows.

If you’re talking with a live person, why not respectfully ask them to slow down a bit? You may be surprised to find that the speaker becomes more involved in the conversation as they need to think more carefully to slow their speaking. 

For videos that seem too fast, check for a playback speed option on the platform you are using. For example, YouTube has a “playback” option under the “settings” menu (found by clicking the wheel or gear icon). Many people find that the .75 rate is enough to make understanding easier, without distorting the sound.

Another problem faced by students trying to better their listening comprehension is a lack of confidence. Many students don’t trust that their understanding is accurate. To help overcome this problem, try to do a lot of listening with a group, including some who are at a higher level. They can confirm your understanding, or correct what you might have misheard. When listening alone, you can turn on the closed captions (also called subtitles). It’s best to listen for a short time with the captions turned off. Then, replay the same part with the captions on to check your understanding. When used this way, subtitles can be a great tool for moving your listening comprehension ahead. Be careful not to become dependent on the subtitles–resist the temptation to leave them on all the time!

LANGUAGE ON uses a carefully developed curriculum that allows the student to naturally improve their listening comprehension. Authentic materials discussing interesting topics are chosen to keep the experience interesting and the student motivated. The audios and videos gradually progress in difficulty for continuous improvement without frustration.

Speaking skills Foto de Robinson Recalde en Unsplash

Enhancing Speaking Skills

The university study previously mentioned discovered that 25-30% of communication time is spent speaking. Speaking English fluently is essential for effective communication. However, many students feel they need to reach a high level of fluency before they start speaking to others in English. This often prevents progress since the student doesn’t get the amount of real-world practice they need to become a confident speaker of English.  Here are some effective ways to overcome this challenge:

  • Practice speaking in front of a mirror. It’s like speaking to another person, but since it’s yourself, you may feel less inhibited. If you don’t know what to say, just verbalize your inner thoughts, in English of course. This exercise can encourage you to begin thinking in English, which is one of the major steps to speaking English fluently.
  • If you have a pet, speak to them in English. People are generally less afraid of making mistakes in front of their dog or cat, so this can help get you used to speaking English on a daily basis. 
  • Join a language exchange app. There are several of these available; examples include Tandem, iTalki, and Hello Talk. These apps allow you to connect with other language learners. They can be a great way to build confidence by speaking with  native speakers.
  • Sing a song in English at a karaoke night. If you can successfully sing in front of strangers, then speaking will seem easy. If you really don’t want to sing, you might go to an “open mic” night and recite a poem in English for a similar confidence-building effect. You could even write something yourself to present.
  • Take an accent reduction course . You’ll feel more confident in speaking when you are sure of your pronunciation. 
  • If you are a frequent user of digital assistants, set the language to English, and speak your requests in English. This can also help improve your pronunciation as the commands need to be correctly understood by the device. 
  • Enroll in an English language course that includes speaking in daily classroom activities. Speaking English with other learners will help increase your confidence so you’ll quickly be ready to speak English anywhere, with anyone!  LANGUAGE ON’s supportive teachers will help you improve all aspects of your English, so your English communication skills will be real-world ready!

Take your listening and speaking skills to the next level in an immersive learning environment!
Immersive learning has been proven to be the most effective way to improve language skills. LANGUAGE ON offers immersive learning for all levels of English learners. Material is presented in English, using vocabulary appropriate to the student’s level. Experienced and supportive teachers will prepare you to use your English listening and speaking skills confidently in the real world.  Contact us today and take your listening and speaking skills to the next level!

Leave a Comment