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The Ultimate Guide To Listening Comprehension When Learning A New Language

There are many different components to learning a new language. Usually, people tend to primarily focus on the following three: reading, writing and speaking. Undoubtedly, these are all most certainly important elements when learning a new language. However, there is another key element that some often neglect: the listening and comprehension part. This is interesting considering the fact that the exchange of communication relies 45% on listening, a higher percentage than the other three skills.  

Languages help us to interact and build connections with people. One of the best ways to empathise and connect is by listening. However, I understand that listening and understanding a foreign language can be a daunting task. You might find certain pronunciations difficult to understand; the speed at which natives speak may be difficult to keep up with; and hearing the language spoken by natives could make you feel like you don’t know as much as you thought you did. 

In this article I will be breaking down the best methods that will help you improve your overall comprehension and listening skills. 

  • Listening Through Media
  • Listening To Native Speakers
  • Be Patient
  • Take Notes
  • Improving Your Vocabulary 
  • Listening And Reading
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Listening Through Media

Unfortunately, simply listening to a language being spoken is not enough. It will not magically turn you into a fluent speaker who is able to fully comprehend the words. However, listening to a language on a consistent basis breeds familiarity which is a crucial step to overall understanding. Through consuming the media of that language, you gain an understanding of how people speak it, with specific emphasis on pronunciation and the speed of speech. Such activities can seem like a less mundane task than listening to a lecture on pronunciation. 

For example, listening to music is a great tool to improve your overall comprehension. The melodic nature of music can allow you to retain information quickly. The consistent repetition of songs will ensure that you pick up on certain phrases said within the song which will increase your vocabulary. Listening to a song and then singing it can boost the strength of you remembering foreign language phrases.

Listening to radio and podcasts are also inventive ways to engage with a language, and actively learn it. These may prove more effective than listening to lectures, for example, because it is a passive form of learning that doesn’t really require much engagement. It is down to the student to take in the information and do with it as they please. However, there’s a strong chance that people teaching languages through media forms will incorporate interactive activities and questions. Such activities can provide specific insight on pronunciation and tonality. This can allow you to become familiar with the vocabulary that you have been studying.

When listening to forms of media like music, radio, podcasts, and films (whilst also watching the screen, of course), it is important that you have subtitles/captions on for each one. This will allow you to compare how people speak the language as opposed to how they write it. Such is an important distinction to make when learning and comprehending a new language. 

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Listening To Native Speakers 

If you are looking to improve your listening comprehension, communicating with native speakers is a good way to improve your understanding of the language. More importantly, listening to them and taking in the language directly from their mouth. There is always the option of going to a friend who may speak the language. However, knowing or finding somebody who speaks the language you are seeking to learn may not be such an easy task.

This fact then makes one option seem the most sensible and accessible: finding an online language tutor. By doing this, you will be able to listen to them in every lesson. With the personal nature of the lessons and the close contact you will be engaging in, you will be able to pick up on several things through just listening to them. They also have the knowledge required to help you with your listening skills.

It is crucial to be aware that teaching a language is not easily done. You cannot go to just anybody for help with your learning. Only professional and experienced tutors can really provide this assistance, which are exactly the skills Learn&Co tutors possess. Hearing the language spoken by someone who is a tutor and also a native speaker is a great method of familiarising yourself with it and improving your overall comprehension. They are known to provide insight on the language and the customs that follow it. With language, there can be a variety of context clues that won’t be evident to you through reading a textbook. 

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Be Patient

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard the tired and overdone clichés of “be patient”, “keep going”, and “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. As overused as they are, these phrases are representative of the truth. Becoming overly anxious and frustrated doesn’t help you achieve your goal of understanding the language better. It can steer your attention away from your learning, so it is always important to remind yourself to remain focused by remaining calm.

In the beginning, when you are just starting to develop your listening skills, your primary objective should be to understand the general point of the conversation rather than each individual word. Whether you are listening to your language tutor or watching a film, missing a few details here isn’t detrimental so long as you get the main points made. Trying to understand every single word can get very stressful. It is also very unnecessary when considering that you have a long time to learn.

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Take Notes 

It is important that you retain the information you have gained when learning a new language. No matter which form you have taken to learn, you should always ensure you have a way of taking the information away with you. This way, you can expand on it in your own time. Flash cards are useful as they aid with the retention of information, which is critical when learning a language. They can be extremely useful for listening comprehension when learning a language, as you could use them to document words or sentences that you don’t understand and revisit them later. 

Research indicates that flash cards allow one to engage in active recall. This creates strengthened neural connections in the brain which leads to an improvement in memory. Frequent use of flash cards will improve your ability to take in and use the information you have learned. Overall, this is a useful tool that improves your understanding and comprehension of language.

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Improving Your Vocabulary 

Although this article focuses on listening comprehension, an efficient way to get to this stage is by improving your vocabulary. The more words and phrases you know, the easier it will be to keep track of the conversations you hear in the language you are learning. Often, you can feel discouraged and lost during a conversation due to the speed at which people are speaking and the unfamiliar phrases they are using.

However, reading a variety of texts can help with this, specifically articles and newspapers. If you choose Learn&Co to help you on this language learning journey, you will also be given various helpful tools to read. These will all give you a greater understanding on how these words are used in sentences and speeches. 

Listening And Reading 

Listening while reading at the same time is a great activity that can be incredibly useful. Using this method can help you compare the way the words are written with the way they are pronounced. Such can be particularly important for languages that aren’t phonetic or have a large gap between spelling and pronunciation. You should seek out courses or types of media that provide audio transcripts so you can follow while listening. For example, watching a movie or a TV show – you can turn on the subtitles in your target language to better understand what the characters are saying. Then, you can really take in what you are hearing alongside what you are seeing on your screen. Listening to an audiobook whilst following along with the written text is also very effective.

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While improving your listening and comprehension skills may seem like a challenge, I hope this article has shown you that it is far from impossible. Hopefully implementing the methods highlighted in this article will allow you to improve such. Don’t forget that being in the presence of an expert, knowledgeable tutor will grant you amazing opportunities to listen to them carefully and greatly improve this skill. You don’t have to search far for this because Learn&Co tutors are dedicated to providing you with the best language learning journey. 

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