But success in comprehension is also a question of the relaxing, having the right attitude and these four essential tips:
Practice Makes Imperfect
Tip #1 is not to expect to understand everything perfectly. Research has shown that when people speak they tend to include a lot of irrelevant detail and to repeat themselves often. Which means that what is important for comprehension is to get a general idea of the conversation, and if you don’t quite understand what someone has said wait for them to say it again in a slightly different way. Practice as often as you can without putting yourself under pressure to be perfect.
Tip #2 is to practice accents. Really this is two tips rolled into one: practice, practice, practice; and make sure your practice includes listening to people with different accents. For students of English who wish to travel around the UK this is essential. The accent of English speakers in Edinburgh is very different from that of Londoners. In fact, many English people do not understand the Scots-English accent.
Even if a student of English plans only to study or work in London it is important to practise listening to accents as many people from all over the UK travel to London to work, so it is likely that different accents will be a part of every day. Listening to BBC regional TV programmes can be a great source of accents.
Don’t Cram Your Brain
Tip #3 is to not waste time cramming your head full of every little piece of obscure vocabulary or rule of grammar. Time is much better spent getting a general idea of the spoken language including sentence structure and rhythm. This will make listening more creative and fun.
Do Train Your Brain
Tip #4 is probably the trickiest to master for students of a second language: To train your brain to listen and respond in your target language. Time spent converting what is said into your first language then converting replies back into English is time lost. For students of English, training your brain to think in English will deepen your understanding of the language.
These listening tips are brought to you by St Georges school of English which has nearly 50 years of helping students of English to listen and understand. The tips can be used by young learners and by adults on a Business English course.