How to: Improve your listening skills – listening for general understanding



Listening and understanding everything you hear in English is not an easy skill, especially when you listen to a long presentation or are in an online meeting. Sometimes it’s enough just to understand the main points of the presentation or discussion. Here is some advice to help you prepare and practice your skills.

Preparation and Prediction:

You know the topic of the presentation or subject of the meeting, so use this knowledge to PREPARE your brain for what you think you are going to hear the speaker(s) talk about and to PREDICT some of the words and type of language they will use. For example: a presentation about the new product range: – words and language associated with size, material, functions, quantity, price, marketing strategies. Review the vocabulary and phrases you know that are related to this topic before the presentation.

Listening for content words:

Develop your skills for only focusing your attention on the words that give you the important information. These are called content /con-tent/ words and they are usually the main verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Usually the speaker will say these words a bit louder than the non-content words. For example: “The NEW version of PRODUCT X has a LARGER capacity for MEMORY and can RUN at FASTER speeds than the older model”

Practice summarizing what you hear:

After you listen to something, make notes or verbally summarise the information that you heard. Did you remember more when you re-told it? Often, reflecting on what you heard helps you to recall more information.

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