If you’ve ever asked yourself, your classmates, or your teachers:
- What are some active listening strategies for students? Can I get some active listening activities?
- Where can I find listening practice online?
- How can I improve my listening skills in English*?
- What is the structure of English lectures? How can I use structure to help me listen better?
We go into all of these in detail in our Academic Listening Skills course – definitely worth checking out. However, if you’re looking for resources that you can use to help you with this key skill, read on!
Why is listening practice important?
Listening tends to be one of the skills that English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and/or university students are the weakest at – something that is generally not their fault. This weakness often comes about because student exposure to English language listening in their previous studies is pretty limited – teachers might teach English in their native language, for example – and fair enough, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. That said though, Listening is the one skill that there are no quick shortcuts (unlike Writing – where an understanding of structure, for example, makes a huge difference). As such, listening practice is essential.
We’re going to introduce two different types of listening practice resources over the course of this two-part blog post series – serious practice resources and more relaxed ones. Both of these practice resource types are very important for different reasons. Serious listening resources allow students to practice lecture listening skills in a way that will help when they are listening to lectures at university/college. When students think about doing listening practice, they’re almost definitely thinking of this kind of listening resource.
However, relaxed practice listening resources are really important as well. This is where you effectively “trick” yourself into practicing by doing something you want to do – watching a TV show you love, for example. This way you are getting important study/practice in while relaxing and enjoying yourself. Both are important – but together, they make an incredible combination. So we’re going to go through a few more relaxed listening practice resources today and we’ll be sure to add links to all of these so you can check them out yourselves. Enjoy!
Relaxed listening resources
Again – these are super important – this is another fantastic way that you can practice your listening without “working”. Normally, when doing lessons on things like this we will tell students that we expect them to choose a new TV show (discussed below) to watch as homework for that weekend. Students often laugh but we’re serious – it really helps.
Online content aggregators
These are platforms which collect together a whole range of different TV programmes. Perhaps the most famous of these is Netflix as it has all kinds of different TV shows, documentaries, and movies from all over the world. Alternatively, different countries and TV companies often have their own, storing everything that has been played on one of their channels over the past month or more. The UK’s BBC iPlayer or Australia’s 7 Plus are all solid options – particularly if you’re keen to watch a soap opera (discussed below). One potential problem before we move on to those though – these websites are often geo-locked meaning if you’re not in the country they come from, you’ll need a VPN to access them*.
*It is 2019 though so we’re pretty confident most of you reading this will have access to one…
Soap operas are a very particular type of TV show that we almost guarantee you have in your own country(ies). A fairly standard soap opera story might go like this:
Beautiful girl moves to small town. She meets handsome stranger. They fall in love. Beautiful girl finds out she is pregnant with handsome stranger’s baby. Handsome stranger is hit by a truck and goes into a coma. Beautiful, now pregnant girl is sitting with handsome stranger (who is still in a coma) in hospital when a man who looks exactly like the handsome stranger walks in and says he is the true father of her child and the man in the bed is an imposter. Find out what happens next – next week…
Soap operas can be a great way to master local accents, slang, and talking speed. We freely acknowledge they’re not for everyone (nor us – there’s much better options below) but if you’re interested, you might want to check out Home and Away (Australia), Hollyoaks (UK), or The Young and the Restless (US).
This kind’ve speaks for itself. We are living in a Golden Age of TV at the moment – there is so much good television to watch that it’s a bit crazy. Only problem is, if you’ve never heard of a show – how can you watch it?
As such, we’ve put together the following list of TV shows in consultation with a range of students of ours so there will definitely be something on there for everyone. Please note that some of these (the TV shows in italics) could potentially be described as “adult-viewing”. We’re comfortable that the vast majority (if not all) of our students could be described as adults but if you think that you’re someone who might be offended by such things – please, do the obvious – don’t click the link.
If you’ve never listened to a podcast, you owe it yourself to give it a go. Not even necessarily in English – in your own language if need be – they’re a fantastic format for sharing information on a truly enormous range of topics. Interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, and the stories behind the world’s best known companies? You might want to listen to How I Built This with Guy Raz. Interested in history? Check out Hardcore History. What about philosophy? Try Philosophize This!. Podcasts can take any number of different forms. One particularly popular one is The Tim Ferriss Show where he “deconstruct(s) world=class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use”. Past guests include Arnold Schwarzenegger, LeBron James, James and Suzy Cameron, Maria Sharapova, Peter Thiel, and more. Whatever you’re into, there’s almost guaranteed to be a podcast you will enjoy – well worth checking out regardless of whether you’re an Apple or an Android user.
We’re almost there! Audiobooks are exactly what they sound like – a book being read to you. A number of our students report that they use these when they are travelling to and from class/school – after all, if the commute takes a half hour one-way, that quickly adds up to five hours relaxed (and if it’s the right book, interesting) practice a week. Best part is – Audible offers a free audiobook! Check out their catalogue if you’re interested.
Spotify and Radio.Garden
Finally, Spotify, Radio Garden, and online radio apps. These are a new way to access an old medium (i.e., music and radio) and beyond that Spotify is life-changing while Radio Garden is just cool. With these and a data connection you can listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, and radio on demand from literally anywhere in the world. Relaxing in Melbourne while listening to live talkback from New York, Berlin, or Dubai or new music from London, Sao Paulo, or Lagos is pretty incredible.
Anyway, that’s us all done with the first part of this two-part series on listening practice resources. We hope this has been useful for you! As always though, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments – write us a post below. Or follow us on Facebook. Or if you have a question or a topic that you’d like us to write a blog post (or even better – a full lesson) about – email us!