For the next 60 days, I want to focus heavily on my listening skills, and I want to share with you tips on how you can improve your listening comprehension in a foreign language.
Why Listening Comprehension is Important?
If you want to hold a good conversation, understand a native speaker, listen to music and watch shows in a foreign language, then you need to improve your listening skills. I recently did the DELE B2 Spanish Exam at the Instituto Cervantes in Sydney, Australia, and I found that out of all my Spanish skills, my listening comprehension was the weakest.
You’ve probably felt it and experienced it yourself. You listen to a native speaker and you have a confused, dumbfounded look on your face because you have no clue of what’s going on. You hear bits and pieces of the sentences and words that you understand, but it’s just not enough to make you feel confident about what the other person is saying. This was how I was feeling most of the time doing the listening part of the DELE Spanish B2 Test, and then and there I resolved to do something about it immediately after the test.
That’s why for the next 60 days (and perhaps even for the next few months or year), I will be focusing very heavily on my listening skills. I need it to catch up to my other Spanish skills, as I feel my Spanish reading, writing and speaking skills are actually rather strong. My listening in Spanish is truly letting me down.
4 Tips to Improve Your Foreign Language Listening Skills
Here’s what I’ll be doing specifically over the next 60 days, as part of my personal language challenge, to bring up my level of Spanish listening skills:
1) Listen to Audiobooks
To improve my own listening skills in Spanish, I will be listening to audiobooks in Spanish. I love reading books, but I especially love reading via audiobooks because it’s much more convenient because you can be “reading” or listening to the audiobooks while you’re doing other tasks. Also, to be honest, I find myself to be quite an auditory learner.
In my case, I’ll be listening to an audiobook in Spanish everyday when I wake up for 10 to 30 minutes. I’ve already been doing a bit of it so far, and I am understanding the general ideas, but my ears really need to catch up to the speaker.
2) Watch TV / Series / Movies
Watch shows in your target language, such as TV shows or TV series or even movies. If this is too hard for you, I suggest to put subtitles in the target language while you listen and watch the show. However, if you can, simply watch the foreign language show with audio in that target language WITHOUT ANY SUBTITLES. The reason is because you want to be focusing exclusively on your listening skills, and subtitles distract you and make you focus on more on your reading than listening so it defeats the purpose.
For my case, in my language challenge, I will be finishing off Season 9 of Los Hombres De Paco, a Spanish TV series that I have been watching. It’s the final season and I’m excited about how it will finish up. Of course, for it, I will NOT be using subtitles, just listening and comprehending the show largely from what I hear and from context.
3) Listen to Music in Your Target Language
Another fun way to improve your listening skills is to listen to music. Put some music in your target language on your portable music player. I strongly suggest choosing songs in genres that you already like. The great thing about listening to music is that it’s fun, catchy, and you can listen to it on the go.
Another fun thing about listening to music is that you can discover genres that are characteristic of the target language. For example, I’ve started to get into Reggaeton, which is largely popular among Spanish speakers in Latin America, and I’ve been listening to a number of singers such as Nicky Jam, J Balvin and others which I’ve grown to really like and also learn more about the culture too.
As part of my Spanish language challenge, I will be listening to as much music that I enjoy in Spanish as I can. I will listen to it using my portable music device, and sometimes I’ll enjoy watching the music videos in Spanish on Youtube as well. As I’m writing this, I’m actually listening to the music video of Nicky Jam called Hasta el Amanecer.
4) Listen to Radio / News in a Foreign Language
At the moment, I don’t really do this myself, but it’s another option for you. You can find podcasts, radio stations (online and offline) and news broadcasts in your target language and listen to them to improve your listening comprehension.
Since I am not really a fan of listening to news (even in English), then I will not do this as part of my language challenge, but you certainly can include this as part of your techniques to improve your listening.
Listening Comprehension in Action
These are the main activities that could help you improve your listening skills in a foreign language, so you don’t feel awkward and don’t know what’s going on. I’ll be implementing many of these in the next few weeks as part of my language challenge. Check out future posts to see how I evaluate these techniques and to see if my listening skills in Spanish actually improve.