Many learners think they have bad listening skills because they can’t understand 100% of speech 100% of the time. In truth, your comprehension is probably better than you think...
Firstly, it’s ok to not understand things while learning. For example, you might hear a radio broadcast in your native language and forget it five minutes later. Does this mean you don’t know the language? No, you weren’t paying attention because it didn’t matter. In the same way, English listening needs to start with the right tools and materials that matter to you.
We collected powerful resources that help learners improve English listening skills.
What is English listening all about?
When it comes to listening, English is the same as your native language. You hear speech, decide whether it’s important, then pay attention if it is. Of course, English has its own grammar and vocabulary to think about, but they also improve with practice. If you get better at paying attention, you improve every skill. So, listening helps you understand speech and get the general meaning even if you don’t know all the words.
Regular English listening practice helps you:
Get the general meaning of English speech in different situations.
Find specific information in lectures, podcasts, videos, presentations, etc.
Understand the main points of any speech and explain them in your own words.
Comprehend different accents of native and non-native English speakers.
English listening reference guide
Practice these skills to get better at English listening:
1. General Skills
Basic knowledge you’ll need to do anything in English. Includes your understanding of sentence structure, recognizing sounds, and so on. Improving your general skills will help all-around learning.
Covers your understanding of English word order and sentence structure to help you develop foundations.
Covers your knowledge of words and topics to help you understand different situations.
Covers your own knowledge of how to pronounce words which translates into your ability to understand others.
Covers your ability to independently use English in order to ask questions, learn word definitions, and so on.
Covers your ability to focus on the material as well as understanding non-verbal cues.
Covers your ability to consider words and ideas in order to better understand and explain them in your own words.
Specific listening skills that improve your ability to understand the language. You use these tactics in different situations to become a better listener and find important information.
Covers isolating specific sounds and words to build up your comprehension from smaller pieces of information.
Covers using your existing knowledge of the situation and context to increase your listening comprehension.
Covers your ability to summarize materials and understand main points even without listening to the entire broadcast.
Covers your ability to get specific information, such as finding your flight number in an announcement.
Covers your ability to note and remember concepts and ideas even after listening for longer periods.
Covers adapting to different accents and tactics for isolating key sounds, finding common pronunciations, etc.
Your ability to work with different types of English audio and video to understand it. These can be different forms of media in your professional work, things you watch for fun, and so on.
Covers traditional news reports, programs, announcements, and other similar things on TV, radio, and the web.
Covers extended presentations and courses on various professional and academic subjects.
Covers all kinds of online audio and video shows in your area of interest.
Covers all movies, TV shows, documentaries, and other longer forms of entertainment.
Covers conversations and presentations often specifically made for language learning or similar purposes.
Covers different forms of content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media.
Test your English listening skills
Put your listening skills to the test. Take 20 minutes to answer multiple-choice questions that test different aspects of your English listening. Get tips on how to improve your skills after completion. Find learning resources and correct your mistakes with Promova.
4 Ways to improve your listening online with Promova
English Tutor for Adults
Improve your listening skills with a certified tutor who helps adults become fluent. Control your schedule. Learn from podcasts, lectures, videos, and other materials you enjoy.
Language Learning App
Get English listening exercises in bite-sized lessons. Turn learning English into a daily habit with regular practice. Improve your comprehension with powerful language learning tools.
English conversation club
Practice active listening by joining our free English conversation club. Choose a topic that interests you and talk about it with fellow learners. Meet new people and improve your skills.
English Listening Class
Learn English listening in a small group with fellow learners. Work together to improve your comprehension and get guidance from a tutor. Practice and have fun at the same time.
Free Listening Resources
People often ask
How much vocabulary do I need to comprehend English?
You need to know around 3,000 words for basic fluency. At that stage, you should understand standard English in familiar situations. It’s a great baseline to start learning independently and increase your level over time.
However, remember that comprehension isn’t just about vocabulary. If someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or at a fast pace, you might need time to get used to it before you can understand them. Even native speakers struggle when they meet unfamiliar speech patterns, so it’s ok not to always get everything perfect.
How to improve English listening skills?
Practice and exposure to English is always the best way to improve. Here are some simple tips:
- Listen to English media. If you’re going to watch a movie or a show, look for an English version. Pay attention to lyrics in music and try to understand them whenever possible.
- Switch your news to English. If you’re getting a morning report or turning on the TV, look for an English broadcast. Focus on key things, and don’t worry if you don’t understand everything.
- Discover new videos and podcasts. If you’re interested in a topic, watch a video on it in English! Hobbies, work courses, skills - you can find all sorts of content that suits your needs.
- Go to online meetups. For example, try our English speaking club or sign up for a conference about something you enjoy. Listening to experts in your area of interest can be a great way to improve.
As long as you can immerse yourself in the language, you should be able to gradually improve your comprehension and eventually understand all kinds of speakers.
What are the different types of listening?
There are 4 different types of listening depending on why you’re doing it. These don’t apply just to learning English listening - you probably do them all the time in your native language and just don’t think about it.
- Informational Listening. Listening to understand something. You’re looking for details, ideas, instructions, and so on.
- Critical Listening. Listening to analyze something. You’re looking for facts, arguments, key points, and so on.
- Empathetic Listening. Listening to connect. You’re looking for emotions, feelings, opinions, and so on.
- Active Listening. Listening to participate. You’re looking to ask questions, engage, negotiate, and so on.
You don’t have to practice any of the 4 dimensions separately. However, being able to handle different situations and switch between them can make you a better communicator.