"I get annoyed because I can't understand everything I hear".
"I feel good about listening to English. I try to get the main ideas and I don't worry too much about understanding everything. I watch facial expressions and people's body language and that helps too".
"English is a beautiful language. I love listening to the sound of English"
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     Volume 4 Issue 40 | April 1, 2005 |

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Did you know that listening is the first skill a child learns in his/her own language? When we listen we have to do lots of different things at the same time.

*We have to process speech from non-speech sounds (background noises)
*Separate unfamiliar sounds into words
*Identify the words
*Try to understand what the speaker means
*Try to get ready to give an appropriate reply
*Select the information that we need

We take all this for granted in our own language until we try to learn a second language. Listening is often considered to be a 'passive' skill but as you can see from the above it is a very 'active' skill and one that you can work on independently.

The symbol means you should stop, think and make notes before moving on

So, how do you feel about listening to English: good, bad, okay? Does your attitude match any of the comments below from some of our language learners?

This reflects how many learners feel. Believing that you have to understand every word when listening can be very frustrating both inside and outside the classroom

This attitude is realistic. This learner knows that you don't need to understand every word to get the message and they make use of outside signals to help them understand

This is a very positive attitude and will help this learner to remain open-minded when they meet problems with listenin

Listening problems

Think about the following listening situations. Talk about them with a friend or member of your family. Put them in order of difficulty. <>Easiest = 1<>

1. A lecture on nuclear fission in your own language
2. A conversation with an English speaking friend
3. A railway station announcement in your own language
4. The song "Happy Birthday" in English
5. An English TV programme or your favourite programme in Russian
6. A short talk on "My favourite holiday" in English
7. A conversation with a friend in your own language

Now think about what makes some situations more difficult than others.

Did you identify some of the following problems when listening?

*Native speakers speak too fast

Many learners feel that they simply cannot keep up with what they hear. They are so busy working out the meaning of one part that they miss the next part!

TIP Try recording some English from the TV or radio. Listen to it again. Go back over the parts that are difficult for you as many times as you need. You are in control.

l Native speakers don't pronounce all the words
We do not pronounce all the beats (syllables) in English as you do in Bangla

*Too many new words or slang words
In our own language we can often work out the meaning of an unknown word from its context. However in a foreign language an unknown word is like an instant barrier causing many learners to simply stop listening while they try to work out the meaning. This makes them miss the next part of the speech.

TIP one way to build up your word power is to do lots of reading and listening in English!

*Strange dialects
Some accents are more difficult than others to understand.

TIP The more you listen to different accents the more familiar these accents will become e.g. British, Scottish, Welsh, American, Australian etc. Listen to BBC, CNN and SKY.

*Background noise
In real life listening rarely takes place without distractions or interference. Noise such as traffic, people talking, telephones, sirens etc, interfere with listening.

TIP Put some soft English music on in the background sometimes when listening to the English news. You won't notice it after a little while.

*Unfamiliar topic
Not knowing much about or being interested in a topic is a problem because if you are listening to something you don't know much/anything about it's hard to understand what to listen out for.

*Too much information
Unlike writing when we speak we often repeat information

TIP Practise listening for main ideas

*Difficult to concentrate for a long time
It's hard to concentrate for a long time and when you try to you lose the meaning. It is also very tiring.

TIP Set time limits for listening e.g. listen or watch the news. Try to relax and listen to short bursts at a time.

*Trying to understand every word and losing the main ideas
When you stop to understand a word you miss what is being said as the speaking continues without you!

TIP Make a big effort to listen to what is coming, and letting things that have passed go rather than thinking about them. Speakers often repeat or rephrase things so you'll get a second or even a third chance to catch the meaning.

Things to try on your own:

*Organise a regular time for listening
*Read reviews of films, TV programmes either in English or Bangla before listening
*Find a 'listening' buddy. One thing you could do together might be to decide to listen to the world news at the same time and afterwards telephone each other and check if you agree on the main ideas in the main stories.
*Listen to as many different accents as possible. You can do this by switching in to BBC, CNN or Sky. Also listen to the news at 10 on BTV.
*Listen to music in English. Songs are a great way to 'tune in' to the language. Go to www.lyrics.com to find the words of all your favourite songs and use these as you listen. If you don't know what to listen for check out the top ten songs via the search engine Google on the Internet.
*Watch English movies on DVD with the subtitles option on.

After Listening

Summarise by writing a short paragraph or make notes about what you have listened to.

Evaluate: How well have I understood?
How could I improve next time I listen?

That's it for now folks. Happy listening!!

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