Listening is an important skill. In business it can make the difference between a sale or no sale, between understanding feedback from a client or not, between understanding new information at an event or not and many other situations.

So, listening practise is essential if you’re learning English. You’ll learn:

  • how to pronounce something
  • how to stress a word or phrase. Is it RE-port or re-PORT?
  • new words and expressions
  • and you’ll get a feeling for the ‘melody and rhythm’ of English, so it will sound more natural.  

My advice is to listen as often as possible if you’re learning English. Ten or fifteen minutes a day will be a great start. Do this even if you don’t understand much of what is being said. Slowly but surely, you’ll get used to the language and one day, ‘suddenly’, you’ll start to hear separate words instead of gibberish. After that, you’ll start to understand what is being said consciously. And then you won’t have to think about it anymore.    

When I learn a new language, I have dreams which tell me how I’m doing. In the first dream I hear people speaking the language I’m learning: they talk really quickly and I can’t understand a word. It’s very frustrating. In the second dream, a little while later, I dream in the same language and I can understand it as well. Yippie!  It’s intriguing that I can create the language in my first dream without being able to speak it fluently when awake. That’s why I’m sure you’re learning by listening, even if you think you aren’t.     

Here are 10 simple ways to practise English listening:   

  1. TV, Netflix and films are great ways to practise. As you improve, see if you can watch without subtitles. There’s no need to do that from the start.
  2. has audio books. Be aware that Gutenberg houses books which are no longer subject to copyright, so you might learn expressions that you wouldn’t use anymore. But it’s enjoyable if you like the classics like Jane Austen.
  3. has all kinds of real life stories, both audio and video in US English. The people I teach usually tell me they are fairly simple to understand.
  4. YouTube contains a vast number of films. Be careful that you mostly watch films by native speakers if you want to be certain that you are improving your English though.
  5. Ted Talks also has vast numbers of films about all kinds of subjects. If you’re interested in something, you’ll find it here.
  6. Enroll for webinars in the UK or US. There is bound to be something you’ll enjoy or need. This is especially interesting if you have your own business – keep up with the latest ideas from the US and improve your English at the same time!
  7. You can use audio books or podcasts while you are doing other things. People use them when running, driving or cooking. If you’re driving, you’ll probably need a good set of headphones to be able to hear the words well. Please make sure that you can still hear enough to drive safely!   
  8. Songs are a fun way to learn English. Check out YouTube songs ‘with lyrics’. I recommend using songs as general listening practise for the rhythm and melody of English, not for vocabulary. The vocabulary you’d learn from rap for example, isn’t going to help you make the right impression commercially. Yo bro!
  9. Join a Facebook group or follow someone who does a lot of lives.
  10. There’s also radio. Find a more serious radio station, this will probably be easier to understand. A breakfast show often uses a lot of jokes and people interrupt each other a lot. Make sure you’re making it easy on yourself.

Follow this link to hear an audio recording of this blog.

What are your experiences with listening to English?