Two simple definitions
- to hear: to receive sound with the ears
- to listen: to try to hear
You are very good at languages. That’s obvious because you already speak one language very well – your own! And if you can learn and speak one language well, then you can certainly learn and speak one or more other languages.
But did you ever ask yourself: “How did I learn my own language?” In fact, you never really “learned” it at all – you just started speaking it. One day, when you were about two or three years old, you started speaking your language. A few words at first, not full sentences. But you spoke. And very soon you made progress without even thinking about it. It was like magic!
But it wasn’t magic. It was the result of hearing. For two to three years before you spoke, you heard people speaking your language all day, and maybe all night. You heard people speaking your language. Maybe you listened to people, but more importantly, you heard them. Then, as if by magic, you started to speak. All that hearing was necessary for you to start speaking. For two to three years words went INto your head. Then words came OUT of your head! That is why hearing (and listening to) English as much as possible is so important to you now. The more English you put in, the more you’ll get out!
So how can you hear a lot of English when you’re not in an English-speaking country or family? Fortunately, there are many ways of hearing English in almost all countries of the world.
1. Listen to English Radio
You can receive English-language radio in most countries. Two international networks are the BBC World Service (from the UK) and Voice of America from (USA). Both of them have special programs for learners of English. You can find information about times and frequencies for your country on their websites.
2. Watch English Television
TV is an excellent resource for hearing and listening to English. The pictures help you understand what is being said. If you don’t have access to English-language TV, you may be able to watch TV on Internet.
3. Watch/Listen to English by the Internet
It is now a lot easier to hear English by the Internet. If you’re reading this at your computer or mobile device, you can probably listen to some English-language radio news right now, without even moving! And of course, you can find endless videos in English on YouTube and similar websites (although the English is not always easy to follow). Check out our page on links to radio by Internet.
4. Listen to Songs in English
Songs in English are everywhere, even on foreign-language radio and TV stations. Listen to them often. Buy some MP3s or CDs, or make recordings, and try to write the words for an entire song. But choose one that is not too difficult. That means it should be reasonably slow, and with real words sung clearly. Some pop songs are very unclear and are difficult even for native English-speakers to understand fully! Here are some easy songs for English learners.
5. Go to Cinemas with English-language Movies
Outside the English-speaking world, many large cities have cinemas that show films in English, usually with subtitles. Make it a habit of going to these films. If you need to read the sub-titles, at least you’ll be hearing English even if you don’t understand it.
6. Use Video for English Listening Practice
You can use video to watch films from the Internet or that you buy or borrow. If there are subtitles, you can cover them with paper (which you can remove if you really don’t understand after listening several times). And sometimes you can use video to record programs from television and then watch them several times to improve your understanding. EnglishClub has video just for learning English.
7. Get English-speaking Friends
Try to make friends with English-speaking people so that you can practice your English through conversation. Of course, this will improve your speaking as well as your listening. And if you don’t have a lot of time to go out and meet people, at least you can chat a little by telephone.
Finally, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you hear. The hearing comes first! Understanding comes next!