English listening course
Understand what people say to you
The listening part of your English lessons will help you gradually increase the probability that you recognise and understand the small details of what people say to you as well as whole message.
Auditory understanding of a spoken foreign language, like English for you, requires you to properly guess the meaning of the message. It is a guessing work because you understand only some parts of what has been said at such a fast speed that your mind cannot keep up with the information processing.
In the lessons you will learn how to use your grammar knowledge, the context and the situation of the conversation, general language patterns, the speaker’s unique language style, body language, emotions and probabilistic thinking to quickly create a highly probable version of the speaker’s message out of fragmented pieces of auditory information.
Understanding oral English is a creative process. You rarely understand correctly just by hearing what your conversation partner actually says. It requires fitting together all the pieces in such a way that it is meaningful in that situation, grammatically correct and fits to the recognized sounds. And even then you can’t be sure that you are correct.
Auditory comprehension is not a passive activity but an active one. Improving your listening skills takes long time training, directed focus, quick mental processing and memorization. Listening development requires you to increase the capacity of your memory: the echoic, the short and long term memory. The improvement of your auditory memory and concentration skills are built-in features of our exercises.
It is not just that you spend a lot of time listening English and your understanding will improve automatically. Yes, your comprehension will be better but without a feedback system incorporated into your learning, your improvement will be very slow and random. The feedback is provided by the teacher.
Why is it so difficult to understand what they say?
Have you ever wondered why you can understand a written text much better than its spoken version? If you understand almost 100% of a written text, you probably understand only 10-30% of its audio version by hearing it once. Our listening exercises target narrowing this huge gap between the visual and the auditory comprehension.
Almost all words have only one spelling version so once you learn how to spell a word, you will probably recognize and understand it every time in the future. However, everybody speaks differently. We use different speed, accents, pronunciation, tone, pitch etc. to say the same word. You need to recognize a word hundreds and thousands of times to reach a high probability of recognition of that word when you hear it next time. Just listening to a speech which includes that specific word is not enough. You need to recognize it and be aware of it.
Students have the most difficulties to recognize by listening the short, not emphasized words such as: this, that, these, those, does, do, he, him, and, but, or, is, are, in, on, with, at, etc. It is much easier to understand the long, emphasized, slowly pronounced words.
Think about your listening improvement something like this:
If in your whole life you have 10 times successfully recognized a word spoken by different people in random situations, you will have a 5% chance that you will understand it next time.
If you have already recognized the same word successfully 100 times, you will have a 30 percent chance that you will understand it next time.
If you have already recognized it successfully 1000 times, you will have an 80% chance.
Of course, the numbers are just for illustration of the idea.
Listening for comprehension and details
If you are at beginner level regarding to your English listening skills, comprehension means that you understand the apparent, rough meaning of what you hear.
Maybe you understand a lot of words, but you cannot reproduce correctly what you have heard because your brain is not able to process the sounds quickly enough to have time for all the details and your short-term or working memory is not fast and large enough to keep all the information.
For example, if somebody says, "Where are you from?", and you think that she said, "Where do you come from?", it means that you understood the question but did not pay attention to the details or you did not make enough effort to memorize the actual words.
The purpose of the listening exercises in the class is not only learning and recognizing new words and understanding the speakers but also developing the capacity and speed of your auditory memory and your skill to be able to focus on the details and recall them.
In the accuracy targeting part of the lesson you will be required to pay attention to what you hear, you will be tested, given feedback and get corrected until you can remember the actual words and sentences you have heard and say them correctly. This exercise will make you listen very carefully. It's not easy but useful.
Higher level comprehension skills - jokes, humor, metaphors, analogy, stories, sarcasm
If your English is good enough to master everyday communication well, we are going to work on your higher level comprehension skills. This is where you start to understand the hidden meaning, connect ideas together and see the big picture.
If you understand every word but you still cannot understand what they are talking about, it is because you lack information or knowledge about the specific topic or cannot connect the dots.
We are going to learn a lot of concepts in various topics. Concepts are complex ideas that might contain other concepts. For example, conscious mind, frameworks, power, liberty, balance sheet, derivatives, cardiovascular system. They are not just words you learn in a few seconds. You need to understand a lot of other things in that field to really understand the speaker's message.
We are also going to learn about understanding and using metaphors and analogies. These are tools that you can use to explain something that the other person does not understand by using something similar that they understand.
You will learn a lot of idioms and expressions. They are a group of words that have a meaning that is not deducible from the meaning of the individual words
An even higher level listening and comprehension skill is when you don't just concentrate on the content but also the context and the structure of the message. We are going to learn about frameworks, perspectives and even system thinking.
Understanding humor, jokes, sarcastic remarks and flirting requires creativity, understanding the culture and sub-culture and some knowledge. We will deal with these, too.
Listening advise for learning by yourself
When you watch TV and videos in English language, do not read the Chinese subtitle. Yes, I get that you do not understand too much but you need to get used to listening to English without any help. Reading the English or Chinese subtitle can be an exercise sometimes but your main practice should be listening without reading.
Listen to audio and watch video of which you would understand 90-100% if it was in written version. Even if you understand everything of the written script, do not be surprised and disappointed if you understand only 20% of the spoken format. It is very common and almost all English learners have the same problem. Just keep spending time for listening.
Additionally, you can choose to listen to audio that is very easy for you - so you can feel good about your improvement. More often, watch movies, news or soap operas or listen to BBC or any audio that is well above your level. Use difficult audio to train yourself to understand the main topic and the main message without being clear about the details.
Listening to and watching recorded English materials are useful but not enough. You need to practice talking to people if you want to master the two-way communication.
In this English conversation course I encourage you to start a discussion about any topics at any time. Do your best to contribute to our conversation. A classroom is a safe place if you are shy or not confident enough to talk with foreigners in “real life” situations.
Speed up your brain's auditory language processing
When you learn a language you actually learn two independent languages. A written one and a spoken one.
You need to spend at least 100 times more time for listening than you spend for reading to reach the same level. When you read you can choose your speed; when you listen you just follow the speaker's speed.
Your brain needs time to process the information you have just heard. If you hear a word that you haven't heard often, your mind may use 1 or 2 seconds to understand it, if at all. That is a lot of time and you miss the next words of the speaker because your mind is still processing the previous word.
If you have heard a word or expression hundreds or thousands times, the processing time can go down significantly and understanding becomes automatic. When you hear "thank you" or "sorry" you understand them immediately because you've heard them so many times that its processing has become automatic, subconscious.
Learning anything is bringing things from the conscious mind into the subconscious, automatic mind.