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How Do I Improve My Listening Skills? Part 1

How Do I Improve My Listening Skills, Part 1?
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Today we answer a question from Vietnam.


How can I improve my English listening skill? – Nga, Vietnam


Dear Nga,

First, thank you for writing and asking your question. It may help to know that there are three kinds of listening. Most of our listening is done person-to-person or face-to-face. You can see the other person and ask questions if you do not understand what is being said. This is called interactive listening.

At other times, one listens for information, like an announcement coming from a loud speaker at a train station. What train is leaving now? And from which train platform or gate? If you just hear the names of cities where the train will stop, you might have the information you need. This is selective listening.

Today we talk about these two forms of listening. Next time we will talk about the third kind of listening, used in learning. It is called intensive listening.

Face-to-face, or interactive, listening

In face-to-face conversations, some things are helpful. First, the person with the information you need is right in front of you. You can ask the speaker to slow down or stop them and ask questions.

If you do not understand, stop the other person and ask, “can you explain this?” You may ask, “would you please speak more slowly?”
When the other person finishes speaking, say what you think about the subject. This will help to show the other person you understand.

Selective listening

When you need to get information from an announcement, think first of what you will hear. At a train station, the announcer often identifies the train by a number. The announcer also says where the train is going, the platform it is leaving from, and the time it will leave.

The announcement may sound like this:

“Train 849 to Washington is leaving from platform B2 at 10:00.” Listen for the information you need. When you hear the city you want, listen carefully and you will probably hear the gate number.

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

interactive adj. requiring people to talk with each other or do things together

platform – n. a raised level next to a railroad track on which people or things stand

selectiveadj. careful to choose only some people or things, but not others

conversation – n. an exchange of information, ideas or opinions