Along the way, I came to realize that listening comprehension is a separate language learning skill that is very different from speaking, writing and reading. Of course, the various language skills are all related to each other and reinforce each other. However, they each require separate development strategies.
Listening is the language learning skill I neglected the most in studying Spanish. As a result, although I do fairly well with reading, speaking and writing, I still find it hard to understand the spoken languge.
I am now working hard at developing listening comprehension. I realize that listening comprehension improves significantly the more time ones spends time listening to the languge. This is because the brain needs time to be programmed to clearly understand the sounds of the target language.
Below I summarize some tips that I use to improve my listening comprehension.
Tips for develop listening comprehension
1. Set aside time everyday to actively listen to the foreign language. Many people suggest between 30-60 minutes per day, which is the general rule that I follow.
2. Listen to short videos. This will allow you to replay them often and more thoroughly study their content.
3. First, listen to the videos without subtitles and try to get the gist of what is being said without any aid. Next, listen with subtitles to learn the parts of the language that you didn’t know.
4. Listen to interpretations of your language into the target language. Follow along and try to interpret loudly as well. Note differences in word order, word choice and vocabulary.
5. Listen to lots of music. Memorize and study the vocab, grammar and pronunciation of the lyrics. I recently ran into the website LyricsTraining. It is a great site for listening to music and studying lyrics.
6. Listen for intonation, patterns in word order, accents, and how words are cut off or strung together.
7. Listen and make notes about the small parts of the language, which are often hard to master. These include things such as popular phrases, idioms, slangs, and discourse markers.
8. Practice the principle of over-learning, i.e., re-listen to things you have already mastered. They will remain in your brain forever.
9. Keep track of the videos you looked at in the past and replay them often to see if you now understand them clearer.
10. Keep building your vocabulary through reading, listening, and observing. The more you increase vocabulary, it is the more you will recognize spoken words.
11. Practice speaking with native speakers to get accustomed to the type of active listening where you have to understand and respond immediately.
12. Start listening to audio books. Check out the Curious George series.
13. Practice listening without translating.