listening tip: youtube as a learning tool

(OCTOBER 2019)

When you want to improve your listening abilities, YouTube can be an excellent tool for a number of reasons. There are almost an unlimited amount of videos dealing with movies, music, literature, etc. that can be used to improve your English listening proficiency. You can use YouTube to boost your vocabulary and grammar knowledge as well. I think it can be beneficial to use YouTube especially if you are working with a teacher or tutor who can point you in the right direction as to which videos would be the most educational.

YouTube is a good learning tool but you should make sure that these videos you are listening to have educational content in them or that they can actually be analyzed and reviewed if you are focusing on songs, movie scenes, or reading passages. Not all videos are equal so please be sure to reach out to trusted family members, friends, or colleagues who have used YouTube as an English learning tool before and can show you some good videos.

Certain videos can be a waste of time and not be at your listening level of proficiency. This is why you have to screen the videos for the first 30 seconds to a minute to see if you will actually learn something new by paying attention to the content. You can also use the search engine of YouTube, which has gotten better in terms of showing you related videos that deal with learning English in different ways. It is good to ‘subscribe’ to channels that have useful songs, stories, movie scenes, and quick lessons on different grammar and vocabulary topics.

English from A to Z currently has a YouTube channel that you are welcome to check out with more video content on its way to listen to and learn from. You can check out one of our latest videos below and the link to the channel and other videos is listed below as well.

listening tip: songs, songs, and more songs

(September 2019)

A key part of developing your English listening proficiency is taking the time to listen to music and a lot of it. It doesn’t matter what genre but you should be prioritizing songs and more songs. You’ll want to listen to different genres from country to pop to rock which will allow you to get a sense of different slang words, phrases, and types of lyrics. Putting your own preferences aside, you will definitely benefit from exposing yourself to different kinds of music.

Make sure to choose lyrics and songs that are at or below your proficiency level. It’s important to challenge yourself when listening to music but you don’t want to overdo it so you won’t understand any of the words or phrases being sung. Being able to understand, interpret, and even sing along to the tunes is definitely beneficial to your overall learning experience and your enjoyment with being an English language student.

For example, a good band to listen to as a beginner in English are ‘The Beatles.’ They sing at a normal pace and the lyrics, while a bit theoretical, will really appeal to the average learner in terms of picking up the meaning behind a lot of the vocabulary being used in the lyrics they sing. A key part of listening to English language music is sticking to the music that you enjoy the most and will want to listen to more of. Once you try out a number of genres, you’ll have a better understanding of what you want to focus on and which songs you want to play again and again.

In summary, listen to a number of genres within the music portfolio that you listen to, choose a particular genre that appeals to you and even a particular band or music group, and then listen to those songs once or twice to mark down the vocabulary and grammar concepts that you’ll want to improve upon or become proficient at. Listening to music lyrics multiple times will help you develop better knowledge of slang, terminology, and English grammar structures so make sure to do a deep dive on particular songs so you will become more proficient in listening over time.

listening tip: make movies your priority

(June 2019)

In the English language, there are millions of movies out there where you can pick up different vocabulary words, grammar concepts, and manners of expression that you may not be able to find elsewhere. You could also be exposed to different English accents whether the actors are from the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

Thanks to Hollywood, English language movies have a global audience and those movies are increasingly being focused on an international audience whose English may not be their first language. Many movies, especially superhero movies, do not have that advanced of a vocabulary so if you are a beginner or intermediate level learner, you are likely to understand the dialogue better than you would have thought.

Watching English language movies will also allow you to pick up cultural references that you would have likely not understood otherwise had you not been exposed to these movies. In addition, when you listen or watch movies, the dialogue will often be at a slower or more normal pace. It’s likely that the actors will enunciate their words more that you would be able to understand better when compared to a piece of music or a podcast.

The best thing about listening to or watching a movie is that you can always pause, rewind, or fast forward if you need to re-watch a scene to get the meaning of the dialogue. You can also be an active listener by writing down the new vocabulary, the new phrases, or the new grammatical points that you did not know before.

Movies are often an 1 1/2 hour long or up to 3 hours long. If you devote yourself to watching a full length English movie at least once a week, it is highly likely that your English vocabulary will also improve and your proficiency level will improve. Watching a movie will also make you a more attuned listener and you will be able to pick up on different English accents as well with less trouble. This weekend, do yourself a favor and watch an English language movie on Netflix. I promise that you’ll likely enjoy the film but also be able to improve your English skills while enjoying some entertainment.

Listening tip: the power of podcasts

(April 2019)

Another excellent audio format for improving your listening English proficiency are podcasts. Podcasts are a type of medium that have only recently becoming mainstream and popular in the last decade or so. The most unique thing about podcasts is the free range format that it encompasses in terms of both subject matter and length of time.

Podcasts can range from sports to news to music to pop culture and there are millions of podcasts out worldwide. Podcasts are increasingly popular in the English speaking world and there are thousands of options to choose from. Whether you are on the go, listening in at work, or are relaxing at home, you can listen to podcasts anywhere and at any time. When it comes to length of time, podcasts can be as short as five minutes to as long as four hours. Depending upon the subject matter, the podcast length will certainly differ in minutes or hours.

Podcasts are an excellent tool for improving your English listening. You will be exposed to different accents, different vocabulary, different points of view, and different subjects. Podcasts are educational, portable, and reliable in terms of content. If you listen to just one English podcast per day, your English comprehension is likely to improve immensely.

However, podcasts won’t seek you out. You, as the English student, will have to do the research to find out which podcasts appeal to you based on the hosts as well as the subject matter. Some students will like sports podcasts while others will enjoy news podcasts. I recommend finding a couple of podcasts in different areas that you like and can learn from best.

Don’t be afraid to listen to the same podcast twice to get the intended meaning. You can pause, rewind, and replay any podcast and also choose the pace of the people speaking to be slower or faster too. I believe it is also important to take notes about each podcast and highlight vocabulary words or phrases that you want to understand better. It is also helpful to write a summary of each podcast you listen to and read out loud the summary of it to improve your overall English comprehension. Good luck and happy listening, students!

listening tip: The radio is your friend

(March 2019)

There is no format more consistent in its content and more widely spread than the radio. While it may seem antiquated nowadays, you can pick up a lot of English just with listening to the radio for a few minutes to an hour. Radio programming is consistent in what it provides in that you can always find news, sports, weather, music, and even talk show programs, which will help you to develop your vocabulary and grammar.

In addition to that, radio programming has a lot of slang, colloquialisms, and idioms that you wouldn’t find in other audio formats, which will help you to better understand the culture and/or country that you’re living in. If you are commuting to a job or working on a project, you can listen to the radio especially on your phone or computer. You do not have to have a car to listen to English radio programs nowadays.

If you are looking to better your listening proficiency, the radio option cannot be beaten due to the sheer variety of offerings in terms of subject matter and the chance to hear different people speak English on those same subjects.

A good example of how best to improve your English with the radio is to listen to programming like a baseball game, which provides hours of listening practice with a good amount of vocabulary that would be used throughout the game. Sports, with its longevity and range of vocabulary, can be very useful to English language learners who are looking to use the radio to better their skills. In addition, the sheer variety of music that you can listen to on different radio networks makes it another great option which can make English fun to listen to and help you with your proficiency. Whether it is rock and roll, pop, or hip hop, these English music forms can make listening fun and help you to memorize and understand the lyrics for each song.

While the radio may not be as popular as it was a generation ago, I highly recommend listening to a radio program especially in sports or music if you want to boost your listening proficiency and have a better understanding of grammar and vocabulary in the English language.


(January 2019)

An underrated tip to becoming a better English listener is what I and others like to refer to as the ‘call and response’ method. How it works is that you work with another person, usually a native speaker or a teacher, and they sound you a sentence or a few sentences for you to repeat. While you listen, you can also take notes and write down what you just heard to gain a better sense of what you need to say back to the teacher or friend with whom you are working with.

It could be a simple sentence like “Jack goes to the movies.” which they can repeat with you once or twice. Then, you can take a few seconds to digest of what you just heard and then repeat the sentence back to the person. While you are speaking, they should be taking note of your grammar and pronunciation in order to correct any possible mistakes that you may be making. You may need to repeat the sentence more than once in order to be properly understood. The teacher or tutor may also play you some audio of a person speaking in English and then they would ask you to respond by repeating what they just said.

The ‘call and response’ method is challenging but it can also be very rewarding especially if a non-native English learner is able to repeat more than one sentence correctly. Not only will your ability to pronounce words and letters become useful but it will also test your memory skills and your listening abilities. It is important for the student to speak slowly yet confidently in order to be understood. The teacher, friend, or tutor must also be careful in not challenging the English student with too much when they are first doing this ‘call and response’ method. I believe that this method is an effective mix of listening, writing, and speaking practice, which will produce results in just a short amount of time.,

Lastly, please be sure to start out with any easy sentence such as “Derek is a nice boy.” Once the student is able to repeat the sentence correctly then you can move on to longer and more difficult ones.

Intermediate Example: Derek is a nice boy who is helping his father today. Derek is shoveling snow from the sidewalk so that people can walk without slipping. Derek’s dad is very proud of Derek and gives him a cookie for his hard work.

Advanced Example: Derek is a conscientious young man who is working alongside his father today. Derek is helping his father to shovel almost a foot of snow from the sidewalk so that his neighbors will be able to walk around without slipping. Derek’s father is proud of his son and rewards him with some treats and a little money. Derek is happy to have helped his father and is pleased at the good work he has done. Derek’s neighbors are also very appreciative of it and give Derek and his father some hot chocolate.

As you can see from above, the intermediate and advanced examples are much more difficult but if you are feeling like you are up to the challenge, your speaking, writing, and listening abilities will improve dramatically the more you do the ‘call and response’ method. Good luck!

listening tip: expose yourself to different english accents

(December 2018)

One underrated aspect of learning how to listen in English is the ability to hear different accents depending upon which country you are in. If you are fortunate enough to have the chance to travel or live in an English-speaking country, you can listen to the various accents that make up the country. You’ll get a sense over time for the pronunciation of the English accent as well as what kind of unique vocabulary is associated with that city, region, or country.

I think that regardless of whether you are in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, etc., any of these countries and their respective regions will have unique accents to their English that you can learn a lot about from. If you spend years living in that country, you may even be able to adapt their accent as your own with your English. You can only do that by learning how the accent is pronounced, how the vocabulary and grammar of that accent line up, and also by listening intently to your friends and/or work colleagues in the country who all have that accent.

Part of the fun of learning English is to become familiar with the dozens of accents that our language has and it’s fun to pick and choose which accent you most like and would like to emulate yourself. Please be sure to listen to different English accents and to travel within the English-speaking country to get a sense of the regional accents too. Each country has regional accents such as the United States where the Southern accent is much different than the New England or California accents.

Listen carefully to these accents and make sure you meet and get to know people from different English-speaking countries to get familiar with their accents. Also, try your best to decipher which country that person is from based on their particular English accent. You may get pretty good at that the longer you travel and live in English-speaking countries. Lastly, be sure to listen and hear different media from these unique countries such as TV shows, movies, songs, radio programs, podcasts, etc. The chances will be good that you will understand the accent that much more easily and even be able to adopt it yourself.

Listening tiP: Using audiobooks to read and listen along to the story, passage, or article

(October 2018)

Mastering your listening skills and abilities in English is perhaps the most difficult of them all due to the fact that you really have to be paying attention to not just the words that are being spoken to but also the emotion and the context as well.

It can be hard to make listening activities fun to do but I believe that using audiobooks in the classroom is a great way to have students both read and following but also hear the emotions, the meaning, and the context of how the story is progressing. By listening to a book and not just reading it, there is an added level of discovery that you don’t get otherwise.

If you’re an English student and your teacher doesn’t use audiobooks in the classroom, it would be good of you to do so at home to give yourself some extra listening practice. Your teacher or professor may also be amenable to using audiobooks as well if you can do a good job of politely suggesting the idea to them and discussing the benefits of how reading while listening can help you retain more information about the book especially its characters, its setting, its main ideas, and what the story was all about.

Listening to an audiobook in particular is a lengthy activity but if you as the student are engaged in the story as well as other aspects of the book, then you will be learning a lot more grammar, vocabulary, and you’ll also be able to understand how emotions are expressed in the English language. If you can’t listen to an audiobook with your classmates because your teacher does not have time to go through with it, then take the time and invest in purchasing an audiobook, which is cheaper than a regular book and more transportable.

You may find that instead of reading the book alone to retain the English language concepts that you are better served by listening to the book instead and deeply concentrating on hearing it through your speakers / your computer. If you need it, you can also have the physical book in front of you and be reading the same chapter as the one you are listening to through your computer.

Don’t be afraid to supplement your listening activities with the added benefit of using audiobooks. You’ll absorb a lot more of the English language through your hearing it being spoken and you’ll also gain a greater appreciation for the authors, the stories, and the concepts that make up English literature.