How can I fix my listening problem?

Listening has been always my headache for me. My problem is that I can recognise a word and naturally speak it, but I can’t identify it by listening. It is something related to sensitivity of Listening. So have anyone else experienced it and do you have any advice?


I’m not sure I understand your problem. Are you saying you don’t recognise individual words when listening to a podcast or video? If so, slow the video down, then find some audio at your level, then listen while reading the transcript. Do that day after day for maybe ten minutes a day, and you will train your brain to decode the sounds into words. It takes a long time.


Perhaps the audio is too fast. Perhaps visual cues are distracting you from actually listening.

Can you use your voice to repeat what you hear at normal speed? Try it with an audio recording. If you cannot do this then…
Can you listen to audio at slower than normal speed and repeat what you hear? Try it with the same audio recording. If you cannot do this then…
Can you listen to audio at slower than normal speed, with your eyes closed and repeat what you hear? Try it with the same audio recording. And in your mind’s eye do not imagine anything, do not imagine written words or any images at all.

Basically I am suggesting that you practice a technique called “shadowing” with your eyes closed and with an audio recording that is at an appropriate playback speed. This takes lots of practice but it will train your ears to focus on auditory input.

It doesn’t matter if you understand what you are saying or not. It matters that you are repeating what you hear. You will get better and better at shadowing, better and better at actually hearing words and not mere sound or noise.


Thank you very much. You provided an easy way for me.

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Thank you very much. I will try your method. Normally, I listen to audio at normal speed. I know shadowing. But I watched Steve’videos, he didn’t recommend this method. I’m very curious about how he think of the problem. Anyway, I will try it. Thank you very much.

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Agree with the others.

Would add:

  1. Use sentence mode
  2. Read while listening (RWL) 1 sentence at a time or one word at a time if necessary.
  3. Re-listen to the audio without reading (right after RWL, multiple times if necessary)
  4. Re-listen to the audio only again later (multiple times if necessary, I loop the playlist)
  5. Build from there (increase speed, leave sentence mode, reduce repeat listens) as you feel more comfortable with the sounds.
  6. Listen a lot (listening is the one mode of study you can do while doing other things, so I do it while doing housework, commuting, exercising etc.)

You don’t need to understand everything, but listen and re-listening like this helped me become accustomed to the sounds.

Edit: Also, depending on the language the accents and dialects can vary greatly. Maybe focus on one accent if you can.


You’re welcome. The method is effective, particularly with your eyes closed and without being concerned if you understand what you are saying or not. Use the same bit of audio over and over again until you can shadow it successfully, as I have described. Then, very gradually increase the speed to slightly faster, but still slower than the “normal” speed.

Note that this is challenging even in your native language, especially if the “normal” speed is just a bit too fast! Also note the goal is not to turn you into an automaton, but to improve your ability to actually hear the words spoken. When you can accurately repeat what you hear with your voice in real time, without pausing the audio recording, then you will have definitely improved your ability to hear, to distinguish the words.

If you are listening to live audio, shadow the speaker “under your breath”, The act of saying what the speaker says, will in fact give you a mini-recording in your head which you can sort of replay in your mind, if you need to listen again for comprehension. Also shadowing will allow you to more accurately jot down notes regarding what is being said.

You’ll be amazed at how shadowing (blindly, with eyes closed and without visualizing any text or anything else) will help your comprehension of spoken English because you’ll be able to really hear the words! Remember, before you can understand the spoken message, you have to be able to actually hear the words.


A strange advice I think of is you have difficulty identifying words when listening. Well just try to identify words when listening.

But trick is to have at first very very limited expectation.

Let’s say you want to do it in english.
Try to recognize “it” “and” “to” “can” small pieces of a sentence.
When you recognize one repeat it. Take pride even in a small success.

For example you can watch a movie.
At first it will be quite limited. Your listening capacity will build up.
A very positive experience is after one month or two to listen another time to the same movie or serie you will be abble to see your progress.
I have seen a few cases when you can acquire the vocabulary doing so.

I have calculated in the langague I’m learning I have spent more than one hundred hours listening to movies, series and video outside of lingqs. I think that practise is complementary to Lingq.


Wow… It seemed as through Steve was answering my question. I think it was derived from Steve’s strategies and philosophies. Thank you very much. I will act on your advice and make it become my procedure for my listening.


Thank you very much. I will add it to my practice. Thank you for your patient and enthusiasm.

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Thank you very much. Your method is very practical and makes it easy for meto boost my skills. I should keep patient.

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I do most of what is recommended above on a daily basis. My listening is improving. Nonetheless it comes slowly.

I’ve decided to relax about it and celebrate my wins when I notice them.

Lately I notice I’m hearing phrases, not just words. Win!


Sometimes I feel the same way.

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Could you elaborate on how you try to relax yourself?

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jt23 will I am sure answer for himself.

However my advice is don’t worry. I forget things all the time, I make mistakes, I mishear things, I find some speakers very hard to understand, but that’s part of the learning process. If you forget something, look it up, it’ll stick eventually. If someone is unintelligible, listen to someone else. I have a friend I struggle to understand, we are both native English speakers. I regularly ask him to repeat something, sometimes multiple times. Sometimes when listening to American films, I cannot understand the speech.

Incidentally, getting stressed impedes learning, enjoyment and fun facilitate learning. Continually doing the same task again and again is not good, do a little of it each day.

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I decided to relax by giving up my expectation that I should be further along than I am.

At the start of 2023 I decded to learn French. When I researched language learning on the web, I discovered Comprehensible Input and videos by Steve Kaufmann, Olly Richards, Luca Lampareillo, etc. CI made immediate sense to me and from the many glowing reports I thought I could reach something like B2 by the end of the year.

I believe I have reached an intermediate level of reading; however, listening and output are far behind. My efforts with native speaking tutors weren’t easy to arrange and the sessions were much more nerve-wracking than I expected. There was family stuff happening too.

After I blew through my year deadline with mixed results, I did a mental reset. I now see learning French in terms of years. I’ve established a solid foothold. The really steep part is over. I’ll continue pressing on without pushing as hard as I was. The rest will come, as long as I keep myself in the language.

Perhaps more than you wanted to know, but I hope more useful than “I decided to relax by deciding to relax.”


Love Steve. While I do differ with him sometimes, I think his advice on listening is spot on.

He also mentions, like @jt23 is saying about relaxing, to just let the language wash over you. To be honest, I didn’t understand that idea at first. I wanted to listen and relisten to understand everything and only then move on, but I’d find my mind drifting if I listen too many times to the same content. I think there is a balance. Listen and relisten, but move on before you drift or get frustrated. If you go in not expecting to understand everything, it is easier to relax and not judge yourself. It takes a long time.

As you improve and understand enough to follow conversations, I don’t think relistening is necessary. I still re-listen in Spanish with novels I love, or sometimes podcasts I had a hard time understanding. I do understand more the 2nd time, so I hope I’m learning something :slight_smile:


I find that listening is about 3x as difficult as reading, meaning that for every hour of reading I need to do three hours of listening. It’s a totally different game: it is much harder to grasp the “whole” of which any word is a part when you hear it going by second by second instead of being able to visualize the entire sentence.

It is also easier to reflect on what you are reading without coming out of the flow of the reading experience, or even leaving the target language. But with listening, if you reflect on what you heard, the game is practically over.

One of the mysteries of listening comprehension, in my experience, is that the primary goal is simply to hear the sounds. Magically, if I am able to subvocalize along with what I am hearing, my brain starts to make those sounds meaningful. And my ability to subvocalize with what I am hearing is a function of my capacity to understand that language in a non-listening context. So when I work on my listening, I don’t worry about any reflective grasp of what I am hearing, I simply try to hear words flowing by. It’s a very odd sensation that takes getting used to.

I’ll also say that I’ve noticed improvements at about 250 hour increments. So you really need to give it time. At 1,000 hours of listening, mostly active listening where I am focusing intently on the sounds passing through my attention, I felt like I was really getting somewhere.


You are very sincere and frank. Thank you. I’m trying to relax myself more. I have borne in mind the moment when I was able to comprehensively understand the content after having done meditation. It’s an amazing experience for me.

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Thank you very much. Friend. It doesn’t seem like skills, instead a piece of philosophy or principe, which is priceless.

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