How Would I Improve My Listening Skills to C2+?

I was wondering if you could give me some ideas to consider on improving my listening skills. Or even a method with the time block suggested below.

Target language: English
edit: more US related

I’ve been changing my goals lately and now I’ll have to start thinking and planning for the next year.

Soon I will post another request connected to this one, but here I need some advice on listening skills only.

The problem I face is that I’m already capable to easily understand movies, podcasts, Youtube videos, audiobooks, unless they are super complicated.

My mind is so able to focus on the content that it will understand it even if there is 90% comprehension. But I want to move to deep understanding.

I would like to train from advanced to excellence.

At the moment, I think I can dedicate probably a daily time block of 45’, to guarantee that I will retain focus without being overwhelmed.

Tools: LingQ, Language Reactor, Youtube, Podcast, Audible.

What would be the most effective way to use those 45’?
How would you distribute the time on a daily routine?
It needs to be a simple routine but effective.
I could variate alternatives during the week. But I need maximum simplification and effectiveness.

What would you do to build your yearly program?

Thank you very much for any idea.

EDIT: this topic is now connected to how would I improve my writing skills.


I want to start with the disclaimer that I’ve never achieved this level, nevertheless, I’ll provide my thoughts.

It’s unclear what you mean by “a deep understanding.” Without this being well-defined, it’s hard to give advice. In any case, to gain a deeper understanding, you’ll need to start learning like a native speaker in an English, debate, or philosophy course at the undergraduate, or even, graduate level.

We could take the definition that you want to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning woven into something by the use of the language. This is a highly specific skill that is less about listening, than a combination of the overall mastery of the language (vocabulary, grammar, ideation, etc) and knowledge of the topic. I could take most texts as a native speaker and understand 95%+ of the vocabulary and grammar, but if I’m weak on the topic because I haven’t studied it, then I won’t get the “deeper meaning” of it.

One recommendation is to try to get ahold of a syllabus for a university-level English course in the US or UK and follow the topics outlined there.


It’s a good point. Listening skills are more about understanding like basically what have just been said.

But I have almost no doubt Davide is more ambitious than that. He’d like to acquire the ultimate undedrstanding of of life, the universe and everything, am I right? @davideroccato ;]


I definitely agree with this, I thought about it too because at the moment, I don’t have a specific area of interest rather than a broad general improvement that afterwards I could laser focus on something more specific.

This won’t even be my main focus on the language, but a secondary area for the next year.

Let’s say that now, I’d like to create a better method for improving my listening skills in that time block. Understanding how this skill should be trained.

I never really “trained” specifically for improving it, and I’m not sure where to start. I relied on the fluency I learnt directly talking with native speakers in the past, but never focused on that area that is/was one of my weakest.

I’m not sure where to restart approaching the language on this area.

I constantly listen to podcasts/Youtube videos on a daily basis but I could stay to this level forever.

This could be an interesting idea to have a sort of roadmap, I suppose. If relevant to what I wrote before, where would you orient your research, and how would you approach it?

I target more US. I will edit it above.



:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

I admit, I thought about it but then I had too many thoughts, then those thoughts started to argue with each other, some wanted to have all control of the universe, others wanted peace and love, others just eat sugar, then I started to shoot them all, they reacted, a war started, and then came the void. Peace.


Well, the level Davide is aiming for is “N42”.

Here you can tell all native speakers how
their language should really be used (btw, that’s the “easy”
part bc. you’ve got all the answers about the universe as well :-)).

Be that as it may, C2 usually means (academic) specialization.

Therefore the tip of @haskjel is good!

Apart from that, I’d use online courses on

  • YT (say, Stanford Online ( with > 2200 videos, many of them are “courses”).
  • Coursera, EDX, Udemy, etc. courses (with or without certificates).
  • I’d also listen to advanced fiction (i.e. beyond pure entertainment) and read specialized secondary literature that interprets / comments on the primary literature.
  • Furthermore, I’d focus on specific dialects (in the UK, etc.) or topics I’m interested in (tip: Tony Hillerman’s books that take place in “Navajo Nation”: Tony Hillerman - Book Series In Order).


PS -
Listening / reading are important - there’s no doubt about it.
However, at such a high level, I would rather work on improving my speaking and writing skills using advanced or specialized topics.

Just reading / listening more and more is simply too superficial - at least if you really want to “master” topics!


@PeterBormann Hi Peter, thanks for your help.

Yes, writing is my main goal but I want to address that in a specific topic because I will be more precise on that regard. No problem with speaking and reading.

I will target grammar and vocabulary on separate time blocks, what I would like to understand is how to use a 45’ time block to be effective on improving listening skills only.

For example, I like your “progressive training” idea that you wrote time ago (Paul Wade style that thanks to you I’m weekly doing) and I would like to integrate it in my method or technique. I just need to understand how to start and build from there.

xxdb was a trooper, if he had an headache it’s because it was too difficult, but I can’t go to that peak level right now. :smiley:

Another example:
would I use a 5’ Youtube video?
Listening first without subtitles
Learn the entire text on a deeper level in order to be sure that I really get the nuances.
Repeat, repeat, repeat until 100% comprehension without subtitles and then move to a next 5’ videos?

Of course, I also need to train my capacity to stay focused but that’s another training/challenge as well. Actually, I will kill two birds with one stone.

Another example:
Would I use that same 5’ above but work it with Language Reactor and instead focusing on listening and matching the sound by speaking it? Going sentence by sentence until I have full comprehension and by matching the sounds my ears will better train on the frequencies as well?

I’m just brainstorming because people like you have put a lot more emphasis on listening and know more where to start and progress. I don’t have the luxury of wasting too much time with too many trials and errors.

Thanks for any help as usual.

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As my personal reference to later combine things together, I add other options I’ve just read.

  • Transcribe what you are hearing as you hear it.
  • Write summaries about what you heard.
  • Have a conversation with a friend about what you learned or heard.
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Hi Davide,

“Progressive” can refer to different things in this context. For example:

  • Intensive listening of short texts / paragraphs (including re-listening several times).

  • Extensive listening (with / without re-listening).

  • Listening to one narrator or various native speakers.

  • Trying to master a subject you’re interested in by approaching it from various SLA angles (only listening, reading-while-listening, etc.).

Tip 1:
Maybe it’s best to vary your oral “diet” during the week so that your study sessions remain interesting. For example: intensive listening (Monday - Wednesday - Friday) / extensive listening (Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday), etc.

Tip 2:
Your English skills are already quite good, so it’s probably best to listen without subs at first (exception: if there are hard-to-understand accents/dialects involved, so you’ll need more time to get accustomed to them).

Tip 3:
Another good strategy is to play around with the speed of the audio (1.25-2x).
After a few weeks you will find many fast conversations “easy” because your brain will have become accustomed to the faster pace (btw, this strategy also improves our focused attention and helps to avoid translations into our L1s!).

Tip 4:
“Learn the entire text on a deeper level in order to be sure that I really get the nuances.”
I think to get the “nuances” of a text (non-fiction, fiction or poetry - it doesn’t matter), it’s best to summarize the important points / nuances in our own words (this is, at least, one of the core lessons I’ve learned in various scientific disciplines).

And, nowadays, I want to have discussions with generative AIs (ChatGPT, etc.) about the text, too.
I do this every day in English / German (and sometimes other L2s) in my day job when I have to analyze hundreds of pages of public tenders or write blog posts about business process management and complexity research (note: you can’t trust the AI bc. of its “hallucinations”, etc., but to have such discussions is extremely helpful!).

You could use a similar strategy. For example as follows:

  • Select an appropriate topic where there is both a text and an audio version available.

  • Listen to a chapter - without reading - at a regular or higher speed.

  • Summarize what you have read in your own words:
    Writing is probably better if you really want to polish your sentences, but oral summaries are also helpful.

  • Make sure ChatGPT (or another GAI) can access your text.

  • Discuss the important points and nuances with the AI.

  • if necessary, re-listen to the chapter (the next day) or practice reading-while-listening at a fast pace (1.5-2x).

If you only have 45 min, then you could use two Pomodoro blocks.
For example like this:

  • Ca. 20 min listening to the audio.

  • Short break (3-5 min).

  • Ca. 25 min for summarizing and discussing the text with the AI.

ChatGPT is now able to talk. Therefore you could:

  • Only talk with it (oral mode).
  • Only chat with it (written mode).
  • Do both (that is, switch between both modes).

Rinse and repeat.

Or you could do something similar with a Netflix series (e.g. “House of Cards”) using LingQ or Language Reactor.

  • Watch an episode without subs (for 25 min).

  • Rewatch the episode with subs the next day (again: 25 min) or import the text into LingQ and learn the collocations / sentences you want to acquire / use Language Reactor).

  • Watch / re-watch the rest of the episodes the following days.

  • Listen to the episode again a few days later at a fast pace (while doing other things).

Note: If you want you could also have a discussion with ChatGPT about such an episode.

To be honest, I can come up with countless such “routines” for myself or when I’m face-to-face with another learner. However, it’s difficult to develop them without knowing your specific needs, strengths/weaknesses and interests.

Anyway, I hope you find a few nuggets here and there - and that reading my post wasn’t a complete waste of your time!

Have a nice weekend,

PS -
I recommend taking courses on Coursera, for example, because there you can really “test” your comprehension of a topic that interests you.
Most courses are usually free to attend, but you can also get a certificate for a small fee.


You should also talk with GAIs, at least in languages such as English, Spanish or German.

See, e.g.: ( 45 alternatives to Langotalk are listed on this page!)

I also wanted to update my blog to write about the new AI tools and tricks (à la NASA prompts, etc.) that we can use for SLA.

Unfortunately, the year-end rally has started and it’s going to be very hectic between now and Christmas. But I hope to find the time for 1-2 blog posts about Quazzel and Co. before the end of the year, so you don’t have to test every GAI / LLM yourself :slight_smile:


@PeterBormann Thank you for all your suggestions, you are never a waste of time to read. The waste of time is me lost trying endless tools that change continuously, but I’m past that right now.

I like the idea to intensive and extensive listening during the week, however, in a normal scenario, I already listen to a couple of hours on a daily basis. I usually listen to podcasts, videos, audiobooks every day while having lunch or dinner, walking, etc. BUT with the purpose of relaxing or enjoying the content I like.

Trying to master a subject from various angles is definitely something I should consider as well.

I’ve been also paying attention on how much my mind wanders, and I need to learn to put it more to work to “focus” on the language as well, not only on the content. It is a different training that I was experimenting today and definitely need more practice.

This is another doubt I have in terms of being effective. One name that is popular and that comes to my mind right now is Russel Brand. I believe he speaks fast, and to give a reference, I understand him very well.
So, I was wondering, what would be a better progression, increasing the speed as you do with you suggested, or finding people that talk faster?
It comes to my mind also finding faster conversations rather than individuals talking.

Weirdly enough, I have a hard time to understand words if there is music, songs are harder than faster speakers. However, I don’t care about it much but I was wondering if instead I should train my ears on that skill as well.

This is something else I have a doubt too. I almost don’t watch movies or series anymore but nevertheless, aren’t they too low words density?
It would be a yes, if we consider it as vocabulary acquisition, but I’m not sure from the perspective of listening skills.

Definitely something else I should consider as well, as I do right now in real time when I watch many videos.
However, I have another doubt here. Is it summarizing so effective if is there nobody else to correct me if I got it right?
Is it effective anyway, just for the process of paying attention, or we should have a feedback too?

I bookmarked Coursera, that I never used, I have many courses on Udemy, and the AI.

Thanks again.

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  1. Trying to master a subject from various angles is definitely something I should consider as well.
    Why not couple it with skill acquisition that you could use for work?
    Say, technical writing, social media marketing, machine learning, etc.
    There are even “specializations” (with certificates) for that on Coursera.

  2. “to “focus” on the language as well”
    a. I use time boxing (à la Pomodoro) for that so that
    focusing becomes a habit.
    BTW, the Pomodoro 25 min intervals have no scientific
    background (I had a discussion with NFera about it a few
    weeks ago). The only important thing is to have a

  • time box
  • a short break.
    Rinse and repeat.

Other strategies that help to focus are:

b. Multimodality à la “reading while listening” (Note: I’m not sure if every
multimedia mix helps bc. there is a trade-off here between improving focused
attention and focus switching related to multitasking).

c. Mindfulness exercises (meditation, breathing exercises, etc.)
See, for instance, various guided meditations by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

d. Computerized cognitive training

Computerized cognitive training games aim to improve your response times and attention. Evidence that this works has been mixed. “The goal of playing these games is not to get better at them, but to get better in the cognitive activities of everyday life,” Willment says. “But there is evidence that a person’s ability to pay attention can be improved by progressively pushing the person to higher levels of performance. So if you reach a certain level of sustained attention, pushing it to the next level can help improve it, and this may translate to everyday life.” Tips to improve concentration - Harvard Health

e. The monitoring of focus exercises

Want a way to boost your attention and focus? Neuropsychologist Kim Willment of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests a single-task exercise like reading. “Read something for 30 minutes, setting a timer to go off every five minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself if your mind has wandered. If so, just refocus on what you’re reading,” she says. "By training your brain to monitor if your mind is wandering, you strengthen the monitoring process and the ability to maintain focus on a single task. (again: Tips to improve concentration - Harvard Health)

e. Apart from that, the normal mode of our mind is distraction.
There’s an evolutionary reason for this, because for hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors had to constantly scan their surroundings.
As a species, we may be alpha predators now, but for most of our evolutionary history, we were just prey. And if someone concentrated on something over a long period of time, they were probably removed from the gene pool.

  1. Speed
    " increasing the speed as you do with you suggested, or finding people that talk faster?"
    In my experience, it’s important to be able to
  • control the speed of the audio material and
  • vary the speed
    according to our needs (i.e. level of knowledge of the topics, accents/dialects we know, language registers, etc.).

That’s usually not possible in many conversations with real people.

Or to put it another way, increasing the speed only serves to get used to the fast pace of (several) native speakers.
But this is only one variable, because if the texts are complicated (e.g. poetry, philosophy or science), we have to slow down (even as native speakers), otherwise we will get lost.

In short, speed control and variation are the keys in this context (btw, it’s the same in Calisthenics)!

  1. Netflix / TV
    If TV series are already too easy for you, then podcasts with multiple
    speakers and talk radio stations (see: Listen to talk radio stations from United States - best talk stations for free at
    are probably your best friends.

  2. Summaries:
    “Is it summarizing so effective if is there nobody else to correct me if I got it right?”

Yes, you should have some kind of “feedback mechanism” for your summaries:
For English, I’d use:

  • Deepl Write bc. it presents several ways of expressing things
  • ChatGPT (or similar AIs) for oral / written discussions about the summaries
  • General writing forums
  • Tutors on Italki & Co
  • Specialized writing coaches (btw., there are also courses on “creative writing” on Coursera!)
  • Accent trainers

“Is it effective anyway, just for the process of paying attention, or we should have a feedback” too?"

I’d say our own summaries have several advantages:

  • Language use: It’s about using the language, not just recognizing it, because pure recognition operations are simply too easy at an adv. level.
  • Comprehension / depth of knowledge: What you summarize usually shows what you have really understood.
  • Improving our focused attention, esp. if we start with questions about the text / conversation.
  • Honing our language skills: Feedback mechanisms are a must here!

OK. That’s it for today.

Have a nice Sunday


Hi David,

An Italian Youtuber called Davide Gemello from Podcast Italiano has published a free ebook with advice on how to go from B2 to C2. He has dedicated a few pages of this book to listening. It is targeted to people learning Italian but I’m sure some of the tips will still be relevant. Here is the link:


rap music - it has so many words compared to other songs and multiple accents.

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@PeterBormann Thank you Peter. I will definitely take many things in consideration and combine them together so to connect subject, skills, time blocks, focus and so on…
Once I will start to create my routine I will post it here to see what I could do better.

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@EABurgess I thought about music as well because, as I wrote before, my ears have more difficulty on understanding words when they are mixed with music. Even music that is not necessarily rap would be difficult to have 100% comprehension. I need lyrics if I want to be sure of the text. It’s like words are more blended with the background noise. Often singers modify words to arrange them to their needs and are not always so easy to spot.
The fact is that I’m not sure if it is an effective training as music is not really my subject, I don’t listen to much music, and my mind wanders 10 times more with it.
However, if you think it can really help, I could dedicate 1 time block per week to it.
I don’t have the knowledge to know if this could be very useful compared to what we were previously discussing.
Any further explanation is definitely welcomed.


Others have already questioned what exactly you mean by your goal, but I’ll assume it’s to reach a listening comprehension level similar to that of an educated native speaker.

As you get more advanced, you have to study in more specific ways. Personally, I’d break down listening comphrension into several, separate abilities. Note: these are based on my ideas, rather than my personal experience, as I’ve never reached such a level in a foreign language.

  • Aural vocabulary - you need to be able to understand a large vocabulary, when they are spoken. Reading isn’t enough, as you may not necessarily be able to recognise the words, when spoken, in particular in English, which is notorious for its spelling not always indicating the pronunciation of the word. To focus on learning the pronunciation of words you already understand the written form, listening to audiobooks (with a large range of vocabulary) is useful. Also, literature and poetry have a large range of vocabulary to learn the pronunciation of words you already know. Furthermore, there are many words and phrases which predominately exist in spoken language, but not in written language (often demeaningly called ‘slang’). To learn vocabulary used predominately in spoken language, you need to listen to lots of people speaking on a wide range of topics, particularly in ‘informal’ contexts.

  • Subconscious understanding - you need an immediate, instant understanding when listening to people speak. This is achieved by large volumes of listening, of the order of magnitude of several thousands of hours. I think this is how you overcome the issue of memory in foreign languages, I mentioned I was having issues with before.

  • Understand a wide variety of accents - even though native speakers from one region may still have difficulty with the accents of native speakers from other regions, you should still familiarise yourself with at least the more common accents. You are likely familiar with the more educated, upper-middle class accents from the U.S. and England, but, as you are aware, there are many more accents than this. Perhaps consider a few of these, even just a few podcast series from each region, ideally with interviews with/by working class people (who you’re likely to have had less listening exposure to): England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, U.S., India, etc. Also, if you are unfamiliar with it, African-American Vernacular can be quite challenging.

  • Understand fast speaking - you want to train for the fastest possible speaker you’ll hear. To do this, train with increased audio speed.

  • Understand poor-quality audio - one of environments, which is among the most difficult to understand people, is when they are speaking in a pub with loud music and lots of others talking. You want to train for such a scenario. If you aren’t in country, you may want to try to artifically create poor-quality audio by listening to chit-chat style, multiple-people podcasts in a loud cafe or on a loud, busy street with the audio volume turned down. Furthermore, when you don’t understand one particular word in a sentence, your brain can subconsciously predict it, if you have large amounts of experience with the language, particularly listening. I.e. with large volumes of listening, you increase your ability to understand poor-quality audio.

I mentioned an order of listening comprehension difficulty in another thread:

There are probably a few more categories you can break it down to, but these give you a good idea on the separate skills you have to gain to achieve such a near-native level.

To sum it up, you want to use the following techniques:

  • Listen to a lot of content. You are looking on the order of magnitude of thousands of hours
  • Listen to audiobooks/literature/poetry to gain the relevant pronunciation of from words you potentially already know the written version of
  • Listen to conversational podcasts to learn oral vocabulary, i.e. what some may call ‘slang’
  • Listen to audio on increased speed
  • Listen to poor-quality audio, including artificially creating it
  • Listen to a wide variety of accents, particularly those of working class people from regions you’ve had less exposure to (these audios probably require more searching to find)

As you can see, listening to large amounts of clearly-pronounced audiobooks and YouTube monologues can only take you so far. You have to seek out the difficulty. Personally, if I could just choose one ‘technique’ to train listening comprehension, I’d say listen to chit-chat podcasts/radio shows interviewing a large range of people from various accents on increased speed and low volume with a large amount of background noise. Do this for a few thousand hours.

If your goal is academic specialisation, that’s a different question. If your goal is near-native listening comprehension, I wouldn’t focus on academic materials. I’d focus on listening to everyday speakers, particularly those not speaking about academic materials (because they are more likely to be upper-middle class and you want to also familiarise yourself with accents from the working class).


@nfera Thank you very much for your very useful reply. I’m starting to have a better idea on this topic and indeed, there are many variables. I’m glad that there is this contribution with different options so that I can better understand the argument.

One problem that I feel I start to face is to put a logic on all of this. An overwhelming feeling to untangle everything, and create a plan for an entire year (which is something my mind is not good to do, and need a different strategy). But that’s on me and I will figure out step by step.

I have already a couple of daily hours of English exposure, just for relaxing or learning other stuff, where the focus is on content, and I will keep it that way. However, I will step by step optimise it to teach my mind to also focus on/off on some words here and there.

Now I will have to create a sort of program.
I need some help to understand where do I start, where do I position myself, which ideas I would trust the most, and how I will develop them in the long-term.

I have now these considerations:

  • 45’ time block dedicated exclusively to improve listening skills
  • 1 year time
  • variation of materials to give variation to my brain depending on its energy
  • easiest blocks when I have less energy, but still a bit challenging.

We know that time flies. Even a simple 5’ videos could take a lot of time depending on how we work that video.

I need to create a routine, or at least a few certain slots inside a weekly routine, where I don’t have to think anymore afterwards. I just do them. Because I will have other things to think about.

It’s like faith. I need to create a routine that I trust that will make me progress, and that I just apply it.

Where do I start to do that?

I few things that randomly resonate for now:

  • increasing speed to control pace
  • US target accents first
  • repetitions
  • summarization (+ eventually AI feedback)
  • mastering a subject (+ Coursera targeted course)
  • variation of oral diet
  • Kids material tests
  • poor-quality audio, background noise training

I’m a native English speaker, am no doubt C2, but never made any great effort to reach C2. Feel free to dismiss this opinion if you wish.

I think your focus on listening is misguided. While most of the suggestions you’ve received in this thread have been good, there’s a simple problem, advanced audio / video content isn’t common. You can do as Peter says and study several academic fields. That can work well enough. But more than likely you’ll not have interest in enough of those fields for a steady supply of lectures beyond the introductory level.

What I’d say is, after taking the courses you’re interested in, don’t fret so much about listening, sure, listen to podcasts and talk shows that usually have preferably more than one guest, but focus on reading difficult fiction and non-fiction, writing, and speaking.


Thanks. Those areas will have their separate sections or time blocks. This thread is just for me, to better understand how to create a routine dedicated to listening skills improvement only. If I will be able to combine all other sections together the better, and I probably will.