My listening sucks

My reading abilities and speaking (not conversational) skills surpass my listening abilities.

My question to everyone here is, what can I do to improve my listening skills? I feel like my conversation skills are only as good as my weakest link, which is my listening. To be good at conversation, I feel like one needs everything to work as a system for it to work out.

Apart from listening to lessons over and over, what can I do? I’ve even made a point to listen to lessons before hand to see how much I understand without reading. I then read the lesson by itself without listening, and then I read while listening. It’s usually a combination of those methods. I also go to which gives you random phrases from a huge bank, and you practice your listening and typing there.


The only way to improve your listening skills is to listen. I would not work so hard on listen repetitively, but move on to more and more content, reading LingQing and listening, and learn to accept that 40% will be unclear, and then on some material only 30% and then 20% and then you will almost understand all of something and the next time 30% will be unclear and you just keep going. That is the way it is. Cheers.


I agree with you Steve, if you want to improve listening, so listen.
For me, when I am bored listening to audio over and over, I watch movies or criminal series on my target language. This helped me and I hope you will find your way.

I used to listen to the same lesson over and over again but i found that didn’t really improve my listening as much as i wanted mostly because i got really bored and tuned out completely after a few listens. What i have done is just listening and reading courses once or twice at most then I’ve created a playlist comprised of lessons from the different courses which i listen to on repeat, actively when i can but mostly passively as most of the time i’m working. After a few repeats I read the playlist lessons while listening again to help me notice what i’m missing and then after a few more repeats, I either add a new lesson or modify the whole playlist. I like doing this because i mainly read and listen to fiction so each lesson in the playlist is a different chapter from a different book and i like the “I’m shifting worlds” feeling. Frankly, while it is that my listening has improved a lot since i started this, i can’t say for sure whether the improvement would be more or less without this method. In any case, if it sounds like something you might like to do, i don’t see anything to lose.

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Youtube has helped me out alot in this case.

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I listen to songs and stories for children with text. You also may find it useful.

There’s no shortcut. Listen more.

Particularly, I think that listening is a good idea. However, there some limits. Only listening is no useful for me. I read and listen to the lesson, then only I read the lesson, finally, I only listen and try to identify the words. It is difficult because I need to relate the sound (pronunciation), spelling and meaning of the word. It is a hard work, but there is not a shortcut.

This guy got it:

Listening comprehension is the core language ability. You develop it by feeding your brain very many meaningful, interesting impressions of a language, for it to set up and strengthen the neural pathways of processing these impressions. This process has a large, if not overwhelming, subconscious aspect to it. Output ability then is a later-maturing result, almost a symptom,that you end up with.

Output can be fun and motivating, and conversations can provide very emotionally resonant lively interesting input. But emphasizing as a core learning activity, anything other than massive listening and reading input will bring lesser results than one could have achieved.

listen listen listen baby


I could not have said it better myself.

I find that listening to lessons is not a very powerful way of improving listening ability. On the one hand, you rely on the transcription, on the other, understanding plain audio is difficult and the typical content of a lesson is also not the easiest thing to understand. Listening to the lessons is, of course, useful but mostly for learning the pronunciation of isoloated words (the always challenging Russian stress, e.g.) and getting acquainted with the rhythm of the language.
For actual listening practice, it’s much better to find material, which
a) is multimedia: it gives you more clues about meaning and it’s more realistic
b) is more similar to face-to-face conversation than to a lecture or to overhearing someone else’s conversation.
The rationale here is to provide “comprehensible input” à la Krashen. The more you can understand the general meaing (based on non-linguistic information and the vocabulary you already master), the more your “language-learning brain center” will get engaged. There’s no need for transcriptions, you don’t need to understand every single thing, just get the general meaning and then try to pick up more and more sentences. As your vocabulary increases (based on Lingq’s texts) you’ll catch more and more content.
Stephen Krashen’s “German lesson” is a good example of what I have in mind (at an entry level): - YouTube

How do yo get that kind of content? niek1337 has suggested a source: youtube!!!
Find interesting videos on subjects you know and care about. Much better if they’re instructional (more similar to someone explaining something to you in person).
You can listen either to:
a) Videos meant for language learners in a conversational tone and that fulfil the requirements that I mentioned before.
b) Videos meant for native speakers about topics you know and whose content can be deduced from the video images to some extent: workouts, physical skills, practical demonstrations, …

Some examples of category “a” above for Russian: (especially “голоса” and “До свидания, лето”)

As for category “b”, it depends on what you like. I like to watch workout and skating videos.
Also some videos in the category “социальный эксперимент” are useful. For example, from this channel (they often compare Russian and American reactions):

Another example that I found useful, so you know what I mean (disclaimer: I know that the accent’s not native, it’s just an example):

That mezzofanti guild article is fantastic. Too true. Doesn’t matter what you can write or speak or read, if you can’t understand someone saying ‘sorry, what time was your train ticket booked for sir’? (or numerous other normal, regular things) in real life then it means nothing. Comprehension is #1 and that’s why the 'speak from day 1 (even though you have no words, no comprehension and no concept of the culture of the place) ‘methods’ are codswallop. Nonsense. Invented by charlatans.

A rose for “codswallop”. All learners of English should make a lingq for that word. :wink:

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Another simple example:

I think there are really two facets to listening.

The first is listening for the expected. The lessons give you the words and phrases to listen for and basically the biggest factor is time spent listening. Ideally you need to concentrate and try to notice the words and phrases as they are said with the goal of hearing and understanding/remembering the majority from the lesson. This is easier to do since you kind of know what to listen for and when - so I think its the ideal first step to the second kind of listening.

The second is listening for the unexpected. I think when you don’t know exactly what is going to be said or what to expect, it’s a whole other ballgame. To make this work you need the same ingredients as the first kind of listening: context and plenty of material to cover.

The difference is that the context is not a lesson which you’ve previously read, or a vocab list which you’ve previously gone over. The context you need is to engage the other senses. If you dont have someone you can speak to in person and converse with, you’ll probably do best with something you can watch.

Then its basically the same drill: since you have some context, focus on trying to follow whats being said by listening intently for the words you do know while watching and letting all the other cues aid your brain in building the connections.

So I think films, youtube channels, podcasts and the like are all great sources. I was thinking documentaries would be great material, but the language used may be intermediate/advanced.

Anyway no matter what kind of listening you do, or how much you do, it needs to include some ‘active’ listening. It requires mentally exhausting concentration to actually get the most out of it.

So to that end I’d almost think its worth finding something which is interesting even if the material is a little advanced rather than something boring which is at your level. Despite getting less from it, if it keeps you listening then you’ll get more from it in the long run.


Haha i thought it was an England-English only thing. I might do a lesson soon on Northern English slang. :wink:

PS do i get anything if i submit lessons? Free Lingqs? I think it’s a real shame the free lingq’s aren’t more numerous - i want to learn Norwegian here but i don’t feel the free lingq’s give me enough exposure to figure out whether Norwegian here is comprehensive enough for me to learn from ot not. I reckon 1000 free lingq’s would be plenty.

I do not use video material for language learning for the simple reason that it requires me to sit in front of a computer or TV or movie screen. 75% of my learning time is listening while doing other tasks.
I have also found that by focusing on sounds and the often subconscious process of connecting these sounds to meaning is more powerful than having lots of visual clues. But to each his own. The main thing is to enjoy. I would still say, to improve your listening, listen more, regardless of whatever else you do.

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A submitted lesson can give you some points monthly depending on how popular your lesson is. But don’t expect too much.
More info here: Import Help