3 Tips for Practicing Listening Skills in a Foreign Language

Are you wondering how to practice your listening skills in German or English? Here are my 3 favorite tips for you!

Listening skills are – for some reason – the least favorite skills that students like to practice in class. Usually, they find it very difficult, so they’d rather not even try. That is interesting to me considering that listening is what you will end up doing MOST OFTEN in the foreign language! I would like to give you 3 tips on how to practice your listening skills.

1) Listen to the audio material that comes with your textbook. This should provide authentic conversations, e.g. at the doctor’s or making an appointment, between two or more people. This is the best idea because it is appropriate for your level, you will understand at least 70% (that should be your goal), and you can identify with at least one person in the conversation. After listening to the conversation a couple of times, you can e.g. play just one person’s lines and then pause and then answer yourself and then listen to the answer given on the recording. This way you can also double check your own answers and you are practicing speaking as well.

2) Listen to a lecture or a text about a topic you are familiar with. This will require some research on your part. Depending on your level, as a beginner you could listen to the weather report (you could also watch it at the same time), if you are a more advanced learner you could listen to a short news program. In any case, make yourself familiar with the vocabulary first. For example, if you are planning on listening to the weather report, think about what type of words you might hear, look them up and write them down first. While listening you can check off the words you hear.

3) Always listen 3 times! Make listening an active exercise (not passive)! Listening is often considered difficult if the learners have no previous information. If you just turn on the radio and you start in the middle of a program on climate change, you will have a very hard time following the conversation if you haven’t prepared yourself for it. Therefore, prepare yourself before listening! Think about the topic, think about the vocabulary, and listen in small chunks. I recommend listening to podcasts which are free and you can play them over and over.

There you have my favorite tips to practice listening skills. I would like to encourage you to really focus on listening, especially if you are a beginner. Listening is, in my opinion, THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL.