Listening Is Key to Comprehension

Listening is one of the most essential skills you must use when handling customer calls. It is essential that you practice active listening through the entire conversation. We may hear, but how well do we listen? Hearing is passive, and requires no special attention. Listening, on the other hand, requires intellectual work. As a matter of fact, this skill is commonly called Active Listening.

How to improve your Listening Comprehension Skills

Spanish-speakers should listen to different varieties of English, and become familiar with the varying native and non-native accents from different parts of the English-speaking world. This will consequently train your ear on the different variations and paces in fast-spoken English.

Additionally, when listening, we are reviewing a lot of English usage such as vocabulary, grammatical structures, intonation, accent and our own interpretation.  As a consequence, we can imitate what we hear and apply it with great confidence.

While you are listening to another person speaking a foreign language, the most natural reaction is to immediately translate into your native language. This habit becomes much stronger when you hear a word you don’t understand. This is only natural as we want to understand everything that is being said. However, when you translate into your native language, you are taking the focus of your attention away from the speaker and concentrating on the translation process taking place in your brain. This would be fine if you could put the speaker on hold. In real life however, the person continues talking while you translate. This situation obviously leads to less -not more- understanding of the entire conversation.

The most successful method to self-train to quickly pick up fast-spoken English is to interact with native-English Speakers and hear them speak. Watch the TV or go to the cinema, where the pictures will help your understanding. You can also borrow videos from video rental shops.

With videos, there is the added advantage that you can pause or rewind them as often as you like, in order to catch what is being said or note down useful spoken expressions.  Listen to pop music or songs in English, and try to remember some of the lyrics – pop songs are full of clichés and common phrases which you can use in your own speaking and even writing.

Once you have reached a high level of English comprehension, try listening to the radio as well. Don’t be disappointed if this is difficult at first – it is one of the hardest things to do in a foreign language, as there are no pictures to help you, the speed is generally very fast, and the language is full of typical formulae. Do write down some of the phrases and expressions you hear often, and try to use them yourself.

The more exposed you are to spoken fast-paced English, the faster you will be able to grasp the meanings and concepts.  Listening to other people speak is the best way to improve your listening skills. To train your ear on fast-spoken English, please take in consideration these final tips:

Listen to something you enjoy : Probably the greatest advantage about using the television and/or internet, in order to improve your listening skills, is that you can choose what you would like to listen to and how many times you would like to listen to it. By listening to something you enjoy, you are also likely to know a lot more of the vocabulary required!

Listen for Keywords: Use keywords or key phrases to help you understand the general ideas. If you understand “New York”, “business trip”, “last year” you can assume that the person is speaking about a business trip to New York last year. This may seem obvious to you, but remember that understanding the main idea will help you understand the detail as the person continues to speak.

Listen for Context: If there are certain words you do not understand or are not familiar with, don’t worry about it. Focus on the words you do understand rather than those you don’t understand.

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