What are Listening skills and how to improve them?
Listening skills are the most essential, fundamental skills a student learning English as a second language may have to develop. To listen actively to the message being communicated and understand the spoken word is crucial to speaking proper English. Listening well helps improve a student’s performance both professionally and personally. How well one listens has a considerable impact on one’s job effectiveness, academic performance and also defines the quality of relationships one builds with one’s friends and acquaintances.
On a primal level, humans require listening skills for four primary reasons.
1. To gather and obtain information
2. To understand
3. For Enjoyment
4. To learn
Considering these, and the fact that humans as a species use listening skills to develop, it may be a shock to know that we recall and remember only 25 to 50 percent of what we hear. In effect when listening to one’s employer, friend, significant other or spouse for 10 minutes one is paying attention to only half the conversation! And vice versa.
Based on this startling fact it is evident that listening is a skill that is clearly in need of improvement. It may take some practice and effort to do, even more so for a student learning English as a second language than for a native English speaking student. However, with persistence, attention and dedication it is possible. Students can start by practicing “Active listening”, which requires the listener to make a conscious effort to hear exactly what is being said and more importantly trying to understand the message being spoken. It requires the student to pay close attention to what the speaker is saying, and making a concentrated effort not to get distracted by either the surroundings or one’s thoughts. After all, it is common place for anyone to begin drafting their responses and counter-arguments while the other party is still speaking. It prevents the listener from absorbing the speaker’s message as intended and opens up the chances of misunderstanding.
One should also be aware of the speaker’s facial expressions and body language. It does not mean that students should become experts in body language and micro expressions but that a student should learn to pick up on the physical cues the speaker exhibits, such as frowning, etc. The best way for students to practice learning is by watching videos either online or on television and follow the characters behaviour and speech patterns and try to understand what is being said. For those who prefer online learning a resource such as English Club TV will prove invaluable as this is a site dedicated to teaching students English as a second language. Featured programmes such as “Speak Up” and the “Art of Conversation” will help students improve their listening skills.