The most obvious way to practice listening to English may be in the context of your ESL conversation class, but you don’t have to wait for your next class meeting to practice listening. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, there are lots of listening activities you can do right now from the comfort of your home. Here are eight to get you started:
1. Listen to a short lecture and read along.
It can be challenging to follow what a native speaker is saying, particularly when you’re first starting to learn English, so beginner students may wish to do a listening exercise where they have a transcript in front of them while listening to a short lecture. The website Many Things has a whole series of lectures and transcripts, including talks on science in the news and popular American short stories.
2. Listen to Voices of America.
The site Many Things also offers a series of listening exercises called Voices of America in which students listen to readings of classic American short stories, most about fifteen minutes long. The unique thing about this exercise is that the speaking is slowed down, making it easier for a beginner or intermediate student to follow along.
3. Watch a movie or TV show in English.
Watching television in English is a popular (and fun) way for ESL students to get used to the sound of native speakers. If you’re a beginner or intermediate student, you may want to turn on subtitles in your native language so you can follow along. If you’re more advanced, try to follow the story without subtitles.
4. Watch a TED talk.
TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and the TED organization puts on a series of lectures in which people from many different careers and backgrounds talk for about five to twenty minutes on topics that are important to them. The lectures are geared at the average native English speaker, so they may be hard to follow for a beginner, but a more advanced learner will appreciate the interesting and diverse topics.
5. Try a job interview listening exercise.
The website 5 Minute English provides several good ESL resources, including a series of practical listening exercises. Whether or not you have a job interview coming up, the job interview listening exercise is a great tool for practicing your listening skills and picking up vocabulary. You can also choose listening exercises in other categories, such as “shopping for clothes” and “calling a business.”
6. Check out Survival English: Buying a Ticket to Glasgow.
This listening exercise can improve your recognition of vocabulary related to travel, such as location names, time, and travel verbs (e.g., leaving, returning). It’s especially good practice if you’re planning an upcoming trip to an English-speaking country!
7. Listen to a podcast.
Download a podcast to your phone and listen wherever you happen to be, whether you’re sitting at home or on the bus or are working out at the gym. Beginner students may want to choose a podcast specifically developed for ESL learners, but more advanced students may just want to select podcasts on the topics that most interest them.
8. Print off lyrics to your favorite English songs.
Choose a song in English that you like, and then find the lyrics. Look up any words you don’t know, and follow along with the written lyrics as you listen to the song.
Which of these eight listening activity suggestions did you find most helpful? Consider sharing them with friends who could also benefit!