Tips to Help You Improve Your Listening Skills

It can be pretty hard to take notes when the teacher is speaking English in ‘light’ speed, watch a film without subtitle or even listen to a podcast. You may find yourself struggling for concentration or getting nervous because it’s ‘too fast’. It’s frustrating. You’ve been studying English for so long and you still have problems to understand it.

So, here are some tips to help you develop better listening skills:

  1. Be attentive but relaxed. It doesn’t matter whether you understand 100% of the material you’re listening to, the point is that you’re relaxed and trying to capture as much as you can. Don’t worry because you don’t understand a word or a phrase. You can always go back and listen to it again. Screen out the noise from the background and just listen.
  1. Don’t translate in your head. Try to understand the material you’re listening to in English. It may be blurry or unclear, but believe me, this technique will improve your listening immensely. Besides, thinking in two languages at the same time will exhaust you! Remember that you’re not a translator but an English learner. So, relax and listen without translating.
  1. Try to understand the unknown words from the context. It is unacceptable to interrupt your listening and look for new vocabulary. It would ruin your concentration and you’d miss the point of the material you’re listening to. Even if you don’t understand all the words, try to understand them within the context.
  1. Listen to all kinds of English. Non-native English speakers make the largest part of the English-speaking community. I’m sure you’ll find it easier to understand English speakers whose native language is the same or like yours.
  1. Learn the vocabulary for the material you’re listening to. For example, if you’re listening to something about hotels, then you should learn the hotel vocabulary such as front desk, lobby bar, room service… Knowledge of the vocabulary will make your listening much easier.
  1. Listen without prejudice. Keep an open mind! Don’t judge on the material you are listening to or jump into conclusions. Don’t allow your thoughts to distract your listening.
  1. And finally, once you chose the material to listen to, make sure it’s interesting and able to keep your attention. Don’t listen to boring news or reports. Watch an interesting film (without subtitles), a radio theatre, an audiobook (you may read in your native language before), a podcast…

Happy listening!


Stop translating in your head and start thinking in English

If you are a foreign language learner, then you probably sometimes find yourself translating words and sentences from your native language to the language you’re studying or vice versa.  As a matter of fact, it’s a natural thing to do though you would be better off if you stopped doing it as it could add to your fluency.

I could give you some tips on how to get rid of this habit.

First of all, you should use a monolingual dictionary. That way, you won’t learn what a word or a phrase means in your native language but learn it in the language you’re studying and won’t be tempted to translate it.

Second, try to read a book without a dictionary. I know it might be hard at first, and you won’t be able to understand the text you’re reading as if it was written in your native tongue. This practice will add to your fluency even more and will help you speak in a foreign language without hesitation. It doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a film with or without subtitles in the language you’re studying. While you’re reading or watching, try to memorize phrases as they can be ready sentences you can use instead of making them from scratch.

Third, try to adopt a habit of thinking in English. For instance, while you’re doing something in the kitchen or sitting in a bus, you can try to make sentences in English. You can tell yourself: “I’ll cook some potatoes and set the table” or “after I finish this, I’ll call Maria to come over.” Then you can try to explain situations that happened during the day or retell entire day in English in your head. Start from the beginning: “I woke up early today and I didn’t have time to have breakfast at home because I had to hurry in order not to be late for the meeting”, etc… You can do the same with the previous day and try to “think in English” about your future expectations. That’s how you’ll train your mind to get used to English phrases and begin using them more easily. I assure you that your translating habit will eventually disappear.

Finally, you can prepare yourself for future conversations by creating sentences in your head and memorizing them. Think about useful sentences you could use, such as: “Hey, what’s up? How you’ve been doing? Have you done your homework? I’m fine, thanks.” You can use these sentences automatically and naturally in your speech.

Adopting just one of these four habits will definitely shorten the time you need to process the information in your head and help you express yourself faster and more naturally.

The Indefinite Article A (An)

There are two forms of indifinite article in English – ‘a’ and ‘an’.

We use ‘a’ when the word following the article starts wih a consonant sound (a street, a house, a desk), but we normally use ‘an’ when the word following the article starts with a vowel sound (an umbrella, an apple, an hour).

Since the indefinite article has meaning similar to number one, we cannot use it with plural nouns.

We also do not use it with uncountable nouns. We use ‘some’ instead. (Would you like some coffee?)

We use the indefinite article a (an):

  • in front of countable nouns we are mentioning for the first time (I saw a cat in the street).
  • with singular countable nouns when we talk about things in general (An airplane is faster than a train)
  • after the verbs ‘be’ and ‘have’ (Jack is a waiter; I have a pencil)
  • with the names of professions (He is a doctor)
  • before time and measurement phrases (half an hour; cucumbers are 3 pounds a kilo)
  • with a noun complement (It is a good dog)
  • in front of word ‘very’



Put ‘a’ or ‘an’ where necessary:

  1. They are making _______ snowman.
  2. She bought half _______ pound  of bananas.
  3. ____ boy is feeding ____ monkey.
  4. Brigitte is ____ police officer.
  5. I have ____ cat.
  6. She is _____ very good driver.
  7. There’s ____ fly in my soup.
  8. Give me ____ orange, please.

Put ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘some’ where necessary:

  1. She’s looking for ____ book about elephants.
  2. I’ve bought _____ fruit.
  3. There is ___ blue flower here and ____ red ones over there.
  4. We have ______ cheese in the fridge.

Answers: 1. a, 2. a, 3. a, a, 4. a, 5. a, 6. a, 7. a, 8. an

  1. a, 2. some, 3. a, some, 4. some