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How to Hear English Everywhere
Two simple definitions
- to hear: to receive sound with the ears
- to listen: to try to hear
You are very good at languages. That's obvious, because
you already speak one language very well - your own! And
if you can learn and speak one language well, then you can
certainly learn and speak one or more other languages.
But did you ever ask yourself: "How did I learn my
own language?" In fact, you never really
"learned" it at all - you just started speaking
it. One day, when you were about two or three years old,
you started speaking your language. A few words at first,
not full sentences. But you spoke. And very soon you made
progress without even thinking about it. It was like
But it wasn't magic. It was the result of hearing.
For two to three years before you spoke, you heard people
speaking your language all day, and maybe all night. You
heard people speaking your language. Maybe you
listened to people, but more importantly you heard.
them. Then, as if by magic, you started to speak. All that
hearing was necessary for you to start speaking. For two
to three years words went IN to your head. Then words came
OUT of your head! That is why hearing (and listening to)
English as much as possible is so important to you now.
The more English you put in, the more you'll get out!
So how can you hear a lot of English when you're not in
an English-speaking country or family? Fortunately, there
are many ways of hearing English in almost all countries
of the world.
You can receive English language radio in most
countries. Two of the best international networks are the
BBC World Service and Voice of America. Both of them have
special programmes for learners of English. You can find
information about times and frequencies for your country
on their web sites.
TV is an excellent resource for hearing and listening
to English. The pictures help you understand what is being
said. If you don't have access to English-language TV, you
may be able to watch TV on Internet.
It is now a lot easier to hear English by Internet. If
you're reading this at your computer, you can probably
listen to some English-language radio news right now,
without even moving! To be able to listen to radio on the
Internet, you'll need to have special software called a
"player" installed in your computer. Most sites
work with two players - the RealPlayer from RealNetworks
and the Windows Media Player from Microsoft. Don't worry.
Both these players are free and you may already have them
installed on your computer.
Songs in English are everywhere, even on
foreign-language radio and TV stations. Listen to them
often. Buy some cassettes or CDs, or make recordings, and
try to write the words for an entire song. But choose one
that is not too difficult. That means it should be
reasonably slow, and with real words sung clearly. Some
pop songs are very unclear and are difficult even for
native English-speakers to understand fully!
Outside the English-speaking world, many large cities
have cinemas that show films in English, usually with
sub-titles. Make it a habit to go to these films. If you
need to read the sub-titles, at least you'll be hearing
English even if you don't understand it.
Video has one really great advantage. You can play it
again . . . and again. You can use video to watch film
cassettes that you buy or borrow. If there are sub-titles,
you can cover them with paper (which you can remove if you
really don't understand after listening several times).
And you can use video to record programmes from television
and then watch them several times to improve your
Try to make friends with English-speaking people so
that you can practise your English through conversation.
Of course, this will practise your speaking as well as
your listening. And if you don't have a lot of time to go
out and meet people, at least you can chat a little by
Finally, don't worry if you don't understand
everything you hear. Hearing comes first!
Understanding comes next!
What you Can Do to Upgrade Your Listening Ability
I. Language Independent Factors
Are you often troubled by unsatisfactory understanding
of spoken English? Before blaming yourself too soon, ask
yourself whether incomplete understanding is the result of
one or more of the following language independent factors.
||(after a heavy lunch)
||(facing a stranger who is a
native speaker of English)
|-not in the mood to receive any
information, not attentive
||(after a hard day's work)
|-a long way from where speaker
||(on the other side of the road,
on the telephone)
|-disturbed by background noises
||(too much traffic; a plane
passing over your head)
|-unfamiliar with the topic
||(two strangers talking behind
you in a bus; walking into a public lecture on
Greek mythology or renowned South American
II. Language Specific Factors
If none of the above factors seems to play a
major role, then misunderstanding may well be the
result of a combination of the following language
|-accent of speaker(s)
||e.g. British, American,
coming." vs. "He's coming
||e.g. "John will come,
not George." Vs "John WILL come,
there's no doubt about it."
||e.g. 'rendezvous' in place
of 'appointment'; 'to procrastinate'
instead of 'to delay'.
||e.g. "out of sight,
out of mind"; "a bolt from the
||.eg. "He's gonna
graduate this year."He ain't heavy,
he's my brother."
|-words used in informal style
||e.g. 'bobby' for
'policeman' or 'pal' for 'friend'
||-you feel that your command
of English is inadequate to meet your
academic needs, such as taking notes in
lectures, expressing yourself in
|-you are anxious that it might be a
potential obstacle to your future
||-do something about it NOW
before it is too late!
III. WHAT YOU CAN DO ON YOUR OWN BEYOND THE
Since English is easily accessible in the media
(compared with French, German and Japanese), they
make good, natural sources of input:
||-choose your favourite programs and make
regular appointments with them.
||- even more handy than TV, particularly
|- you are free to do other things while
listening - having breakfast, preparing to
go to class, having a picnic, even
jogging! In short, anything except
intellectually demanding tasks such as
||-like songs, the news is full of
frequently repeated broadcast items.
(Famine in Ethiopia, apartheid in South
Africa, the launching of the space
|- since familiarity with what is being
talked about (i.e. context) facilitates
understanding, a good practice would be to
watch news broadcasts on the English
channel after viewing the Chinese version.
In so doing, you can pay maximum attention
to how the news items are presented in
||-since a clear visual image of a new
word (in terms of spelling) may and help
you acquire its pronunciation when you
hear it pronounced in a magazines specific
context later on (e.g. news on TV), a good
practice would be to go over it at least.
From Chinese University
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