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Listening

When we listen to something, it often goes in one ear and out the other – as the popular English idiomatic expression goes, or it falls on deaf ears, but that shouldn’t happen if you want to improve your listening skills; you should be all ears.

Ears – ears are important; they are our auditory apparatus attuned to sound waves created by the vocal cords of others; our ears pick up sound waves; the ear transforms these waves into intelligible signals that our brains can understand. 

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Listening for communication is to understand the spoken word; as students need to understand what speech is; sentence intonation and stress that maybe focusing on specific information and interpreting the context and topic – stress, intonation, rhythm and the paralinguistic features such as intonation or volume loudness.  A familiar cry from us all when doing a listening exercise in a language class is ‘I don’t understand’.

Normally, in a teaching class where you are leaning the language, as opposed to exam orientation and familiarization, your teacher will play the recording at least twice maybe more using one or more activities; you may even have the transcript to help you.

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But why is listening a problem? Is it you? Is it the quality of the recording? Is it noise pollution from elsewhere in the school or from the traffic outside? Are the accents of the speakers strange or unintelligible? Is the recording not being played enough times? Are the speakers talking too fast?

A lot of the listening comprehension problems stem from unfamiliarity with a speaker’s accent; their speed of delivery, idiomatic language and perhaps most importantly from technical elements of pronunciation that the listeners, us the students, haven’t been acquainted with such as pronunciation, recognising contractions, understanding the reduction and blending of sentences at word or cluster level; the adding of extra sounds in rapid conversation between words and the many English words where we don’t pronounce all the syllables or sounds, for example chocolate where it is pronounced choc-late.

There are also may words that sound the same in rapid speech; words that sound almost the same ‘cab’ and ‘cap’, ‘sheep’ and ‘ship’. There is also the familiarity learners have with one particular type of accent; as learners, we have to be open to the fact that speakers of a particular language, be it English, Spanish or Chinese have various accents and speeds of delivery. If we become accustomed to just one accent, we will have difficulties understanding the range of accents spoken by ‘native’ English speakers from across the English-speaking world and more importantly those speakers of English whose first language isn’t English who outnumber native speakers.

Types of Listening

 So, what types of listening do we do? There are perhaps two types of listening we do not only as language learners but also in our mother tongue; firstly, there is the listening we do in class or a lecture theatre or on TED Talks;  the language here is high in information; we listen for the most part passively; we also watch TV in this way – passively, unless we are shouting at our football team or a politician, but on TV the spoken language is more dynamic with a range of styles formal informal, spontaneous, chatty and prepared.  The second type of listening we do isactive, possibly in a conversation, where we have to understand the subtle cues of politeness and turn taking in a conversation.  In this type of listening where we are participating, non-linguistic features like body language and facial expressions are used to get our meaning across. 

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When I learned Spanish, I spent two years just watching Spanish-language soap operas, mini series and movies; the actors had a variety of accents and came from many different countries.  As such my listening skills are now very good; it required dedication.

So, how do you improve your listening skills? Listen to as much radio, music and TV as possible; listen to as many accents as possible and learn how the language is pronounced.

By Chris Scott, March 2020

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5 REASONS TO VISIT & STUDY SOUTHAMPTON

  1. Mayflower Theatre

Mayflower produces some of the finest performances in the UK. Mayflower is the biggest theatre on the south coast with just over 2,270 seats in our auditorium. Their aim is to bring a diverse range of shows to Southampton, and they present a mixture of spectacular touring productions, from musicals – many direct from the West End – to dance, opera, drama, ballet and comedy. we do not doubt for a second that you will be able to find the perfect show for you!

  1. A walk through stunning gardens and parks

Southampton is the home to beautifully picturesque walks, surrounded by wildlife. Some of the most popular parks in which you can take walks and relax are: Southampton Common, Houndwell Park and West Park. The Last one is right opposite of Eurospeak Southampton Language School.

  1. Speed Boat Tours and Courses

Ocean Sports Tuition is the place to make your boating ambitions become a reality. If you’re just after the thrill, without the qualifications, then you must check out Seadogz, including 60- or 90-minute Extreme Rib Experiences, Treasure Hunts.

  1. Find out more about the Titanic

You can see various experiences and exhibitions about Titanic’s History. You can visit SeaCity Museum and learn about the story of the people of the city, their fascinating lives and historic connections with Titanic and the sea. Also, here you will find the Titanic Engineers’ Memorial.

  1. Enjoy a drink somewhere a little different

From themed pubs like the Hobbit, to bookstore/alehouse hybrids, Southampton has an array of individual and kooky joints to sink your favourite craft beer or cocktail. A varied and lively nightlife, allows you to let your hair down with like-minded people after a long day exploring the history of this wonderful city.

For more information about studying General English, Cambridge Exam Preparation or IELTS Exam Preparation courses with Europeak Southampton or Eurospeak Reading, please contact us on: