An interview about listening skills

Listen to the English teacher talk about listening to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.


Presenter: So, today's expert teacher is Gabriella, a university English teacher from Leeds. Gabriella, hi and thanks for joining us today.

Gabriella: Thanks for having me!

Presenter: So, I have to confess today's topic is something I am really bad at: listening. Most people say speaking is the most stressful part of learning a new language but, for me, with my B1 German, speaking isn't so bad. At least I'm in control of it. But listening … woah … people speak so fast and it's like my brain just shuts down. Am I just really strange and bad at listening? Tell me, honestly, I can take it.

Gabriella: No, you're not strange. In fact, it's really common. You know, in exams most people do pretty well in speaking compared with listening. Of course, exams are a different situation from real life because in an exam you can't ask for something to be repeated or explained. You usually have just one or maybe two opportunities to listen to the dialogue and then it's gone.

Presenter: Right, but in real life I feel stupid always saying, 'Sorry, can you repeat that, please?', especially if I still don't understand even when they repeat it. And people out there listening, I hope you don't do this – quite often the person just repeats what they said equally as fast and I'm still lost!

Gabriella: They do, don't they? In real life, you've got two strategies. One is to pretend to understand and get out of the conversation as fast as you can.

Presenter: Yep, sounds familiar!

Gabriella: But, obviously that's not going to help if it's a conversation with high stakes. It might have important consequences. I mean, if you're just chatting with a stranger at the bus stop, it doesn't matter. But imagine you're at a government office or a bank, trying to find out what paperwork you need to get your ID or open a bank account. What can you do then?

Presenter: I hope you've got the answer, Gabriella, because I'm coming out in a cold sweat just thinking about either of those situations!

Gabriella: The other strategy is to summarise what they said.

Presenter: But how can you do that if you didn't understand what they said?

Gabriella: Ah, well, you only start the summary, so you might say, in German in your case, 'OK, so the first thing I have to do is …?' and make it a question. Or, for example, 'And which office is that again?' Break it down into smaller questions and the other person will naturally start answering them. That way you're controlling the conversation a bit more.

Presenter: I get you ...

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Language level

Submitted by vuhoap on Mon, 22/11/2021 - 13:42


To help with listening, my strategy is to listen at here every day that I can. The first, I do preparation task for learning the new vocabulary. Then, I attempt to locate myself in high stakes and start to listening the conversation for the first time. The second time, I do the task 1 and 2 until all the answers are correct. The third time, I listen and look at the transcript to get all content of conversation. Finally, the last time is the same with the first time, I only listen what just learned.

Submitted by danielbacelar on Fri, 22/10/2021 - 00:18


I liked this listening exercise! Thank U!

Submitted by siddhuk on Sat, 16/10/2021 - 10:49


Hello, Team Learn English,
Is there a common misconception where I'm poor at listening than speaking or is it false?? Also, is it for all foreign languages like English??

Hi siddhuk,

Yes, many people find listening to a foreign language difficult. But whether it's easier or harder than speaking really depends on what type of listening and speaking practice you are doing. Some people find speaking easier than listening. Other people find they can understand things easily, but have difficulty speaking.

If you can find practice material that is the right level for you, I'm sure you will make progress in all your skills. So, keep going! I hope you find the learning materials on this site useful. :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Thu, 07/10/2021 - 17:32


Of course, listening is a difficult task but I practice a lot to become master in listening skills
I believe in practice. That's reason I'm here.

Submitted by vanhoc on Tue, 05/10/2021 - 16:20


I am learning English and I would like to send you the most sincere sharing, I hope it helps you:
The shortest way to learn English well is to start with pronunciation.
It improves speaking and listening skills significantly. Because pronunciation helps you understand the principles of speaking (IPA, Reduction sound, connect sounds, intonation, ..)
When you understand the principles of speaking, you will know how to listen better
To avoid getting bored while studying, you need to learn from easy to difficult. In accordance with your own level, When you choose listening material, you should choose listening material that you understand 70% of the listening material, then it is suitable for you.
Do you know how to play games, we play games from easy to difficult and like them
And remember that English is a game of perseverance and you have to accept that it will take a lot of your time. However, the more difficult a task, the higher the results it brings. The results can change your life

Submitted by Sika2803 on Mon, 06/09/2021 - 11:54

IRL my listening is at an average level, but it’s better than in exam. So to help with listening, I learn listening skills on British Council web, listen to music and sometimes I watch movies. In addition, I studied dictation methods to improve my listening skills when I went to Simple English Center. That’s all my way, I hope I will be more confident in every conversation to perform my full potential.

Submitted by Stela Stoycheva on Wed, 04/08/2021 - 09:54

Oh, listening!?! That`s really difficult skill, I try to listen and to be concentrate on the topic of conversation, to ignore other things which take my attention... but sometimes I understood half of the conversation and should be explain with simple words. I think if I watching films, TV shows of English will be so useful for me. I watching podcasts, listen music but I feel its not enough. I must listen and understand everything if I wanna pass IELTS..

Submitted by iEdd on Fri, 02/07/2021 - 17:09

Well, in the near past, one year ago, I was so afraid of listennig. Almost scared every single time I faced a listening challenge or exercise. But I said to myself, If I wanted to get a good level on English, I must improve this skill. So, I started watching news and listening to several podcast. When the time was running, I felt more confidence and could follow general ideas. One guy form those tools I used told to the public that this skill must be 40% of your English practicing process and I took that advice for my own routine. Obviously, there is a plenty of competence I should get, but I'm enjoying it. The hoped day will come!

Submitted by GiulianaAndy on Mon, 21/06/2021 - 20:10

I try to practice my English listening every day by watching English movies at lunch, and also I used to have an app on my cellphone to practice listening every day, and finally I'm here practicing the listening part with this section and also sometimes practicing with the post cast section. After this, I'm still wondering something...... My native language is Spanish, so I have my University classes in Spanish, my classes are through the zoom app, but I want to practice my listening more, so I would like to know if anyone knows an app or a software which helps me to translate what the teacher is saying during my University classes into English?

Submitted by NYANADHAZA on Mon, 31/05/2021 - 12:26

Of course, listening is the most difficult for me. I usually do not get the points.

Submitted by MikhailZatopliaev on Sat, 08/05/2021 - 06:59

Yes, listening also hardest for me. Now, I listening podcast and try to understand words, only for my ears and brain adapt, I don't understand clear, but fill more relaxed after one week when I listening podcasts.

Submitted by Paula Bermúdez… on Tue, 04/05/2021 - 22:48

I have been doing different things to improve my listening skills. For example, I listen to a podcast on Spotify about several topics in real life (transport, culture, politic, religion or language) sometimes could be difficult because my brain shuts down, but I don't give up! Also, I watch some series and listen to music in English.

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 05:50

I'm very poor in both speaking and listening. One way to solve this problem, you should be learm much vocabulary. Then you can find that you're listening is improve. In this time I am learning listening intermediate level in British Council. It's very helpful for me. Thank you

Submitted by Bakeer on Sat, 10/04/2021 - 02:15

Could you please tell me how to download the audios?

Hi Bakeer,

If you're using a computer, you can right click on the grey audio player, then choose 'Save audio as ...'. I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jeison0894 on Mon, 05/04/2021 - 22:39

I discovered on my own that the best way to further improve listening skills is to expand your vocabulary as much as you can because when you listen to another language, you are making an association in your mental library of words. all at the same time between the word, its meaning and especially its pronunciation.

Submitted by Frank Cuello on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 15:22

To improve my listening skills I often play dictations in English and transcribe what I heard. Also, I always put the movies' audio in English with the subtitles, to help me to get more familiar with the sound of the words.

Submitted by fariba on Tue, 09/03/2021 - 08:37

i think we must practice. practice make perfect!

Submitted by German on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 01:00

To help listening skill, I practice watching videos and series in English. I listening to music too and I like to learn new words and write them to remember and improve mu vocabulary.

Submitted by Alessandro893 on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 00:45

I say Breaking down questions.

Submitted by Abrarhussain on Sun, 07/02/2021 - 23:51

I usually listen to the BBC news on the television. Also, I listen to some audios and youtube clips from the internet. I have a keen interest in listening to English speakers in order to improve my skills.

Submitted by Deyse Pinheiro… on Fri, 05/02/2021 - 17:26

For helping my listening, I usually watch the same TV series episode three times. At first, I watch it without subtitles. After that, I watch with subtitles, linking what I've just listened to with the words. Then, I watch without subtitles, and this time I can understand better. If you want to try, you have to make sure that you like the TV series, after all, you will watch it three times.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 11:43

I think listening is the most difficult skill of three other fundamental skills (reading, speaking and writing). For improving this skill the best method may be living in close contact with people vho speaks the language we want to learn.

Submitted by El Cuy Mágico on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 21:41

I try to listen audios every day as I read a transcription, then it’s easier for me to understand the pronunciation. After that I try to read the text one more time but out loud. I also like to watch movies or videos but without subtitles neither in English nor Spanish.

Submitted by marlio96 on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 18:32

I use to listen to the radio and watch the T.V, but Gabriela has given me a good idea since now I will try to summarize and to break down the conversation into small questions that let me get control of the conversation.

Submitted by Minh on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 18:33

Listening how I do to improve it. Firstly, people start from the easy listening and short conversations. When you feel comfortable with them, then you change to a little hard that are long conversations and you have to learn many phrases and words. Secondly, you should listen to plenty of source English such as BBC news, CNC, Ted talk and more. The most important thing that you need to check it with transcript. The third, you should practise with long conversations and and make sure you can get the idea. The fourth, you have to spend a lot of time to do it everyday. Practise make perfect. In conclusion, you are patience to learn English, step by step and day by day. After a period time you will improve your skill. I also wish myself do it well.

Submitted by MShadow on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 11:11

I have to say the point of summarising and breaking down questions is great!

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 04:32

Of course, listening is most difficult task. I hear this audio 3 times to understand because my listening power is low in English language. I easily understand American people to speaking English but I don't understand British or other European native peoples. I'm practice to solve this problem.

Submitted by May Nine on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 12:19

For me , I listen most of the audio files from this website and take the exercises.When I face with some situations like the sound is so native ,at that time , the only familiar words 've left in my brain.So I have to reorganize what he said .As a practice for both speaking and listening ,I have a lot of calls to English learners like me through English practising apps.

Submitted by Saad786 on Sat, 26/12/2020 - 11:03

We can improve our listening skills by asking more questions. We should summarize the lectures of teacher without pretending to understand the lecture which actually we didn't. We should thoroughly understand the conversation and try to keep the speaker at slow pace to understand complete conversation.

Submitted by Nafy on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 08:56

I try to listen to podcasts and watch the movie. The most important problem that I struggle with, is, I can hardly follow the speaker when I hear an unfamiliar word. I stuck in the word and miss the rest of the speech or conversation.

Hello Nafy,

I would encourage you to try not to get stuck on one word and to instead try to understand phrases or sentences. Often (though not always), this will probably help you figure out what the word means, even if you're not sure what the word is. This is not easy to do, but I think it might help you.

Another good idea is to consider practising your pronunciation, which will not only help your speaking, but also your listening! On a page like this, for example, find five or six words or phrases that were pronounced in a way that you found difficult. Write them down, listen to how they are pronounced, and then practise saying them again and again until they feel more comfortable to pronounce. 

This also requires discipline and in the beginning your progress will probably feel slow. But gradually, you will improve both your speaking and your listening comprehension.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DJ Singh on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 11:44

It's not difficult, it is just a practice. Initially, I was very bad at it but over time I have improvised on my listening skill. What happens when we listen is, every word hits our ears stimulate, and creates a new thought and that's why we get lost in our own thoughts. So the problem is with us, our own thoughts. To control those we need to stay calm and meditation is a great tool for that. When we know something is happening all the time in our head while doing anything. Pull back oneself in the present moment by focusing on the breath. I highly recommend do this even you're listening to anyone that will definitely help what is you're putting in your head.

Submitted by shady babe on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 19:59

When I start trying to say smth I seem like a child who knows only "yes, maybe, no, good" :(

Hi shady babe,

Don't worry, speaking is something that can definitely improve, if you give it lots of practice and patience :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gomaa on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 08:02

Hello every one, Really this interviewer represent my situation, lestining is difficult to me specially if they speek fast. I remember when I was traveling and in the plane, the air plane hostess speeks too fast and I undersand nothing, I am coming out in cold sweat when I think about listening to native English speeker. In my view to fix this problem I have to practice listening, by watching movies and series, lestining to this webside audios, and solve exersise. The main key here is continuous lestining practice.

Submitted by mahmutkilic0408 on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 08:23

Actually if tell the truth, it is much more difficulte for me to speak than listen. Most of the time, when ı meet a stranger can't speak anything, not a word come out of my mouth

Submitted by PerlaChile on Sun, 01/11/2020 - 00:31

In my case, I used two methods to improve my listening skill. The first method is taking dictation. Everyday I choose an English conversation for listening and try to write all what I heard. I usually listen three times. The first time is for getting the general ideas of the conversation. In the second time, I will write all what I heard on my notebook. In the last time, I listen with the transcript and correct my writing. The second method is listening before going to bed. I usually choose a short stories for listening. I often spend 30 minutes on this activity. I practiced these two methods in three months and I realize that my listening skill is better. I appreciate all your comments on my sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing your personal methods. I find them very interesting, so I´ll put them into practise. By the way, if you want to talk to someone in English, I´m wide open to practise :)

Hi bariss,

Unfortunately, sharing Zoom and other personal contact details is not allowed in our House Rules. But you can practise conversation by writing comments and replies here on this site :)

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by javibuendi on Fri, 30/10/2020 - 10:10

A couple years ago I had a listening test. It was a complete failure for several reasons. Firstly, I was placed far from the speaker, so I could barely hear him. Secondly, I wasn´t used to his accent, it sounded weird for me. And finally, in my opinion he spoke so fast. So you already can imagine the results. Nowadays, in order to improve this skill, I am doing these tasks from this website and I am also watching series in English with English subtitles. I think I am making progress bit by bit, the key here is to be constant.

Submitted by vsanchez75 on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 14:42

My problem is understand some people when they speak, some of them speak weird or is difficult is like here in Mexico, the people who live near to the beaches. They cut de words, their spanish is no full, they cut the word S at the end, In Mexico we understand them because We get used to hear them. Maybe this is the reason because some words I can not undestand in englihs, the diction

Submitted by Ugulhan on Mon, 19/10/2020 - 07:57

Yes, I have to confess that the listening skill of the exam is difficult for me. I like to exercise a lot of listening tasks in English, but sometimes if the conversation is going to run fast, I feel that I am still lost and will try to listen to audio records once again. Many texts seem to be simple for listening but when you start to listen to them, you want to get out of it, otherwise, you will come out in a cold sweat of your body. To avoid these issues, I have been using a wide range of listening entertainment such as TV, Radio, and Music. I can get it while speaking on the TV even it would be faster than the exam. But, I can get a conversation on TV. It could be an unbelievable circumstance But I am honestly getting the speaker of TV.

Hello Ugulhan,

It's great that you're using lots of different resources to improve your listening skills, and this is definitely the best approach overall.

Listening tasks on exams are often more difficult to understand than speaking in television and films because video gives you a lot of information that audio alone does not.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aldi.imani on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 16:13

The listening section is so tricky, in some cases It could be easy or difficult depends on what kind of the topic and vocabulary they use. I did not find anything hard from the accent but for vocabulary, I can not escape from any strange vocabulary. If we want to increase our listening score It could be better if we practiced by reading too.

Submitted by habibao.medo on Sun, 11/10/2020 - 12:39

i think to improve your listening skill you need to listen to podcasts tv shows practice hard and stuff like this