How to improve your listening skills in English

A lot of students tell me that listening is the most difficult skill for them. Some of the most common problems are:

  • people speak too fast,
  • their pronunciation is too difficult to understand or
  • they use unknown vocabulary.

Do these sound like the problems you have too? If so, don’t worry! You can easily improve your English listening skills by following this advice…


1. Start a Listening routine

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  1. Try to listen to something in English every day – even 10 minutes a day will help you improve your listening skills.
  2. If you can make listening every day into a routine, that will really help, so try listening to something at the same time each day. When I was living in Japan, I used to listen to a Japanese podcast every time I took the train, which made my commute to work a bit more interesting!

*What time of day would work best for you to do your English listening practice?


2. Listen to the right things

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  1. If you are short on time, English language learning podcasts are excellent and you can listen to them on your phone at any time of day! Try one of the podcasts from BBC Learning English, or the British Council.
  2. TED talks are fantastic for improving your English listening skills. You can search for any topic that you are interested in, and they will probably have a talk about it!
  3. Watch a film or TV series! Try to watch films or TV shows that you have seen before so you don’t have to work too hard, and watch them in English for a bit of fun.
  4. Watch videos on YouTube – again, if you don’t have much time, videos on YouTube can be great. Just choose a video on something that interests you and watch in English.

*Which do you think you would like to try first?


3. Use my simple method

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The best way to improve your listening skills is to use the following method.

Listen to the same thing three times:

  1. Firstly, without subtitles/transcripts. The first time you listen you should be trying to guess what is going on.
  2. Secondly, read the transcript/subtitles as you listen. This is when you should be paying attention to vocabulary and trying to understand in detail what they are saying. When you listen the second time, pause the video/recording whenever you need to and write down any new words or phrases.
  3. Finally, listen again without subtitles/the transcript. This is when you should be just listening and trying to enjoy the content without working too hard!

If you don’t have time to listen to something three times in one day, try listening to the same thing over 3 days.

*Now you try: choose a time of day when you are going to listen, choose what you are going to listen to from the above list and try to listen using my method above.

Good luck and enjoy your listening!

Do you have any other tips on how to improve your listening skills in English?  If so, write a comment below or send me an email at

Would you also like to improve your English reading skills? If so, come back next week to read my next blog post on ‘How to improve your reading skills in English’. Have a great week until then!

10 Very British Words

Are you interested in British English? If so, then you’re in luck!

This week I’ve had a request for some typically British words to help you communicate with people from my home, the little island of Britain.

So if you would like to understand us Brits a bit better, here are ten words to help you…

[Just remember that these are all informal English words, so don’t use any of these in an essay or business email!]


1. Gutted

This is an adjective that means “disappointed”.

For example, “I’m gutted I failed my exam.”


2. Hoover

This is a verb or noun that means “vacuum” or “vacuum cleaner”.

For example, “I’m just doing the hoovering”.


3. Dodgy

This is an adjective that means “suspicious” or “not to be trusted”.

For example, “Don’t get your phone out near that man; he looks a bit dodgy”.


4. Loo

This is a noun that means “toilet”

For example, “Hang on a sec; I’m just going to the loo”.


5. DIY

This is an abbreviation that means “do it yourself”, which we use for home improvements.

For example, “I need a hand putting this wardrobe together. Are you any good at DIY?”


6. Knackered

This is an adjective that means “tired”.

For example, “I’m going to bed; I’m knackered”.


7. Chuffed

This is an adjective that means “pleased with myself” or “proud”.

For example, “I got the job! I’m pretty chuffed.”


8. Shambles

This is a noun that means something like “mess”. We use this if something goes badly.

For example, “This meeting was a shambles. Everyone was talking over each other and we didn’t decide anything.”


9. Cheeky

This is an adjective to describe a person who is naughty or rude but in a charming way.

For example, “He is such a cheeky monkey; he always asks my age!”


10. Faff

This is a verb that means “mess around” or “waste time”. It can also be used as a noun that means “effort”.

For example, “Stop faffing around and come and help me!” or “I can’t be bothered to help; it’s too much of a faff.”

*Now you try: Write me an email using at least one of these words at . I will write back and tell you if you used the word(s) correctly!