IELTS: Are you listening?
Are you learning to listen or listening to learn? This is an interesting question. Most listening-based IELTS program rely on using some sort of tapes or CDs. The theory seems to be to force the student to listen to frequently-used words or phrases with the hope that the constant repetition will enable the students to recognize what is being sent. This in some cases may be effective, but it is my opinion that the harder the student tries to listen, the less they really hear. What do I mean by that?? Well it is my theory that forcing a person to listen to the same thing over and over again will unintentionally have the brain create a block. Think about this; if you watch TV and see the same commercial advertisement over and over, you eventually do not even notice it when it appears and pay no attention to it. So your subconscious creates a block or closes the door to your brain when it appears on TV. So why should your brain act any differently when you listen to the same thing over and over?
So what is the answer? Well the best answer is learning HOW to listen. What do I mean by that? Well listening is an acquired skill. We all have to learn how to listen BEFORE we speak. As a small child we hear our parents speak to us long before we speak to them. It is not lack of mental capacity; it is in fact we do not know what to say. We have not learned the meaning of the words we hear everyday from our surrounds. Finally we say our first word. Therefore why should learning another language be any different? My most gifted students have developed their listening skills, before their speaking skills. Many of them play musical instruments. Why do I mention this? Well when we play a musical instrument we have to listen to what we are play and learn from our mistakes. Listening skills in most cases are needed to become a successful musician. So putting this theory into effect, to become a good speaker, you must first become a good listener. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so listen more and speak less in the initial stages of developing communication skills.
So how can you learn to listen? Well I have a theory on listening. Turn on you radio, your TV or your computer to an English language station. I feel that the BBC and VOA are useless for what I am going to tell you. It is quite simple to access English language radio world wide by using your computer. I have found WWW.Radio-Locator.com a useful site for this purpose. It enables the listeners to access internet based radio stations world wide. Simple search for the country you would like to listen to and then access a “Talk Radio” station. After you have found a station that appeals to you, simply turn it on and do something else.
That's correct, do something else! Do not try to listen to what is being said. Let the words blend into the environment you are in. Play a video game, do some homework, clean the house, take a nap, what ever you want, BUT DO NOT listen to them talking. Your brain will in fact be listening. Initially you will not notice any improvement. However, over a period of time you will notice a change in your ability to listen. The talking that once was too fast for you to understand will soon slow down. Well in reality you are learning to listen. You must however follow this advice. Listen 1 hour every day for at least 30 days. You will notice a change. TRY IT!!