Listening in English is one of the English skills most learners have problems with. However, there are things that you can do that can really help you to improve your ability to understand what people are saying to you.

Basically it's about practice and confidence. The more you regularly listen to (not watch) things in English, the more you will understand. And the more you understand, the more confident you will be when listening to things or people in English.

And below you will learn what you should and shouldn't do to improve your listening ability in English quickly.

What is not that good for improving your listening

Watching movies or TV shows in English. Although you will hear people speaking when you watch them, it's not the most effective method for improving your listening ability. The reason why is people normally stop listening and focus on the images on the screen. It is the same with watching YouTube videos where people are talking.

Watching movies and the TV are good for improving some things in your English, but not for really improving your listening.

To learn what watching movies and the TV is good for improving and how best to watch things, read my article called 'How to use movies & TV shows to improve your English.

What is best for improving your listening

The quickest, cheapest and best way to improve your listening is by listening to podcasts and the radio.

Although listening to the radio is good, in my opinion podcasts are generally better. Podcasts are shorter and you can choose the level of English used that is right for you.

Why podcasts are the best way to improve your English

Unlike movies or TV shows, with podcasts (and the radio also) you don't have images to distract you. So it focuses you on just listening to understand what it is about. In addition, if you have access to the internet, they are both free to listen to. Also, if you have a mobile phone you can listen to them anywhere (and I'll explain how and where you listen to them is very important later).

Other things they will help you improve

By regularly listening in English to podcasts (and the radio), it doesn't just help you to understand what you hear in the language, but it also reinforces your existing knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical structures. The more you hear or see them the more likely you will use them correctly yourself.

In addition, listening to podcasts will help with your pronunciation as well. The more times you hear people say words in English, the more likely you will say them correctly yourself.

They are not for learning new vocabulary, reading is better for that

You can learn the meaning of new words when you listen to people speaking in English, but it's both difficult and slow to do. To improve your vocabulary, reading is a lot better. You can either read articles on the internet or read the right type of book/novel for your level. Or you could do the English vocabulary exercises on this website.

So, it is not important if you don't understand everything you hear (so don't worry if you don't). The purpose is not to improve your vocabulary but your ability to listen in English.

It will be difficult at first

It is important that you know that when you start listening to podcasts or the radio in English it is going to be difficult at first. You probably will not understand a lot of what you hear. This is very normal and as long as you are listening to a podcast which is right for your level, it will get a lot easier in time.

Where and when you do it is important

I would recommend that you listen to things in English when you are doing something else. And something which does require you to think much. So don't do it when you studying or working.

For me, the three best times to listen to them are when:

  • You are walking
  • You are doing the housework (e.g. cleaning, taking your clothes out of the washing machine etc...)
  • You are driving

All three are ideal because you can do them without having to think a lot. Also, by listening when doing something else means you won't put yourself under pressure to understand everything you listen to.

Finding a podcast which is right for you

There are thousands and thousands of podcasts which you can listen to for free. But unless you have a very high level of English (e.g. advanced(C1) or proficiency (C2)) the majority of these are going to be too difficult for you.

In addition, listen to a podcast on something which you are interested in and/or already have some knowledge about. It will motivate you more to listen to them.

To help you find a podcast which is right for your level, I have written an article which lists some good podcasts for different levels.

To see the list of podcasts, go to my article called 'Podcasts to improve your listening in English.'

Listen to a different podcast two times a week

I would personally recommend that listen to a different episode of a podcast about two times a week (it's no problem if you listen to them more). Also choose a podcast which is short (around 10 minutes is a good length) and don't listen to it more than two times.

When you combine this with regularly reading articles in English as well and you will see how much comfortable you are with English in a couple of months.

That's it

Now you know how to improve your listening ability in English both effectively and quickly and where you can find podcasts to do it, you should start doing it as possible. Enjoy.