Many Japanese learners of English are worried because they cannot listen at all. Compared to those who have studied abroad or at an English conversation school, it may feel like a complex that you cannot hear English.
In this article, we will introduce the characteristics of people who are not confident in listening, and then explain the methods and measures to improve listening skills. Let's improve your listening skills while enjoying English.
- Five characteristics of people who cannot listen at all
- Are there any study methods that you should pay attention to when listening?
- Effective study methods that people who cannot listen at all want to practice
- How to practice listening while having fun
Five characteristics of people who cannot listen at all
Many people are worried that they can't hear English at all. People who have trouble listening have their own characteristics. However, you don't have to be pessimistic just because it applies to a feature. Once you know the cause, you can take appropriate measures and improve your listening skills efficiently.
Here are five features that are common to people who can't listen at all.
No knowledge of words and grammar
One of the most common characteristics of people who cannot listen at all is that they have no knowledge of words or grammar in the first place. Even if you can hear the voice itself, you may not be able to understand the meaning of the English sentence due to lack of knowledge, and you may not be able to listen at all.
Of course, you don't need to know all the words and grammar that appear in your listening voice. However, if you have many words that you can remember and understand, you can infer from the context about words that you do not know. Without the knowledge to understand about 80% of the content, it will be difficult to guess the meaning, the purpose of listening, and the nuances of English sentences in a limited context.
I don't know the sound of a word / I remember it wrong
If you don't know the pronunciation of a word or remember it incorrectly, you can't link the sound to the word in your head by listening to the voice, and of course you can't understand the meaning of the sentence. In particular, many Japanese people look at the vocabulary and memorize only the spelling and meaning, or read and memorize it in Roman letters, and there are many cases where they cannot remember the correct sound.
Therefore, even people who have vocabulary and can read and write may not be able to listen at all. In this case, even if you remember the spelling and meaning of the word, you cannot understand the English voice because you do not remember the sound of the word correctly.
I can't pronounce
In language learning, it is said that "words that you cannot pronounce cannot be heard." Most of the words that you cannot hear in listening cannot be pronounced by yourself. Like Japanese, words that you have acquired the correct pronunciation and can pronounce yourself fluently can be understood immediately by listening to the voice. In other words, if you can't pronounce it yourself, your brain doesn't recognize the sound correctly and you hear it as an unknown sound, so you can't understand what you're saying at all.
It's only natural that you can't pronounce the foreign language you see for the first time. When memorizing English words, it is very important to learn not only the meaning and spelling, but also how to pronounce them so that you can pronounce them yourself.
I don't know the rules specific to English
English is a very different language from Japanese. In listening, many learners will not be able to keep up with the voice changes and intonations that are peculiar to English and will not be able to hear them.
Some English words are pronounced differently when pronounced alone or when used in a sentence. When speaking in a sentence, the sounds may be connected, dropped or assimilated. The connection of sounds is called "liaison", and the disappearance of sounds is called "reduction". As a result, you may feel that the sound that should have been written in the spelling is gone, or it may sound like a different sound when connected to the next sound.
Not knowing these trends and rules of English-specific voice changes and intonations can be the cause of being completely inaudible in listening. Even if you study words and grammar hard, it is possible that you cannot understand them at all when you hear the sentences.
I can't understand English as it is
Some English learners living in a Japanese environment may be converting English sentences and English voices into Japanese in their brains. Reading gives you some time to think, but listening allows you to miss the next word or sentence while translating the English voice. As a result, you're completely incomprehensible about what you're talking about.
Therefore, in order to understand English at normal conversation speed, it is necessary to understand English as it is, without translating it into Japanese. It is a so-called "English brain", and if you do not understand English with an English brain, you cannot understand English sentences by listening even if you remember the grammar and the spelling, meaning, and pronunciation of words correctly.
Is there a study method to watch out for when listening?
Some people may feel that they cannot listen at all, even though they are not good at listening and are studying hard. In such cases, you may have chosen a learning method that is less effective for listening.
Listening to English and getting used to it in any environment is effective for improving English proficiency, but for example, listening to it is a method that makes it difficult to feel the effect because almost no content is included unless you have a certain level of English proficiency. If you can understand about 80% of the content without concentrating on the voice, it is effective for training your English brain, but if you do not reach that level, the voice is often processed as noise in the brain. Probably.
The method of learning English in Western music is also popular. However, there are many slang words in Western music lyrics, and just listening to them will not be enough for listening learning including understanding of correct grammar and wording.
Furthermore, learning methods that rely only on vision, such as silent reading of voice scripts, are said to be less effective. To improve your listening skills, you will need to make full use of your ears and mouth.
An effective study method that people who cannot listen at all want to practice
I want to improve my English as much as possible in the limited time. Rather than choosing a study method that is less effective, you will be more motivated to continue learning if you take a training method that makes it easier for you to feel your progress.
Here, we will introduce effective study methods that people who feel that they cannot listen at all want to adopt.
First, add knowledge
Lack of vocabulary and grammar is often a major cause of inability to hear English. First of all, it is recommended to improve basic knowledge such as vocabulary and grammar. Words and inflections due to tense cannot understand the exact meaning of a sentence without knowledge.
If you can't listen at all, you will want to strengthen your listening concentration, but steadily improving your vocabulary and grammar will help you improve your listening skills. It is natural that there is a lack of knowledge of English, which is a foreign language, so let's accumulate knowledge little by little.
It is also effective to systematically learn English accents and pronunciation rules. By systematically learning the typical accents of British and American English and the inflections peculiar to English, the pronunciation of native speakers will be easier to understand.
Choose the level of teaching materials that suits you
Even if you can't listen at all, you may be able to understand English by lowering the level of the teaching materials. It is important to understand your current listening skills and select the materials that suit your level. You can get an idea of your current level by taking the TOEIC test or checking your listening level online.
Even if you listen to a voice that is too difficult, you will fall into a state of "I don't know what you don't understand" and the efficiency of learning will decrease. Many of the reference books divide the study target into levels, so it is efficient to start with a simple one and gradually build up. You will be able to understand more and more, which will lead to confidence.
Increase opportunities to speak and listen to English
It is important to advance your English learning with reference books and problem books, but it is effective to improve your ability by increasing the opportunities to actually speak and listen to English. If you are learning English only by self-study, your own pace may become established and you may not be able to keep up with the realism of conversation in English.
If you have the opportunity to speak and listen to English in front of others and come into contact with raw English, you will become accustomed to the speed and intonation of conversation and the content that you can hear will increase. Also, when you talk to a professional such as an English teacher, you may get advice on things you didn't notice. It is also an advantage that you can adjust the conversation level according to your own ability, such as having people repeat the parts you do not understand.
Overlapping is a study method in which you can read aloud at the same time by covering it with the English voice you hear. By listening to the native pronunciation and overlapping while looking at the voice script, you will be able to read English sentences with a sense of rhythm and speed. You will be able to get used to the rhythm and intonation peculiar to English and deepen your understanding of English.
Words that can be pronounced can be understood by hearing. If you can pronounce sentences by overlapping, you can expect to improve your listening skills. Knowledge of unknown words and newly learned phrases can be fixed by overlapping using voice data.
Dictation is a practice method of accurately writing down the sounds you hear on paper without missing each word. If you actually move your hand and write it out, you can understand where the part of the voice that you cannot hear is. This is a recommended learning method for people who "do not know what they cannot hear" or "can understand the outline but cannot grasp the details".
Any reference book or workbook with audio data scripts can be used as a dictation material. At first, it is difficult to write everything at once, so listen to it several times and finish writing the English text. When matching the answers, make sure you understand why you didn't understand. Especially for the part where the voice changes, check which sound is changing and how with the script.
Shadowing is a practice method of imitating the voice you hear and pronouncing it with a slight delay. Unlike repeating, which is pronounced after listening to the English sentence, and overlapping, which is pronounced at the same time as the voice, there is a slight discrepancy between the voice and the utterance.
In shadowing, the point is to listen carefully to the voice and pronounce it in a way that imitates it. When you actually speak out, you will notice small details such as breathing and rhythmic tips. By practicing to reproduce the voice as faithfully as possible, you will acquire the ability to pronounce English more naturally. If you deepen your understanding of voice changes and intonations that are not found in Japanese, you will be able to improve your listening comprehension.
Practice pronunciation with impersonation
If you don't know how to pronounce English and you can't hear the voice even if you listen to English, it is effective to practice pronunciation with the intention of impersonating. In this case, it is recommended to use not only audio but also English videos that can see the face of the person who is actually speaking. Let's impersonate while looking at facial expressions such as how to use the mouth, how to open it, the rhythm of pronunciation and the timing of breathing. By adding gestures, you can acquire more native English.
When impersonating, if you imitate it to the extent that you feel it is over, you can learn the knack of pronunciation while experiencing it using the facial muscles. Once you know how to pronounce it, you will be able to understand what others are saying.
How to practice listening while having fun
Without fun in learning, it can be difficult to stay motivated to continue learning English. Many Japanese learners of English tend to worry that they can't listen, but if you forget to enjoy it, your motivation for learning English will be halved and the effect will be diminished.
Here, we will show you how to practice listening to English while having fun.
Watch Western movies and overseas dramas with English subtitles
I think there are many people who want to watch foreign movies and foreign dramas that they are interested in in English. It is recommended that you watch the subtitles in English when you reach the intermediate level or above. Information can be obtained from audio and subtitles at the same time, so you can visually check the parts that you cannot hear. Once you understand the content, turn off the subtitles and listen to the audio only. English sentences that seemed difficult at first can be understood by watching them repeatedly.
Western movies and foreign dramas are often spoken at the normal conversation speed of native speakers, so you will often find it difficult. However, if you add English subtitles, it will be easier to clear the inaudible parts, and you can enjoy learning English. Since only the expressions that are actually used will appear, it will also help improve your speaking ability.
Take advantage of YouTube
YouTube is a tool that allows you to easily improve your English while having fun. Even if you find it difficult to find a theme you are interested in in reference books or workbooks, you can find videos on your favorite topics on YouTube, where videos on all themes are posted from all over the world. If you search for hobbies, culture, what you are interested in, what you want to know, etc., you will find many videos that are explained in English.
Another advantage of YouTube is that you can freely choose the video you want to watch when you want to. You can choose a long video when you have time, or a short video when you have time to spare, according to your daily rhythm.
On YouTube, there are many videos that can be subtitled from the settings menu. With English subtitles, you can visually check the inaudible parts. You can learn facial expressions, gestures, speed, etc. when natives speak, so you can improve your speaking ability as well as listening.
Use English conversation cafes and international exchange events
It is also effective to increase opportunities to speak in English by using an English conversation cafe where people who are learning English gather and an international exchange event in which foreigners participate. Words, expressions, English grammar, etc. are easier to learn in actual conversation. It will be easy to settle in your memory because you can remember it together with the atmosphere and context of the place.
Many English learners want to have practical English conversation, and English conversation cafes are held in various places. In some cases, native speakers and staff participate as facilitators, and it is attractive to have fun chatting with colleagues who are learning English.
In addition, international exchange events are held in various places for people of various nationalities such as foreigners and tourists who are learning Japanese. You will be able to learn live English in conversation, and if you actively participate and gain experience, your English will improve faster.
Live English with online English conversation
With our online English conversation service, where you can take lessons from home, you can enjoy practicing English conversation with a professional English teacher. You can take lessons according to your level, such as adjusting the speaking speed and repeating the parts you do not understand, so you can effectively deepen your understanding of English. It is often given in the form of one-on-one lessons, and you will be able to improve your English proficiency at a level that suits you.
The parts that could not be heard accurately can be fully understood by having them explain the connections and changes in the sound. The lessons are often enjoyed by the instructor, and you can talk about your favorite topics such as hobbies and work, so it's nice to be motivated and easy to continue.
This time, I introduced the characteristics of English learners who cannot listen at all, study methods that are not effective, and study methods that are effective for improving listening skills. If you can't listen, you tend to concentrate on listening practice, but if you can pronounce it, you will be able to hear more English. It is effective to increase both the opportunity to speak and listen to English.