Steps to improve english listening skills


"I'm confident in reading and writing English, but I'm not good at listening." "I want to enjoy English conversation, but I can't hear what the other person is saying." No "

I think there are many people who say "yes" to these listening concerns.

If you can't hear English, you can enjoy movies and conversations, and you don't feel like studying because it's boring, so you tend to fall into a vicious circle where you can't improve your skills forever. In order to break this trend, it is necessary to understand why you cannot hear English in the first place and then try to overcome your weaknesses.

Here, we will first search for the cause of the "inaudible" problem, and then explain it in three steps so that you can solve it and learn "English ears" on your own.

<Table of Contents>

Think about why you can't hear English

Steps to improve listening

  1. Basic knowledge of English "sound"

  2. Patterns of change in English "sound"

  3. Listen, listen, and read aloud the English "sound"

Think about why you can't hear English

It can be said that the reasons for not being good at listening can be summarized in the following two points.

I can't understand the meaning

The first is the case where "even if you can hear the voice, you cannot visualize it without replacing it with Japanese" or "while trying to replace it with Japanese, your ears cannot keep up with the speed of understanding". This importance and learning method are explained in detail in this site [Intermediate English] Only one study method to create an English brain with explosive speed.

I can't understand the sound

The other is a frustrating case where "I can't think of words or English sentences when I listen to the voice." This is due to unfamiliarity with English pronunciation and inherent intonation.

In order to solve this problem related to "sound", it is necessary to understand the "syllables / phonemes" peculiar to English. Furthermore, let's explain rhythm and intonation as musical elements of the flow of English sounds.

[Step 1 for improving listening] Basic knowledge of English "sound"


To put it simply, a "syllable" is the smallest unit that makes a sound.

Generally, we Japanese recognize the sound equivalent to one kana character, such as "O, ha, yo, u", as the smallest unit of Japanese sound. In normal listening, you usually don't want to break down into phoneme (described later) levels like "o, ha, yo, u".

This mass of sounds that cannot be further refined is called a "syllable", and in Japanese it is composed of one vowel and one consonant. On the other hand, in English, "consonant-vowel-consonant" is basically a typical syllable form. This difference has a decisive effect when listening to English.

Specifically, let's compare with the example sentence "I don't know". In Japanese, there are 7 syllables, so it is pronounced "I don't know". On the other hand, in English, syllables are pronounced as "I (ai is a diphthong)", "don't", and "know (ou is a diphthong)". Therefore, the Japanese ears, who are accustomed to the pronunciation of seven syllables, can hear English faster because there are fewer syllables.

If you are aware that the counting of "syllables" is different between Japanese and English and bring your senses closer to the native speakers, your listening skills will improve dramatically. Let's listen while understanding the "sound unity" unique to English.


If a syllable is the smallest unit of sound when using a language, a "phoneme" can be described as the smallest unit of sound that can be emitted independently. In other words, it is a unit of sound that cannot be further divided. Knowing phonemes and their pronunciation helps us to recognize what sounds English is made up of.

Each phoneme can be expressed in a one-to-one relationship by phonetic symbols such as r, l, θ, and æ. In English, there are 20 vowels and 24 consonants, for a total of 44 phonemes.

In Japanese, there are only 5 vowels and 10 or more consonants. Even including phonemes such as semivowels, the number is less than half that of English. In other words, nearly half of English words are pronounced by sounds that are not found in Japanese. For example, she and sea are "sea" when pronounced in Japanese, but "she / ʃíː" and "sea / síː" in English. Japanese and English are different from the stage of the phoneme that is the basis of pronunciation.

Learning all 44 phonemes and their phonetic symbols can be a hassle, but make a map of the phonemes in your head so that you can identify them, saying, "There are these kinds of sounds in English." That is essential for language learning.

The purpose is to have an image of correct pronunciation in your head, so even if you can't actually pronounce it perfectly, first try to distinguish each phoneme.


Accents are the parts of a word that are read strongly, and some words change their meaning from nouns to verbs depending on their position.

The pronunciation mentioned above is of course important, but if the pronunciation is accurate but the accent is wrong, it can be completely misunderstood as "another word". Also, if you are not conscious of it when you listen, you will understand the sound, but you will not understand what you are saying.

With some exceptions, there are some rules for accent positions. For example, the suffixes "-neer", "-teer", "-reer", etc. emphasize the suffix itself. When the suffix is "-able", "-ic", "-tion", "-ogy", or "-omy", it often emphasizes one syllable before. It's not that difficult to actually learn. When memorizing English words, be sure to pay attention to the accent and make sure to memorize them as "voice". By carefully picking up the accents, the way you hear English will change dramatically.


Rhythm is the pronunciation of a word in English, with some words pronounced strongly and some words weakly pronounced. It is ideal to read Japanese with a certain volume of voice and a certain speed, and we Japanese take it for granted, but in the case of English, we read it in a wave-like manner. .. Japanese people who are not accustomed to this tend to hardly hear the words that have become valleys of rhythm, and as a result, they tend to fall into a situation where even simple sentences cannot be understood.

For example, take the following sentence. The monkeys will eat some bananas.

In the above sentence, the three words monkeys, eat, and bananas are pronounced loudly and clearly, and the other words are pronounced weakly and quickly.

In short, "content words" that have independent meanings as words such as nouns and verbs are pronounced strongly and slowly, and "function words" (words that supplement information) such as pronouns, articles, and preambles are pronounced weakly and slowly. Is the basic.

The key to learning English rhythm is to "consciously" listen to the material and then read it aloud by imitating the voice. You can learn to some extent just by listening, but you can learn more by reading aloud.


Intonation is a change in the pitch of the voice, and the basic types are the following three patterns.

Uptrend: Used when asking a question or requesting a request Downtrend: Used for declarative sentences, special interrogative sentences (questions using what, etc.) Flat tone: Avoid assertions Used when conveying vague nuances

Even in Japan, for example, the intonation of standard language and Kansai dialect is quite different. If you live in a land in a different dialect, you will become familiar with it, and before you know it, you will acquire the intonation of that land. It is important to remember the rules, but as you practice to sharpen your ears carefully, you will gradually be able to grasp "like this".

[Step 2 for improving listening] Patterns of changes in English "sound"

Learning syllables and phonemes and understanding prosody (rhythms, accents, etc.) described in step 1 will help you to acquire correct and natural pronunciation for "individual words". However, when it comes to "a phrase in which two or more words are connected", there are important points that must be understood in order to pronounce a word and a word continuously. There are three types: sound omission (Elision), sound linking (Linking), and sound assimilation (Assimilation).

The reason why you can't hear a word you know in spite of the fact that it is used is that you are not accustomed to these changes in sound when you pronounce words in succession. ..

To improve your listening skills, you don't have to stick to very difficult phonetic terms, but rather familiarize yourself with songs and movie conversations. The dialogue of songs and movies can be said to be a treasure trove of such changing sounds. It is also effective to accustom your ears by imitating songs and readings (shadowing, etc.).

Sound dropout

Sound dropout is a phenomenon in which one of the sounds disappears when the same or similar sounds continue. It is similar to the phenomenon that the previous sound becomes inaudible when the same sound or similar sounds are connected, but in the "inaudible phenomenon", the previous sound is pronounced, whereas in "dropout", the pronunciation itself The difference is that is omitted. Specifically, if the last consonant of a word and the first consonant of the next word are the same or similar, the last consonant will be swallowed and dropped. Example) red dress [rèdréss], hot tea [hὰtíː]

Sound connection

Sound concatenation is a phenomenon in which the last sound of a word and the beginning sound of the next word are connected. It is often said that you do not know the rules of concatenation when you can understand the English text by looking at it, but you cannot understand it quickly by hearing it. Specifically, if a word that ends with a consonant is followed by a word that begins with a vowel, the consonant and vowel are connected and pronounced smoothly instead of being chopped. Example) open it [óupnit], there is [ðὲəríz]

Assimilation of sound

Sound assimilation is a phenomenon in which the sound of one word acts on the sound of adjacent words (or both act on each other) and becomes like another sound. This is an energy-saving change to make it easier to pronounce, but it may sound different from the spelling, and if you are not familiar with it, it will be a major cause of tripping. It is a little different from the "connection" where sounds are connected in that the sound itself changes. Example) miss you [míʃuː], get you [gétʃuː]

[Step 3 for improving listening] Listen, listen, and read aloud the English "sound"

So far, we have deepened our understanding of the difference between Japanese and English "sound" that is necessary to create "English ears", but in step 3, let's explain specific listening improvement methods.

"Listening" and "multi-listening" are often cited as specific learning methods to improve listening skills. However, there is a big difference between the two. Even if you don't think about your level of English and study in either way or in the wrong way, you will not improve your ability. To conclude first, the point of improving listening is to "listen carefully and then listen a lot".

Especially for those who are not good at listening, it is important to first "understand the mechanism of sound and make English ears". Choose one teaching material with an English script and work thoroughly on what kind of pronunciation and what kind of sound changes. There are some teaching materials that recommend "listening earnestly", but even if you can't hear, just keep playing a lot of sound, it's just "noise" and it's not effective. On the other hand, the following effects are expected for listening.

・ Matching the sound you hear with the actual (original) English ・ Breaking away from the pronunciation of katakana English stuck to your head ・ Experience the change in sound

When listening carefully, a short sentence that feels a little easier than your own skill is suitable. Even if I suddenly read a long English sentence at the stage where I can not hear the sound, it takes too much time to understand, and my study does not progress and I am not motivated.

And when you have the basics and are confident, you should work on "multi-listening" to increase the amount. By listening briefly and grasping the whole meaning and doing a lot of things, you can get used to the sounds of English, touch various expressions, and increase the variation of English. We recommend teaching materials created for multiple listening, or native English such as overseas English news and movies (with subtitles).

"FRIENDS" is an overseas drama that is often mentioned as a standard. Another way is to follow the story of "24" and "LOST" using the video service "Hulu".

For those who think that foreign dramas and movies are too long, the book "CNN Listening Library" with a CD containing interviews with famous business owners such as Jack Welch, ask the world's top business owners! ] Is also recommended. In addition, you can effectively use YouTube English conversation videos and TED Talks speech videos. In particular, TED Talks is a service that distributes presentation videos of about 10 to 20 minutes free of charge by experts in various fields, and is suitable for working in a short time.

Here are three points that are important in actual listening.

Point 1) Learn the pronunciation of words and pronounce them yourself

The correct pronunciation of a word is important. Be sure to input the correct native pronunciation. Make effective use of dictionary sites and apps on the Internet.

In addition, practice so that you can pronounce the sounds you have learned with your ears. Unlike babies and children, adults find it difficult to hear just by listening to English unless they pronounce it consciously. Do you practice pronunciation when you want to hear? As you might think, the fastest way to be able to hear English is to know the sounds that the natives are pronouncing, to remember them directly in their meaning, and to be able to pronounce them yourself. It can be said that pronunciation practice is very effective for improving listening skills.

Point 2) If you come across a word or idiom you don't understand, look it up.

Even if you can hear the English "sound", it is meaningless unless you know the correct meaning of the word. Check the gap with the content (meaning) that you expected in listening, and look up words that you do not understand without skipping them. For information on how to learn new words and expressions, please refer to [Intermediate English] One Study Method for Creating an English Brain at Explosive Speed.

Point 3) Do not neglect the finishing "reading aloud"

The finish of listening is "reading aloud". This is the final stage to fully acquire the sounds and meanings that you have captured in your head in the previous steps. Reading aloud practice is originally an initiative that is said to be effective for improving speaking ability. However, by actually reading the sentences by yourself, it is expected that the ability to quickly understand the structure and meaning of English will be improved.

This ability is necessary to speak English fluently, but it is also an important point for improving listening, so I want to make it a habit.

Continue listening lessons for 10 minutes every day

How was the explanation of how to improve your listening skills by yourself?

Once you understand the theory, trying it out is the best way to improve, but if you can study fun and efficiently, it's better.

I think many people are using apps such as English conversation, but some recent English conversation apps are equipped with functions such as TerraTalk that allow you to learn pronunciation and listening of words. This system automatically creates an original vocabulary book based on the user's learning history and lesson conversation content. It seems to be a perfect study method for modern business people who spare time. Let's aim for "English ears" while making good use of these.