There are two very important elements to learning a new language. The first is speaking. This is probably pretty obvious, but to make the language yours, you really have to use it.
The second, is the ability to listen. This is how you will begin to move from rote memorization of words and phrases to learning how native speakers really use them.
Good listening skills can help you be a good language-learner. So, let’s take a closer look at what makes a good listener and how you can use those skills to master a second language.
Be an Active Listener
Listening is different than hearing. Anyone can hear something being said. If you want to improve your language skills, though, you’re going to have to start listening actively.
This means you have to give your full attention to the dialog. Whether you’re speaking with another person face-to-face or listening to a favorite TV show, prepare yourself to truly listen.
This is not supposed to be a passive activity that you do while something else is going on. No playing games on your phone. No staring out the window. No doodling in a notebook.
It’s just you and your determination to listen to every word that is spoken.
You Don’t Have to Understand to Listen
It’s easy to get down on yourself while trying to listen to a new language because you don’t understand everything that is said.
Don’t let that stop you, though. No one will catch every word or understand everything in a casual conversation – especially not when you’re just getting started.
This is about listening and hearing, not understanding.
You want to start picking out the words you do know and see how they’re used with the words that you don’t know.
When you start to pull out the new words, though, you can write them down and work on understanding them later. This exercise will help you hear the individual words and identify the ones you do know and the ones you don’t.
Use Activities You Enjoy – Repeatedly
Do you enjoy watching TV shows or listening to podcasts? How about popular songs? What about playing games?
One of the best ways to improve your listening skills is to focus on the activities you actually enjoy.
But there’s a catch.
Maybe you enjoy a detective drama on TV. It is easy to want to just keep on watching every episode and then move on to the next series once it’s done.
While there’s nothing wrong with this (as long as you follow the guidelines for listening actively), it might not be as effective as it could be.
Instead, be ready to listen to your favorite shows/podcasts/songs multiple times.
You may not be able to catch all the words the first time through (or the second or third time through), but as you continue listening to the same dialog spoken again and again, you’ll be able to pick out new words, spot the words you heard on the last viewing, and really start to understand how different inflections and accents can be applied to those words.
You may also start to learn new words through context alone. You won’t have to use a dictionary to look up every new vocabulary word. You’ll just understand it’s meaning by how it’s used in conjunction with the words you recognized around it.
(The first time you notice this happening is going to be a pretty cool moment in your language learning adventures.)
Know What You’re Listening To
What would you do if you met someone who was visiting California from Egypt, and yet they spoke with a very thick and distinct Texas drawl?
Turns out they learned a lot of their language skills by watching a show or listening to radio programs that featured a lot of characters with that accent.
There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s certainly unexpected enough to catch you off guard.
The same goes for anyone learning to speak Arabic. If you have learned the language by practicing your listening skills with a person, show, or character who uses an obscure dialect, you might raise some eyebrows when you have a conversation with a native speaker.
Immersion is Key
The most effective way to develop your listening skills is to surround yourself with the language as much as possible.
In some cases, this might mean travelling to the country and interacting with the culture there.
But that’s far from the only way to keep yourself immersed in the language.
Today, the internet has a wealth of resources that a motivated learner can use to make sure they’re listening to Arabic speakers at least a little bit every day. Whether it’s through classes like ours or a favorite vlogger on YouTube, you have an opportunity to listen to Arabic speakers almost anytime and anywhere.
Keep Looking for Challenges
We mentioned repetition earlier, and this is definitely necessary to develop your listening skills.
However, you don’t want to get comfortable with it.
If you’re starting to master certain words and dialogs, it’s time to shift things up.
Look for ways to broaden your horizons. Have you been listening to comedies and dramas? Maybe you should try listening to a news program. Enjoy podcasts about one of your favorite hobbies? Try listening to one that covers a completely different topic.
Keep challenging yourself with new goals and new resources.
The results will be worth it.