Listen Up: 5 Tips to Enhance your Listening Skills
By: Luiza Dos Santos, Work and Travel Assistant
For employers, staff and participants of the Work and Travel department, one of the most attractive features program is the opportunity to practice English speaking skills with native speakers and also have the opportunity to share English and American culture with those unfamiliar to it. In fact, many experts in the field argue that such exposure is the best way to learn a foreign language. According to a study conducted by The National Foreign Language Center at Johns Hopkins University, full language immersion has been shown to generate overall better foreign language acquisition than can be attained in a classroom setting. In addition to fluency, this type of immersion leads to contextual learning, cultural understanding, and professional preparation. For that reason, it is highly recommended to speak and practice your English as much as possible while you’re in the United States.
But that’s only part of the story. Another crucial component of the learning process is the ability to fully listen. Did you know that March is the International Listening Awareness Month? According to the International Listening Association (ILA), we only remember about 50 percent of what we hear immediately after we hear it during a conversation and only another 20 percent after it happened. When it comes to improving language skills, the act of listening can just as important to communicate successfully.
With that in mind, here are some tips to enhance your listening skills, especially for participants new to English:
- Body language is important – Try to keep eye contact with your conversation partners. In addition to paying attention to what they are trying to say, try to pay attention to how they are trying to communicate with you. Are they relaxed or tense? Are they keeping eye contact with you as well? More often than not, the speaker’s body language can provide you with more depth and it will help you remember the conversation and specific words better later on.
- Don’t interrupt – Sometimes it’s hard to refrain from making comments while someone else is speaking, especially when you’re passionate about the subject. However, try to let the speakers finish their thought whenever possible. A complete argument is much easier to remember and follow than an incomplete one. While the person is talking, try not to think about what you’re going to say next and really focus on what is being said.
- Actively listen through your own body language – Make sure that people talking to you know that you’re actively listening to them. You can let them know by nodding and saying a few affirmative words.
- Ask for clarification – Asking for clarification is different than interrupting. When in doubt, always ask for different examples. This will lead to better understanding and you’ll be able to better retain the information.
- Summarize and briefly repeat the information when it’s your turn to talk – This will help you make sure that you are both on the same page and prevent future misunderstandings.
Listening and speaking complement and enhance each other. So as an employer or CCI Greenheart staff member, we can be sure to help participants learn English, by listening as well. For all participants on the program, remember that as long as you try, your English will get better!