What is the most important English skill? What skill must you have to communicate well?
Obviously, number 1 is Fluency.
What is fluency? Fluency is the ability to speak (and understand) English quickly and easily... WITHOUT translation.
Fluency means you can talk easily with native speakers-- they easily understand you, and you easily understand them.
In fact, you speak and understand instantly.
Fluency is your most important English goal.
The research is clear-- there is only ONE way to get fluency.
You do not get fluency by reading text- books. You do not get fluency by going to English schools.
You do not get fluency by studying grammar rules.
Listening Is The Key
To get English fluency, you must have a lot of understandable repetitive listening.
That is the ONLY way.
To be a FANTASTIC English speaker, you must learn English with your ears, not with your eyes. In other words, you must listen.
Your ears are the key to excellent speaking.
What kind of listening is best? Well, it must be understandable and must be repetitive.
Both of those words are important-- Understandable and Repetitive.
If you don't understand, you learn nothing. You will not improve. That's why listening to English TV does not help you. You don't understand most of it. It is too difficult. It is too fast.
Its obvious right? If you do not understand, you will not improve.
So, the best listening material is EASY. That’s right, you should listen mostly to easy English.
Most students listen to English that is much too difficult. They don’t understand enough, and so they learn slowly.
Listen to easier English, and your speaking will improve faster!
Understanding is Only Half The Formula.
Understanding is not enough.
You must also have a lot of repetition. If you hear a new word only once, you will soon forget it. If you hear it 5 times, you will still probably forget it!
You must hear new words and new grammar many times before you will understand them instantly.
How many times is necessary? Most people must hear a new word 30 times to remember it forever. To know a word and instantly understand it, you probably need to hear it 50-100 times!
That's why I tell my students to listen to all of my lessons many times. I tell them to listen to the Mini-Stories, the Vocab Lessons, The Point-of-View Stories, and the Audio articles everyday.
I recommend that they listen to each lesson a total of 30 times (for example, 2 times a day for two weeks).
So, the two most important points are: listen to easier English and listen to each thing many times.
Powerful Listening and Excellent Speaking
1. Practice “Narrow Listening”
“Narrow listening” means listening to many things about the same topic. This method is more pow- erful than trying to listen to many different kinds of things. Students who listen to similar things learn faster and speak better than students who listen to different kinds of things.
For example, you can choose one speaker and find many things by him. Listen to all of his pod- casts, audio books, and speeches. This is powerful because all speakers have favorite vocabulary and grammar. They naturally repeat these many times. By listening to many things by the same person, you automatically get a lot of vocabulary repetition. You learn faster and deeper!
Another example is to choose one topic to focus on. For example, you could read an easy book, lis- ten to the same audio book, listen to a podcast about the book, and watch the movie.
I did this with my class in San Francisco. We read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Then we listened to the audio book. Then we watched (and listened to) the movie. Then we listened to inter- views with actors in the movie. My students learned a lot of vocabulary in a short time, and their speaking improved very quickly.
2. Divide Your Listening Time
Which is better: to listen for two hours without a break, or to divide that time during the day? Well, dividing your listening time is best.
By dividing your time throughout the day, you remember more and learn faster. So its much better to listen 30 minutes in the morning, then 30 minutes in the car or train, then 30 minutes coming home from work, then 30 minutes before sleep. In fact, this is the exact schedule I recommend to my students!
3. Use an iPod or MP3 Player
iPods are fantastic. You can put a big listening library on one. Then you can carry your English les- sons everywhere. You can learn English while walking, while shopping, in the car, in a train, while cooking,.......
With an iPod or MP3 player, you don’t have to worry about CDs. Also, you can find a lot of English listening on the internet. You can find lessons, stories, podcasts, TV shows, interviews, and audio books. Simply download the audio, put it on your iPod.. and learn English anywhere!
4. Listen To Movies
Movies are great for learning English BUT you must use them correctly. Don’t watch all of an English movie. You will not understand it, and therefore you will not learn anything.
Only watch one scene or segment per week (maybe 2-3 minutes). Follow this method:
a) First, watch the scene with subtitles in your language. This will help you understand the general meaning.
b) Second, watch the scene with English subtitles. Pause. Use a dictionary to find new words you don’t understand. Write the new sentences in a notebook.
c) Listen to the scene a few times, with English subtitles. Do not pause.
d) Listen to the scene a few times, without subtitles.
e) Repeat a) - d) everyday for one week.
On the second week, go to the next scene/segment and repeat again. It will take you a long time to finish a movie. That’s OK, because you will improve your listening and speaking VERY FAST. This method is powerful-- use it!
5. Read and Listen at the Same Time
Listening and Reading together are very powerful. While you listen to something, also read it. This will improve your pronunciation.
Reading while listening also helps you understand more difficult material. Read and listen to learn faster. After you do this a few times, put away the text and just listen. You will understand a lot more and you will improve faster. Always try to find both audio and text materials.