5 Secrets to Listening Success*

5 Secrets to Listening Success

April 4, 2016

Native English Instructor

Written by Douglas Shaw

5 different secrets that will greatly help you improve your listening skills..

Listening Skills

 5 different secrets that will greatly help you improve your listening skills.


Listen, Read, Speak (Shadow)


Guess First

Understand The Big Ideas


It is not what you think about. It is how you think.

The way you think, whether positive or negative has a big impact on your ability to take action or understand what you are hearing. If you go into a situation with a negative mindset you will find it is much harder to understand and you will feel less confident. If you go into a situation with a positive mindset (e.g. yes, I can do it; I am able to understand what I hear; I do have the skills; I do understand a lot of vocabulary) These ideas are very important to help build confidence.

Start with…..

  • a positive mindset.
  • I believe you can do it.

Listen, Read, Speak (Shadow)

Listen and Read:

When you listen, it’s very helpful to use other activities (e.g. watching movies with subtitles, listen to music with lyrics) use any activity that lets you listen and read.

Best method to use:

1st: Watch a movie one time without subtitles, listen to the movie. Make notes of the phrases (sentences) and situations that you are not sure of the meaning.

When you watch the movie you are using your sight as a tool to help you recognize the situations. Keep your eye on the different situations.

2nd: Watch the same movie again but this time have the subtitles turned on. (Important note – Subtitles need to be in English). Have your notes handy from the 1st time, but this time, make adjustments to your notes for the situation and sentences. How do the situations match the sentences?

Keep using these steps until you can confidently watch or listen to the movie or song and fully understand the meaning without the need of subtitles or lyrics.

Speak (shadow):

Speaking technique – shadowing: What you do is listen and as soon as you can possibly repeat what you hear. I want you to say it.

Shadowing is mimicking what you hear.


At the very beginning, find material (YouTube videos, songs, podcasts) that are very short – 2 minutes / 3 minutes / 5 minutes. As your ability improves change to longer material – 10 minutes / 20 minutes / 30 minutes. When you believe that you are ready, move into full movies or songs.

Using diversity in this way, make sure you find the material that is interesting to you, common with your likes at the beginning, but as diversity says – Challenge yourself with material that is out of your common interests. This will definitely help build vocabulary.

Guess First

Why would we want to guess first? We want to be sure. We want to be confident in what we are hearing, right!

I want you to guess what you think you will hear, based on the situation or the material that you expect. Look at the title first and take 3 seconds to guess on what you are going to hear (e.g. On the Throne!).

Doing this, gets you thinking about the vocabulary that you can expect and mentally prepares your mind better for when you hear the material or speaker. You will find that it does make listening easier.

Understand The Big Ideas

What is special about the structure of English and the way we speak. What are the patterns? When we understand these patterns then we can better organize different ideas (e.g. a phrase, a word). English is built on a framework of time and feeling.

It can include….

  • grammar – time, action . (subject / action / when/ where).
  • stress – feeling
  • sounds – pronunciation.


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