Prelistening Skills



Listening skills are the most difficult of all the ESL skills to develop. The best way to motivate yourself is to find podcasts or TV shows that you find interesting, especially if they are not available in your language.


The environment in which the podcast or TV show takes place should be familiar especially for those with a beginner proficiency. If you are a doctor, listen to medical podcast or TV shows; for a student, try documentaries on geography, math, history or science.


Research vocabulary specific to the podcast or TV show. Video podcasts and TV shows with close ups allow you to see mouth movements and will aid in hearing the words spoken. If you are enrolled in English study, find podcasts that match the vocabulary for best results.

Focus your attention on listening rather than trying to translate. The better you become at actively listening, the further you will advance in your conversation skills with a native English speaker.


Start simple. Find podcasts that are two to five minutes long. Don't write down the words or look them up, just listen. Don't get hung up (confused by) on the words or how they are spoken, just keep listening.

Once you have listened to the podcast, take a break of no more than five minutes and listen again. Take a quick look at your vocabulary list before listening to the same podcast. You may repeat as many as four times before moving on to the next stage.

In your mind, listen to the meaning and context of what is being said. If you spend time writing down words or sentences, you will miss the meaning of the podcast.


Write out what you recall from the podcast and all the words that you recognize. Write out a summary of the podcast.

Analysis of language

What language does the podcast use? What is the purpose of the podcast? Was it educational? Was it a news story? What was the main point of the podcast? What verb forms were used: was the podcast presented as a current event or something that occurred in the past?

Did you recognize more words than you did in your last exercise?

If you are enrolled in classroom training, make a list of words that you need help with pronunciation or idioms that you do not understand. Ask your teacher to help you with them.


  • Find podcast that are two to five minutes in length. Choose pods casts without a lot of background noise. The best podcasts have speakers that speak with a standard US or BBC English.