Listening for information.
In order to understand spoken English, e.g. personal conversations, telephone calls and interviews as well as lengthy talks and lectures, you should know how to prepare yourself for the situation and how to separate essential information from ‘padding’ (non-essential words and phrases that contain no real information).
How to proceed:
Conversations, telephone calls and interviews.
Step 1. Before going into a communicative situation, prepare questions you may want to ask.
Step 2. Then collect words and phrases relevant to your topic.
Step 3. While communicating, ask for clarification when necessary. If for any reason you do not understand the information you are being given, do not hesitate to ask the other person to repeat, spell out or explain a piece of information or to confirm that you have understood it correctly. Example:
- Excuse me, could you repeat that/what you just said?
- I’m not sure I understood you correctly. Could you please rephrase your question/what you just said?
Lengthy talks and lectures.
Step 1. Before attending a talk or lecture, write down key words that deal with the information you are looking for or expect to get.
Step 2. Collect words and phrases relevant to the topic you are going to hear about and check that you fully understand them.
Step 3. While listening to a talk or lecture, note down information you want in key word form.
Step 4. Use the context of each section of the talk or lecture to help you to understand words you don’t know.
Step 5. Look out for signpost words (e.g. however, in my view, in short…). These will help you follow the structure of the speech (e.g. when a new argument is introduced; a personal opinion is given; a summing up is offered, etc.).