The Secret Behind Effective Communication

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Posted by Christopher Huntley on July 6, 2021

Listening is the least popular of the skills people think of when they want to learn the English language. They usually want to find out how to get as much speaking practice as possible, how to study grammar and speak more correctly, or how to improve their pronunciation and lose their accent. But they rarely seek out teachers who can help them improve their listening skills.

Some students know they need to improve their language listening skills because of their results on quizzes, tests, and exams, such as the IELTS or TOEFL. However, in my experience, those who consciously understand that they need to improve their listening skills, instead of focusing on speaking, are few and far between. Most people want to become an English speaker, but very few want to become an English listener.

The truth is that listening is an essential skill to develop if you want to speak English. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but there are several important facts about how listening and speaking are related that we must take into account:

  • Part of speaking effectively is “turn taking”. In order to know when you should start or stop talking, you must look and listen for cues from your interlocutor.
  • By improving your listening skills you can teach yourself to hear nuances and notice subtle differences between sounds in different languages. When you understand how it should sound, it becomes a lot easier for you to copy it.
  • The person or people you are speaking with usually give you hints when they don’t completely understand something or when you’ve made mistakes. If you’re too busy thinking about what you are going to say, then you might miss them.

Overall, most people understand how reading and writing are connected, but they don’t realize how inextricably intertwined speaking and listening are. Although it isn’t the sexiest language skill, listening is the yin to speaking’s yang. So, if you’ve only been concentrating on learning how to start a conversation in English, it’s time to pay attention to your listening skills.

Christopher Huntley

Teacher, Trainer, Coach, Consultant