Learning to Listen

Listening, the process of taking in what we hear and mentally organizing it to make sense of it, is invaluable component of the communication process. Listening is an essential skill for those who want to be successful in work and in life ( Janasz, 2006, p138 ). Especially for us international students, listening plays an irreplaceable role in our daily life. If our listening is poor, we can not

understand what locals are talking about, and we won’t know what is going on, just like we are living in a world with noise, not with language. So the first step is to practice and improve our basic listening skills.

Listening to the radio may be an effective way to improve listening. It will provide us information about the local events, local culture, and most importantly the local accent. It is a fact that we Chinese students are much more familiar with American English than British English, because we have been learning American English and American sound since secondary school, and in one time I was a little confused about British sound. Now I am in Australia, the same thing happens again. The very first word I heard from the local was “Today”, which made me feel like he was saying “to die”. This astonished me at first, but later on, I felt free to hear that “die” sound.

Another way to improve listening I think is to talk with locals as much as possible. If we only practice listening over the radio, we never talk to it, and the radio never gives a feedback. However, things are different when we make conversations with locals. We learn their ways of expression, their accent, and even their ways of thinking. It is true that we eastern people think differently from the western people, because of the different cultural and educational background. So it is necessary for us to be aware of the western ways of thinking and their customs. Talking with local people will provide us good opportunity to get all the useful information, and our listening is improved meanwhile.

When the basic listening skills are improved, we go to the next step, to be a good listener. We need to pay attention to the tone of voice, body language, and other nonverbal messages. These will help us understand what is being said.

The final step is active listening, and in active listening, it is common for the listener to be an active participant in the conversation, asking and probing for details in such a way that the speaker feels both supported and encouraged to share more information about a situation. Enhancing both the speaker’s and listener’s understanding of what is taking place ( Janasz, 2006, p139 ). It will be a little hard for me to be an active listener, because English is my second language, but I will try to take part in the conversations and not to be a passive listener. I think by the end of this semester I will make some progress in my listening, and be an active listener by practicing the basic listening skills.