Lesson 2
Learning To Listen

Listening to English, even before reading or writing, is key to achieving an advanced level of English. That’s why this course is based on listening to English.

So let’s get more specific about what listening means and how to listen.

There are two ways of listening to a foreign language:

  • Paying a lot of attention to details. As your capacity to pay attention is limited - especially if your English level is not too high - you can only do this for a limited amount of time: 1, 2, or 5 minutes maximum. This is called Active Listening.
  • Letting the language flow into your ears without paying attention to details. This is what you do naturally almost all the time. This is called Passive Listening.

Listening will help you pronounce and speak correctly. But how should you do it correctly and effectively?

These are the steps you should follow to increase your level of English through listening:

1. When you start listening, begin by listening carefully for ONLY 1 to 3 minutes.

The rest of the time you don’t need to pay so much attention. Just let the language flow into your ears. 

Listening carefully means trying to memorise and learn the structures that you are listening to. 

For example: If you listen to this paragraph:  

Dorian Gray: Chapter 1

“The studio was filled with the intense smell of roses, and when the gentle summer wind moved through the trees in the garden, the strong essence of lilac entered the room.”


You should listen to the same paragraph over and over again until all the sounds and structures become familiar.

Let’s see how you should memorise the sounds and the structures:  

-The studio was filled- Sounds something like this “dé sstúdio wuáss fild”. Listen to it and think about the sounds you’ve heard.

It is NOT “de estudio wuas filEd”. This is what you say when you are not really paying attention to what you’re listening to.

 As I said in Lesson 1, the mind is like a runaway horse; when you listen to this paragraph you will automatically hear the sounds that your “Spanish mind” tells you to hear unless you do it slowly, PAY MORE ATTENTION and repeat the sentence several times.

2. You have to learn to make the new sentences yours.

This means that you’ll repeat them so often they won’t sound unfamiliar anymore.

Becoming familiar with a sentence means that the sentence sounds natural to you and you can visualise the situation in the same way you do it in Spanish when someone says something to you.

So when you hear, “The studio was filled with the intense smell of roses”, you actually see the studio and you smell the roses.

To get to this degree of familiarity with the sentences, you should listen and repeat aloud what you have just heard one, two, three or a hundred times. 


3. First, listen two or three times to the recording, then read the transcript.

Reading without listening can be very dangerous for your pronunciation. That’s why it’s important to ALWAYS listen first.

The more you can listen without reading, the better. 

Think about the following fact:

Children spend almost 5 or 6 years of their life listening and speaking their own language before they start learning to read. That’s why they never make pronunciation mistakes.

If you had done the same in English when you were a child, you wouldn’t make any pronunciation mistakes now. 

So remember that it is very important to listen to English without reading at the beginning. 


4. Pay close attention to the differences between the spelling and the sound when you read the transcript.

Most of the problems related to listening and speaking have to do with not concentrating on the difference between the spelling and the sound of the word. 

So if you read:

In the middle of the room, on an easel 

You should listen carefully to the sound of each word:

    • middle /ˈmɪdl/
    • room/rʊm/ (closing your lips to say the letter “m” at the end)
    • easel/ˈiːzl/, the “s” is pronounced with certain vibration. That’s why in phonetics is represented by a “z”. It’s not: /esel/

    And to the sound of the entire sentence as a whole.

    In the middle of the room, on an easel
      - sounds something like this: /in the mídl óf dé rúm, ón ánissel


    What to listen to

    This course is based on listening to a graded bilingual audiobook called “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. We’ll go into detail on how to listen to it in the following lessons.

    However, this is NOT the only material I want you to listen to during this course. 

    You can listen to all the English you want any time and any place.

    Please, use your mobile phone, tablet, computer, television, radio, iPod or any other similar devices to listen to as much English as you can all throughout the day.

    Take a look at the table below which contains links to different recordings of different levels and degrees of difficulty.

    You should move between these levels. 

    Never assume that because you’re an intermediate student you shouldn’t listen to beginners’ recordings. On the contrary, lower level recordings can be very useful for advanced students because they help them to pay closer attention to details.

    The table you see here is just an example. You can make your own tables using recordings you can find on the Internet.


    Recordings for practising your listening

    We'll update on weekly basis (*) Instant Ideas, which are real recordings taken from the BBC, CNN and many other real sources and also include fun exercises.

    (*) Except for the summer months (July and August)


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