Do you also think that you discover that you don't know anything when you are ready to have a "real conversation"? Or that the Spanish speakers speak ten times faster than you expected? Or even better, that this doesn't sound like the audio that your teacher used to play in class?
You are correct; these things usually occur when we are attempting to prove ourselves by engaging in a genuine conversation and determining whether or not we have learned anything.
Relax, don't worry. Here are five tips to improve your listening comprehension skills.
So, when we are learning a language, and we have classes, exercises, audios, etc., We can say that we have all the theory in our hands, but then comes the moment when we have to face one of the most important challenges with the language: having a conversation in the "real Spanish world."
When we are trying to have a conversation, we are super focused on trying to listen and understand, but also thinking about the right conjugation, plus vocabulary and trying to pronounce things correctly. Wow, so many things to take care of! and on top of that, try to make us understand.
All this together sounds like a real challenge. At this point, it's when you realize that having a conversation in the "real Spanish world" is not as easy as it was in the books or the class.
One of the most common problems that we have as students is when we are in the "Spanish-real world", where we have to apply what we have learned in class. But in the class, it seems so easy to have a conversation or understand the teacher. They make sure they speak slowly and with a neutral accent.
But when you try to do that in the "real Spanish world", you will find out that the real Spanish is ten times quicker and sounds completely different from what we are used to in the classroom. And to be honest, all of us that speak Spanish speak super-fast.
And on top of that, we need to add the different accents that the Spanish speakers have and the idiomatic expressions that they use. It seems impossible to deal with that.
Even if you think you're afraid to speak it at the beginning because you think you are going to make mistakes, or because you don't pronounce it correctly, don't worry. It's all good. You just need to dare to do it.
But speaking Spanish is the best way to improve your listening skills because it forces you to pay attention and be able to respond to the person that you are having the conversation with.
And it's OK if you make mistakes; you are learning. And if you don't understand something, you can always use the following senteces:
Más despacio por favor
The person will slow down and repeat it slowly for you. Make a lot of questions and pay attention to what they answer. The most important thing is to relax and have fun.
The faster you read, eventually, you will understand the language. In the beginning, it's normal to read very slowly and not have any confidence in ourselves, even if we are not sure how to pronounce it exactly.
However, to get this confidence, you will need to be able to read at the same speed as you have in your mother tongue.
-Time yourself when you are reading, so you can challenge yourself with the time.
-See how many words you can read in a specific amount of time.
Once you can read fast enough without missing important information, it's a good sign that you're more confident and you feel more comfortable with the language.
And this is another problem. When we think that we already have the vocabulary, more or less, and we think we can have a real conversation, we find out that one word has several meanings depending on which country you are from. For example,
-Autobus: in Spain.
- Guagua: in Islas Canarias.
- Camión: in Mexico.
- Colectivo: in Nicaragua
And I can keep going with the different words that we have for the word "bus."
A super important tip is to try to learn or listen to different accents so you will adapt your ears to the different accents and dialects that the Spanish language has. If you can't go to the different Spanish-speaking countries, you can always watch movies or series from different countries. And you can also choose teachers who have different backgrounds.
This is one of the easiest ways to practice your listening skills and is also an effective way to practice your numbers. When we're learning a foreign language, getting to listen to the numbers is a long process. If you are counting, it sounds easy, but when you have to listen and think about what number is it by the sound, it's hard to think quickly. In your native language, when you hear six, you think in six, but it's more time to hear seis and think in six, this is what our brain does:
Imagine with big numbers. That's why hearing the GPS is a super-effective way to practice your numbers and your listening skills. You can do it in an easy direction, like from your house to the first bus stop, for example. So, you don't lose concentration because you know that route and you can focus on listening.
And also, because the language that the GPS uses is imperative, a different conjugation can help you with that too.
Choose a song you like, try to play and stop it, and write down what you listen to. Then you can check what you have with the subtitles. You can do this exercise with a series of things that you are interested in too. There are several pages where you can transcript your text, like:
That is all you need to improve your listening skills, and of course, practice and never give up!