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Let's talk about a problem you might have when listening to English, especially when
watching a movie: You don't understand what you hear.
And this is not because you don't know the vocabulary. If you read the transcript or
the subtitles, you will understand the material just fine. So you already know the words being
used. You just don't recognize them when listening.
So what should you do?
According to many research studies, an effective way to deal with this problem is to practice
listening through easy-to-hard training.
In one study, participants were trained to perform a task related to hearing. And there
were three levels of difficulty - easy, normal, and difficult. The participants were divided
into two groups. The first group was trained to perform only the difficult version of that
task. The second group, however, started with the easy and normal versions first before
performing the difficult version.
The researchers wanted to know which group would perform the difficult version better.
So what was the result?
Well, despite having less training with the difficult version, the second group actually
performed better.
Practically speaking, this finding suggests that if you have difficulty doing something,
instead of just keep doing that, it's more effective to start with something easy and
then slowly increase the difficulty as you improve.
So how can you apply this knowledge to improve your listening?
I'll tell you. First you have to make it easy in the beginning. For example, if you listen
to podcasts in English on your smartphone, find an app that lets you change playback
speed so that you can slow down or speed up what you're listening to. If you listen on
your computer, there are programs that can do that as well.
Then, whenever you have trouble understanding, use the app to slow down the audio like this:
So now it gets easier, right? You have more time to think. You have more time to make
out words that aren't pronounced clearly. You have more time to guess the meanings of
new words and phrases.
The idea here is to make it easy in the beginning. Listen at slower speeds. Listen to speakers
that are easy to understand. Listen to easy stuff like podcasts and interviews as opposed
to movies. Start small.
But you're not done yet. Easy-to-hard training requires you to go from easy to difficult.
So once your listening skills improve, you have to gradually increase the difficulty.
For example, if you're listening to a speaker that speaks slowly and you can understand
everything, instead of listening at the normal speed, speed it up like this:
Now, after you speed it up, you must still be able to understand the content but you
should feel a little uncomfortable. This will help you become more familiar with listening
to fast speakers.
The idea here is to keep pushing yourself. If you keep listening to something easy, your
listening skills will stop improving. So you have to keep challenging yourself. So listen
at faster speeds. Also, don't keep listening to the same person. Listen to different people
with different speaking styles.
And then...start watching movies without subtitles. If it's still difficult, you can slow down
the movie by 5% or 10%. Or you can slow it down even more if you don't mind the slowness.
Once you get used to it, you can then start watching movies at normal speed.
Alright, that concludes this video. To help you get started, I have created a resource
page where you can download English listening material for free. Click here to go to that
    You must  Log in  to get the function.
Tip: Click on the article or the word in the subtitle to get translation quickly!



English Listening Practice: How to Understand Movies Without Subtitles

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NCTU Regine published on October 28, 2014    林曉玉 translated    林筠 reviewed
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