Improving your Listening Comprehension Skills

Hallo miteinander!

We hope that you have settled in to the new school year and that you are keeping safe and well in what are challenging times for all. A common question that we have been asked over the last few weeks has been “How can I improve my listening skills?” We have compiled our best advice on this to help you with this element of language learning. Los geht’s!

Expose yourself to the language

The best way to learn a language is to expose yourself to it and in today’s world it is very easy to do this. Whether it’s watching movies or TV, following a social media account or influencer, listening to podcasts, songs or radio, your options are limitless, and practicing is the best way to improve. Here are some of our favourite German exposure methods which have featured before on the blog.

Movies: Netflix has some great German content. Simply search “German” to browse the selection of German series and films or check out our blog post on Netflix series here. Sometimes, however, this content is more suited to native speakers. In this case, what you could do is watch something you are familiar with (Shrek, for example) and watch it dubbed in German with German or English subtitles, depending on the difficulty.

TV: Tagesschau would be the equivalent to the RTÉ News in Germany. A feature we really enjoy is called ‘100 Sekunden’. Here, the main new headlines are given in 100 seconds which is great for a quick blast of German. Otherwise, “Die Sendung mit der Maus” is a popular daily German TV programme for children, but with interesting and universal themes for all, explained in easy-to-understand German.

Podcasts and Songs: Spotify has great content in this regard, but you can also find more content elsewhere online and on YouTube. You can download the “Top 50 in Germany” playlist on Spotify or search for other playlists such as “Made in Germany”. When listening to a German song, you should listen to it a few times and then search for the song text online. In terms of Podcasts, we have a blog post with our favourites. You can read that here.

German Radio: WDR, one of the national broadcasters in Germany, has great radio (and TV) options online and on their free app.  They have 5 different stations, as well as another station aimed at teenagers and young adults, called “Cosmo”, with music and stories aimed at this group. Whatever your taste is, they definitely have something for you, so check it out!

Use the listening text

If you have the text in front of you when listening you will not only better understand what is being talked about, but you will also be more focused on the way words are pronounced and emphasised in the spoken language.

Key tips:

  • When watching a movie, have the subtitles on. Most YouTube videos also allow you to turn on subtitles when watching them.
  • Find audio material online that has a matching transcript.
  • Use the transcripts when going through past aural exam papers.

Make vocabulary lists

When you hear new words and phrases that you feel will be important, note them down in the target language (e.g. German) and in your native language. Keep a vocabulary book for this or alternatively use a platform such as Quizlet or Memrise to digitally compile your lists and play learning games with your words.

Summarise what you hear

When doing independent listening, summarise what you hear afterwards. This will help you stay more focused when listening and help organise your thoughts. Depending on your language level, you may wish to do this in the target language or in your native tongue. Remember that it is only the most important details that go into a summary and as such every single aspect of the audio file does not need to be included in it.

Don’t stress over missed or unknown content

Do not panic if you don’t understand every single word; you are a language-learner and it is not expected that you will know everything. Do your best to understand the general meaning of the listening piece and listen closely to the most important aspects. Panic does no good when learning a language. If you miss something, rewind and play that part again (in non-exam conditions) instead of just moving on.

Listen out for verbal cues

The intonation, that is the melody of a sentence, reveals a lot about the significance of information. Important words are emphasised in the spoken language and it’s important to watch out for this. Is something repeated, stressed or said in a different tone? This would suggest that this part of the audio is significant. In the oral exam, listen closely to the examiner for question words (in German: ‘W-Fragen’) as these will indicate what information is required from your answer.

As a parting piece of advice: remember that actively listening to something (i.e. listening and doing) is much more effective than listening alone. With that, we hope that you found value in this blog post and will take some of these tips with you on your language learning journey. If you have any questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us and be sure to stay up to date with us on Instagram and Twitter.

Bis bald!