A few key ideas:
· -It is important to LISTEN ACTIVELY. You need to engage with the information. Taking notes, asking questions, rephrasing, etc. can help with this.
· -Students are NOT expected to understand every single word. Don’t give up, but listen for things you recognize (when in doubt, focus on verbs). Try to understand the main ideas and ask questions to get to details/check for understanding when necessary/appropriate. But, try to avoid translating everything into English in your head or on paper.
· -When possible, read the questions first to know what to listen for
· -Take notes in either language. Sometimes it helps to write what you think you hear so you can go back later and think about it more—usually you only hear a reading twice on an exam. DON’T try to write down every single word!
· -Check the volume and eliminate background noise when possible. When listening to your native language, you can often fill in the parts you don't quite hear. I personally need the volume much higher when listening to a foreign language than to English. I can understand a conversation between two people speaking English in the back of the bus when I am sitting in the front, but often can't quite get the details of people speaking a foreign language right behind me—especially if there is background noise.
-You can apply many reading strategies to listening, such as recognizing cognates, using context to help you understand, trying to identify the main purpose before you begin, activating your prior knowledge on the topic before you begin, etc. “Activating prior knowledge” means actively thinking about what you already know about a given topic. When learning a language, this includes remembering vocabulary related to the topic that might come up in the listening activity.
-Use visual cues whenever possible. Speakers tend to use gestures, facial expressions, etc. that can help you understand the general context. It can help to see someone's mouth (telephone is often difficult for many language learners because there are no visual cues available). When watching a video/TV, the actions and background visuals can often help you understand the general idea of what is happening. When completing an audio activity, use the visual cues that accompany the assignment to help set the context, including any photos, headlines, titles, introductions, and the assignment itself. Read the questions before you begin so you can focus your listening. For many of us it is difficult to understand and retain every piece of information we hear. It can help to know what specific things to listen for if this information is available.
-Listening during a conversation/lecture is different than listening to a recorded activity. Often you need to hear something more than once. During a conversation or lecture, you may need to ask questions for clarification or request the speaker repeat something. You can try re-stating what you heard in your own words to see if you understood the main idea. During a conversation it might not be appropriate or possible to take notes, so re-stating can help your memory and your comprehension, with the added benefit of checking to see if you understood. During a lecture, taking notes is important, but remember, you aren't expected to write down every word a speaker utters.
Taking notes effectively is also a skill. See http://www.alma.edu/academics/advising/success_manual/academics for some ideas.
One method is dividing your paper into three sections: Vocabulary; notes; questions/doubts
-With a recording, you can stop the CD as needed and replay sections or the entire recording. Try listening to the full selection once through without stopping and attempt to understand the main idea. Then play it again, stopping as needed to respond to activities and/or fill in details. Take notes in either language. Listen a third time without stopping to add to your answers and to hear the entire selection in the context it was intended.
-Sometimes it can help to read the script while listening. Check with your professor to see if scripts are available for the audio practice. To use this effectively, listen first WITHOUT reading and see how much you can understand. Attempt to complete the assignment WITHOUT looking at the text. If you are still unsure, listen again WHILE you read the text (reading without listening tests your reading skills, not your listening skills). When you listen and read at the same time, you begin to associate sounds with the letter combinations that make them. Often you have some “aha!” moments where something you heard suddenly makes sense (Aha! That's what they're saying!). Listen one more time without reading and see how much you understand now. I NEVER RECOMMEND USING SCRIPTS INSTEAD OF LISTENING—THEY ARE ONLY EFFECTIVE WHEN USED IN COMBINATION WITH THE LISTENING EXERCISE!
-Try not to feel overwhelmed and give up. It can be tempting to simply tune out (during an activity, a conversation, or even during a class lecture). If you feel yourself tempted to give up, identify that your attention is drifting and force yourself to focus. Taking notes (or even drawing/doodling) can help. Ask a question. If you aren't sure how to phrase the question in Spanish, note the issue and be sure to ask it in English at the end of class (it really helps to write this down so you don't forget!). HOWEVER, as mentioned above, avoid trying to translate everything you hear into your native language.
For more ideas see:
HOW CAN I PRACTICE LISTENING?
Complete all the listening activities associated with the book (even the ones that aren't assigned)
Attend the conversation tables
find a conversation partner
listen to music and/or the radio in Spanish
Use the internet. Here are a few sites:
This site has a variety of listening videos from Beginning to Superior. The transcript is included in Spanish and English.
This web site has quite a few free practice options. There are short videos that have transcripts and translations.
Try the “Talk Spanish” options for beginning listening
This has a link to Destinos, a video-based language learning program.
The Houghton Mifflin website has links to a variety of web resources, as well as to tools that accompany their books.
Has links to podcasts
These are links to products you might buy—Alma College does not endorse these products.
You might like the link to Las puertas retorcidas, a bilingual audiobook that has a variety of activities, the transcript, and a translation. What is here is just a sample. It is an example of the kind of listening activity you might find helpful. If you do, you have a better idea of what to look for as you search the web for other listening activities.
On-line TV. TV programs reflect many different aspects of our culture. Watch free on-line TV channels from around the Spanish-speaking world. Enjoy news, TV shows, movies, music, entertainment and sports. A fast connection to the Internet is recommended.