Listening: 7 Tips to Improve Your Proficiency

Posted by Madeleine Boldero Rito on 16-Aug-2018 15:52:57

MaddieDo you want some ideas on how to help your listening progress outside of the classroom?  There are many easy things you can do, which will help you to develop your skills effectively.

1. The internet is your best friend for finding examples of authentic examples of English language. While studying in the UK, you can access public service TV programmes and radio shows on apps like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and  While many of the TV programmes are limited to being within the UK for access, the radio programmes and podcasts available on the BBC ( will work all over the world.  Listening to these, or watching TV shows online, will expose you to real English, with a wide range of accents.  At first these will be really tough, but the more you hear an accent and the deeper you get into a show, the easier it’ll be to follow the plot! 

2. Much like watching TV shows, watching films online using providers like Netflix means while relaxing you can still help your language develop. Make sure you are setting both the audio and subtitles (if needed) to English, as this will really help you to focus on how well you understand the spoken language.  If you want to really help this develop, watch part of the programme with only English audio, then go back and watch the same section with subtitles (either in English or your own language).  This will help you see how much you understood the first time around.  It will be challenging to begin with, but the more you do it, the easier it’ll be!

3. If you like listening to music, this can be a really easy way to help improve your vocabulary as well as your ability to pick out tricky words. The website lets you listen to your favourite tracks and test your understanding of the words being said.  You can choose from Beginner to Advanced level, and whether to write the words or pick a word from four options.  You can review how to spell words, consider how colloquial language is used and practise your karaoke skills at the same time! 

4. If you’re preparing to take an exam in English, such as IELTS, Cambridge First B2, Cambridge Advanced C1, Cambridge Proficiency C2, or TOEFL, or even preparing to attend a university course in English, understanding spoken English is of the utmost importance. Listening to TED talks online ( will help you develop your proficiency at understanding authentic English lectures and help you to develop study skills such as note taking.  They are also fantastic ways of exploring different points of view and questioning innovative thoughts, relating all fields of study.  If you want to do something while on the move, the TED app also allows you to download the audio files to listen offline.  A great tip for when you’re travelling and need something to kill some time!

5. While studying in one of our Stafford House schools, the opportunity to stay with a host family will mean that you’re surrounded by English even after your classes finish. These families often end up creating great bonds with their students, and stay in touch long after a student has returned to their home country.  By listening to your host family, you will hear great examples of real life communication and how people truly use English to communicate with each other. 

6. As well as spending time with your host family, simply getting to know your classmates is an easy way to improve both your speaking and listening skills. All of the Stafford House schools aim for diverse classes, so you will be able to talk to many people from different countries around the world, while still getting really good practice of your listening skills.  Once you have finished your studies with us, stay in touch with these friends via social media but don’t just text! Send audio clips to help you all maintain your spoken English and to help with your listening skills.  You can repeat the messages as often as you need, and each time will help you understand more and more!  You could even give each other feedback on grammar and vocabulary as you decide in your group! 

7. One of my favourite tips to students to start getting really nosey. Eavesdropping is a real life skill, and an overheard conversation on the bus is great practice to test how much you really understand when real speakers are really This language might not follow those grammatical rules you’ve studied for so long, but instead is an example of we really communicate in English.  It will also mean you hear a variety of accents from around the world, which will also help you to be able to recognise how one language can vary over so many different regions.    

Maddie is our Assistant Director of Studies at Stafford House Cambridge 

Topics: Student Experience, Cambridge, UK, Study Abroad, Travel, Study English