IGCSE French and Spanish: 3: How to tune your ear; improving your listening skills.

IGCSE French and Spanish: 3: How to tune your ear; improving your listening skills.

Blog 3 in our French and Spanish blog series looks at ways to improve your listening skills.

IGCSE French and Spanish: 3: How to tune your ear; improving your listening skills.

For many students listening skills are the hardest part of learning a language, but this is nothing that can’t be rectified with regular practice. Just like losing weight, ‘little and often’ is the key, so ideally about 5-10 minutes of daily listening to target language material will help. In the scheme of things, this requires very little effort, just a little discipline to establish the initial routine, and making sure you are motivated to do your listening by picking something you find interesting to listen to.

Students often believe that they have to listen to exam style exercises to hone their listening skills in a foreign language, not so! You will find that you can tune your ear to the language by listening to absolutely anything in the target language, provided it is not too easy/difficult and that it is audible.

  • Music – if you enjoy listening to music anyway this is a great way to discover new artists or albums whilst learning some of the language at the same time. There are a number of artists, famous in the English-speaking world, who also release albums in Spanish (Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin) or French (Céline Dion) and you can always use ‘google’/’youtube’ to discover some lesser known foreign artists who sing in your favourite music genre. Your tutors may also have some ideas to help you.
  •  Put your favourite DVDs into Spanish 0r French and watch them with English subtitles. Don’t be put off by how fast the dialogue seems at first because after a while you will be amazed how much you pick up and how quickly your ears get used to hearing the language and picking out words/phrases you recognise. If you know the film by heart – even better!
  •  Educational websites. There are a number of websites out there that are set up for learners of foreign languages with free and easy-to-access target language material. The BBC have several that are excellent where you  can access video-clips, soap operas and other TV programmes in the target language and practice listening exam questions for free online. If you are feeling like a challenge do a search on televisión/radio en español or télévision/radio en français for some authentic material from the country.

TIP!!!! When searching for clips use google.es (for Spanish) or google.fr (for French) and type your search terms in the language. This will give you a wider choice of authentic material.

  • Don’t be afraid to listen to the same passages over and over again or go back to a clip from earlier on in the course. It is in fact useful to do this in order to really understand something. It will also help to build your confidence if you go back and listen again to something you found very difficult several weeks/months before, as you will see how much progress you have made and how far your listening skills have developed.
  •  Near the exam time, go onto the exam board website and download any MP3s from previous listening exam papers to do. This will give you a good idea of what to expect from the format and speed of the passages in the actual exam.

In short, it will help you to listen to absolutely anything you can access in the target language – use your imagination and have some fun.

Good Luck!

Chloe Bullock


To find out more about studying French or Spanish visit the Oxford Open Learning webiste, or contact a Student Adviser for more details.

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