3 Techniques to take a proactive approach to listening

In other words, how to transition from input to input-output

Image result for news listening

Having the radio on in the background is, by all means, enriching your passive vocabulary acquisition but taking a more active role will do the trick: active as opposed to passive listening. And as a result, your speaking will get better.

In this post, I am about to describe in detail 3 hands-on methods to carry out that task:

  • from the news
  • on a daily basis (or week daily basis)
  • in reasonably small doses adapted to the time you can spare.

First and foremost, allocate the time. Daily is ideal but week daily can be easier to put into practice (Monday to Friday). If that is still too much of a commitment, you could set a twice-a-week routine. But bear in mind that experts claim that it is easier to stick to a habit if you do it daily than if you only do it now and then. Up to you to decide but what I can assure you is that this exercise, if done regularly, visibly improves fluency and accuracy, as well as pronunciation.

Let’s dive in:

1-     Have you got 2 minutes to learn from the news every day?

Head on to One Minute World News.


This video does exactly what it says in the tin. A condensed summary of world events in one minute. There are two ways you can tackle these tasks. The easy path is to just watch and listen but since the objective of this blog post is proactivity, I suggest another path to take.

Listen intently so as to find a word/phrase/idiom you would like to pick up. One will do when you start.

When the video is over, you write down that word/phrase on a post-it note and stick it somewhere visible.

Go back to the stretch of the video where the word is and listen to it in the context of the sentence. Become aware of how it is being used, in terms of grammar and collocations.

That should not take more than 2 minutes if that is all the time you’ve got on your hands.

Go the extra mile: If you wish to extend the activity, you could contextualise it by saying/writing a sentence of your own harvest.


Today’s news 08/05/2018

My pick:                     sworn in

In context:                 Vladimir Putin has been sworn in for a fourth term as Russian’s president extending almost two decades of his rule by another 6 years.

My example:             Cuba recently swore in a new president to replace Raul Castro, ending an era of the country being ruled by members of the Castro family.

2-     Have you got 10 minutes?

Resources: BBC World Service (news radio podcasts):

Website https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002vsmz/episodes/player

Or download the BBC App and head on to BBC News


Listen to a whole news bulletin (5 minutes long on the hour and 2 minutes long on the half-hour). Let it play till the end without any interruptions.

By now, you have a general idea of the current news stories. It’s time to work out the details. In order to do that, ask yourself this question: Which news item has aroused my curiosity? (Either because of the content or the language used).

At this point, locate the exact minute and have another listen to the news item you have selected. If in doubt about which one to choose, simply go for the first one. That will save you time.

Explain the news in your own words. You could simply say it out loud or take it a step further and record yourself. Chances are that by this point you have a clear understanding of the content of the news but may lack some of the accurate technical terms.

Listen once more, pen in hand, and write down those terms. Give yourself time here. Pause and write, assimilate.

Finally, explain the news over again. By now, you have probably nailed it.


News on 09/05/2018 06:00 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172w4dqs93l3nx

Minute: 1:12

Main idea:

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in North Korea to prepare for President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un.

My choice of language:

Set out the conditions/give up nuclear weapons/ensure objectives are met/pin down specific details/relieve sanctions/release detainees

My summary:            oral

3-     Have you got 20 minutes?

Same resources as before, slightly different modus operandi.  


Select the latest 5-minute news bulletin.

Listen to it from start to finish once.

  • Play start again, listen out to the first news item and stop.
  • Retell the gist.
  • Listen again and notice the language that might have come in handy in your oral summary.
  • Stop again and make a point of including it in.
  • Proceed similarly with as many news items as you have time for over the next 20 minutes.

Explanatory note: carry out these activities only if they resonate with you. Understanding that this is essentially a task and it requires some effort, it should be most enjoyable and give you a boost. If you regard the implementation of this routine a burden as opposed to something to look forward to, then channel your listening efforts elsewhere. We don’t all share the same learning styles.

As always, make it as enjoyable as you can!


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