Keys to Better Listening




In this series of handouts, we provide opportunities and activities to help you improve different aspects of your English language skills. The following are some hints for improving listening in your daily life and on campus and some strategies for listening.

After all, patience and persistence are the keys to better listening. Keep trying !



There are many kinds of listening. It is important to expose yourself to these various kinds of listening because you can familiarise yourself with different vocabulary, speed, accents, pronunciation and even grammar structures in different contexts.

Listen to English Pop Songs

Find cassettes/CDs which have the lyrics enclosed. Alternatively, the PolyU ELC (Resource Area) has song lyrics.

Listen to TV News Reports

Videotape some English TV news reports. If you are in Hong Kong, here is a schedule.

Pearl Channel World Channel
CBS Evening News 7:30 am (Mon-Sun) The World This Week 7:25 p.m. (Sat)
News Review 8:30 am (Sun) Main News and Weather Report 7:30pm(Mon-Sun)
Main News and Weather Report 7:30pm (Mon-Sun) Late News 11:30 pm (Mon-Sun)
News Round-up 12:00am (Mon-Sun)
  • watch the Chinese news television reports before you switch to the English ones,
  • read a newspaper in your own language (Just look at the headlines if you think it is very time-consuming to go through every detail in the newspaper),
  • read a newspaper in English (Just look at the headlines if you think it is very time-consuming to go through every detail in the newspaper), and
  • discuss the latest news with friends.

Since you have read, heard or talked about the news before watching, you may find it easier to understand the English news reports.





Listen to films

Collect film reviews from English magazines or newspapers. Obtain the book or script of a film to read before or after the film. If you are in Hong Kong, films with scripts or activities are available in the PolyU English Language Centre. These include:

Back to Future II Sleepless in Seattle
Ghost Gone with the Wind
Dances with Wolves To kill a Mocking Bird
Casablanca When Harry Met Sally
Four Weddings and a Funeral






Listen to TV Programmes or Videos

Search for English language TV programmes or videos. Videotape the TV programmes for repeated reviewing.

Special Recommendations:

Star TV-Channel V

Best of Go West 11:00am (Sat): The V-jay David Woo will tell you a lot about idiomatic English.

World Channel

Yan Can Cook 6:30 pm (Sat.)

Pearl Channel

City Life 8:00 pm (Thurs.)

Listen to Radio

Tune in to any English language radio programmes that are available. If you are in Hong Kong, you can listen to these programmes. Record programmes so that you can play them back for intensive listening.

BBC World Service MW/AM 675

Special Recommendations:

World News: broadcast daily at 0000, 0300, 0600, 0700,0800,0900,1200,1700, 2100, and 2300.

East Asia Today :Current Affairs at 23:10

Newsdesk: an half-hour programme including World News and dispatches from overseas and UK at 0100, 0400, 1100, 1800, and 2200.

RTHK Radio 3 (AM 567)

Special Recommendations:

RTHK News at One (Mon-Fri)

RTHK News at Eleven (Mon-Fri)

Hong Kong Today (0700 Sat. only)

Teentime (2100 Mon-Fri)



How to predict

  • Use your background knowledge. What do you already know about the topic ?
  • Think of questions that listening materials might provide answers for.
  • Create a spidergram which shows everything you know about a particular topic.
  • Pay attention to voice emphasis   People usually speak with stress. The position of stress is a good indicator of key points. Recognising stress can help you to tell the more important points from the less important ones.
  • Pay attention to signposts   Speakers frequently speak with signposts. They are words, phrases or questions which signal what you are going to hear for the next stage.

Some examples of signposts are:

To introduce a new point: “right, Okay, good, now, well”

To list points : “first, first of all, for a start, second, another, also, then, next, finally, last”

To explain: “In other words, that is, I mean, look at it this way”

To signal important points: “the important/central point, I would like to stress, You have to remember that, the fact is that, so you see that, in fact, what I am saying is that”

To express result: “so, therefore, as a result”

To give an example: “for instance, for example, take the case of , imagine, like, such as”

To show contrast: “but, however, on the other side”

To sum up at the end: “In conclusion, In short, In brief, summing up, so you see , the result is that”


  • Who said the words? If the speaker is a politician for example, you can probably make predictions about what will be said.
  • Where did you hear the words? In different contexts, people use different words to suit the context. The language that a news reporter uses in a news report is not the same as the language which he uses in his daily life.
  • Did the speaker’s tone change? A change in tone may imply a change in meaning.

Obviously, you will not be able to use all these opportunities for listening. However, you should choose a few of your favourite opportunities. Then try to practise all the skills of listening. Relax and keep listening!


Ellis, G. & Sinclair, B. (1989). Learning to Learn English Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Geddes, M. (1989). How to Listen The Bath Press. Avon. Great Britain.

Lynch, T. (1990). Study Listening Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Last revised: September 1998

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