Language Center
The Hong Kong University
of Science and Technology
English Advice Sheets

To be able to listen well gives you confidence in communication. You can only talk sensibly when you can understand what is said to you. Failing that, you may miss important information presented to you, or respond in a funny way. Listening in everyday life is a real-time skill. Unlike reading, you often don't have the chance to adjust the pace of speech, listen again or check an unknown word. The need to understand what you hear on the spot makes it even more crucial that you develop the ability to listen well.

The aim of this leaflet

This introductory leaflet is a guide to our advice sheets for improving listening. It provides a brief description of all the advice sheets that have been prepared on specific kinds of listening. Also included below is a section on general listening skills where we refer you to textbooks rather than an advice sheet.

Basic advice about improving listening

Do you think that listening is about getting every word that is spoken? If so, think again. Even though good listeners may be able to get every word that they hear, this is not their concern most of the time, as our experience with our first language tells us. So do specify your listening objectives when you carry out a listening activity. As long as you achieve your objectives, you are a good listener - whether you catch every word or not.

All listening textbooks in the SAC explain general listening skills and provide practice opportunities. Therefore, we have not prepared a separate advice sheet for these skills. Locate the 'Listening' shelf in the Multimedia Area of the SAC and find a book that meets your level of English proficiency to gain some practice.

You may also visit the web site <> for some general advice on listening. The title of the document is "Give yourself a chance - what you can do to upgrade your listening ability in English".

Listening to specific materials

Below are advice sheets that have been prepared to help you tackle listening to specific authentic materials. As the materials differ, the targets of listening and the possible problems also vary. Is there one which is relevant to your needs?

  • Listening to the News (L2)
    An indispensable source of information in their own right, news reports are ideal practice materials because they are easily accessible and there is a real reason to listen. This advice sheet gives you suggestions about how you can prepare yourself for better news listening and what activities you can do during and after listening.

  • Listening to Lectures (L3)
    Lectures are the main way of communicating knowledge at university but sometimes they are not easy to follow. This advice sheet introduces you to the skills required to get the most from listening to academic lectures, and provides sources for practice and tips to help you improve your listening technique.

  • Improving your listening with Movies (L4)
    Most people will find watching movies an enjoyable activity. Without ruining your fun, this advice sheet suggests ways to make viewing a learning activity as well.

  • Listening to British and American English (L5)
    As the world gets more international, it becomes more important to be able to cope with both families of English - British and American. This advice sheet introduces you to the major areas in which the two differ, and suggests ways to build up your ability to understand them.

  • Listening to Conversation (L6)
    Conversation has many features that may cause listening difficulties. This advice sheet suggests ways to tackle these problems. To learn about participating in conversation, refer to the advice sheet Creating Practice Opportunities: Strategies for Speaking A (S2).

  • Listening to Songs (L7)
    If you think songs are just for fun, and can't help you improve your English, think again! This advice sheet introduces you to songs in the SAC and on the web, and suggests ways that you can learn and enjoy songs at the same time.

And now ...

Good luck with your listening practice. It is not going to be easy, especially because listening ability is hard to measure. But if you keep practising, you should find that you can gradually listen better. Remember: you're not alone! Try to find friends or native speakers who can learn with you or help you learn. If at any time you would like any help or advice about improving your listening, or just a quick chat about your ideas or your progress:

  • see an Adviser, on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to
  • e-mail lcsac ( with your query;
  • ask at the reception counter of the SAC — if the receptionist cannot help you directly, s/he will pass your query on to one of the SAC advisers.

This is part of a series of introductory leaflets supporting independent learning, produced by the HKUST Center for Language Education SAC team. This leaflet written by Joyce Lee, 1997. Version 1 updated 8 November, 2001. If you copy from this leaflet, please acknowledge the source. Thanks.

©Copyright 2004 Center for Language Education, HKUST. All rights reserved.