My mother taught me that unless one learns how to listen, one can never truly learn a language.
Listening, she told me, isn’t just an act of hearing. It means paying close attention to (and fully understanding) what’s being said.
Being a good listener also helps you be a better person. You become more patient, notice the small things and learn not to interrupt when someone is speaking. In turn, you’re able to reply more thoughtfully. In short, if you want to be able to communicate with other English speakers, you have to learn how to listen well.
Who would’ve thought that being a better person would also make you a better English speaker?
And if you’re looking for the right English listening apps to help you improve your listening comprehension, you’ve come to the right post.
Read on to find out which apps are best suited for your needs!
How You Can Use an English Listening App to Learn a Language
Apps for your mobile phone or tablet can be powerful, convenient and truly enjoyable language-learning tools. But before you begin downloading, it’s helpful to keep these tips in mind in order to make the most of your learning experience.
- Check in with yourself as you listen: The only way to assess if you’re really learning a language is by grading yourself on how difficult or easy it is for you to understand the language. For instance, if you’re listening to an audio clip or watching a video on an app and you can figure out what’s going on without subtitles (or without an audio transcript), you’re well on the road to becoming fluent in English.
- Pay attention to pronunciation: To be a better speaker and listener, don’t just listen to what’s being said, but also to how it’s being said. In English, the spelling and pronunciation of certain words don’t match up, and you need to put in extra effort to make sure you’re saying things correctly.
- Make note of accents and word use: The way you speak says a lot about your culture, history and place of origin. There’s a lot you can know about someone just by carefully listening to the way they speak. So keep your eye out for such cues, including different accents and slang. Often, cultural learning is the most interesting and rewarding part of language learning! Plus, it’ll help you communicate with people from around the English-speaking world.
- Learn from pauses and body language: Often, the silence between words tells us more than the words themselves, and only trained listeners will notice. Also, if you’re learning with video content, notice how facial expressions and gestures can also express meaning. These nonverbal actions can be great clues as you try to figure out the meaning of a word or sentence.
- Try different listening speeds to train yourself: When you’re a beginner, you’ll probably be listening to speeches that are played very slowly so that you can hear everything clearly. And you can only improve from there by training yourself to listen at the normal speed. Listening at a faster-than-normal speed can also be a good idea. Think of it as “training mode.” If you can understand super-fast English, you’ll easily be able to understand real conversations!
Listen Up! 8 Amazing English Listening Apps You Can’t Miss out On
I’ve created a list of the best English listening apps out there. Based on your learning goals, interests and budget, you can choose the ones that best match your needs.
If you’re looking for just one app to download, then FluentU is surely going to be your best friend. And if you’re feeling skeptical, I dare you to go ahead and download it right now. Just sign up for the free trial and if you feel that it’s working for you, you can get the whole thing.
And what makes FluentU so special?
FluentU is an immersive website that transforms real-world English videos into language-learning experiences. On FluentU, you can find authentic videos such as movie trailers, music videos, commercials, how-to videos, news and inspiring talks. These videos teach you English as it’s spoken in the real world. In addition to being amazing listening practice, these videos will also teach you about culture and current events in English-speaking countries.
Each video comes with interactive English subtitles, so you can follow along as you watch. If you see a word you don’t know, you can click on it for a definition, example sentences and links to other videos that contain the word. You can also add any word to a customized vocabulary list or flashcard deck.
Each video also comes with a comprehension quiz and a “learn mode” to practice. FluentU will keep track of your progress over time and change quizzes to help you improve in areas where you need extra help.
Moreover, no matter what your level, FluentU will prove to be useful: there are over 3,000 videos to choose from, all sorted by level, topic or format. So for instance, if you want a taste of English pop music you can search for music videos, or if you’re in the mood for something inspirational, you can choose from a talk or a speech.
In short, learning with FluentU means you’ll be educated and entertained at the same time.
And honestly, doesn’t that sound fun?
Listen English Daily Practice
Available for Android
If you’re looking for good audio clips to practice your listening skills, this app should fit your needs. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner, they have listening material for each level.
Most of the material is in the form of short stories and everyday topics, so you’ll pick up a lot of useful and conversational vocabulary from it. After each audio file, you’ll be quizzed on it, to test your comprehension skills. And they have plenty of material, so even if you practice every day it’ll take a while for you to work through all of it.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for resources on developing and improving your British or American accent, this app will help you tell them apart and learn them both.
English Listening Step by Step – IELTS Listening
Available for Android
Many of us are learning English for certain exams. The IELTS English Language Exam, for example, is a test that measures your English proficiency and is accepted internationally. If you’re preparing for the IELTS exam, this listening app is a good resource.
The content is specifically designed to be similar to listening materials you’ll find on the exam. Moreover, the audio content is divided not just by levels but also by topics, and there are over 1,000 of them to choose from. Moreover, each lesson comes with a test and a transcript, so you can track your progress and know exactly where your mistakes are.
English Listening and Speaking
Available for Android
As the name of the app suggests, this one is perfect for those who are looking to practice listening and speaking skills. You will find a wealth of resources here. The conversations and stories in here (which come with transcripts, so you won’t be lost!) have been specifically designed to help you master idioms and phrasal verbs, as well as improve pronunciation. There’s even a table of irregular verbs, along with audio support so that you can listen to and master English grammar.
The app also has some interesting games related to building sentences and learning vocabulary, along with tests. And the material here is quite useful for those preparing for exams like IELTS and TOEFL, as the vocabulary units have been designed keeping in mind the most commonly-used words that appear in such exams.
Voice of America (VOA) is an award-winning app that uses daily news clips as educational materials to teach English. From radio podcasts to live news, the app will provide you with a wealth of listening material.
Those who use this resource will find that it’s also a brilliant way to be up-to-date about what’s happening all around the world. However, these listening materials are a little more difficult. Because of that, I’d suggest this app for advanced or upper-intermediate learners who already have a strong command of the language and are looking to pick up vocabulary related to current affairs.
Available for Android
As someone who’s always loved stories, listening to stories in English really helped me learn the language. Plus, by listening to stories in English, you’ll learn more about English-speaking culture at the same time that you work on your listening skills.
This app is sure to be of tremendous use for learners like me who love stories. For one, they have a huge range of fiction texts including short stories, romance and sci-fi novels. They have textbooks for certain exams. For those who are religiously-inclined, they have audio versions of the Bible and other sacred texts. In addition to audio courses, there’s also material aimed at toddlers and children, which doubles up as learning material for beginners of all ages.
This is a very handy app to have, as you’ll never have a shortage of things to listen to.
Created by British Council, this one is a top-rated app and is perfect for those who are looking for podcasts to develop their listening skills. There are 60 episodes which add up to 20 hours of audio, so if you listen for an hour every day, you’ll finish it within a month.
Many of the topics discussed in the podcast are useful for everyday conversations. So, if you’re looking to build your communication skills so that you can chat with native English speakers, check this one out. This app comes equipped with audio transcripts and comprehension questions. Plus, you can download the episodes for offline listening.
6 Minute English
If you’re low on time and you’re looking for an excellent all-purpose app, look no further than 6 Minute English. By devoting just six minutes every day to language study with this app, you can develop your listening skills, improve your knowledge of English grammar and learn new vocabulary all at the same time.
Packed with several features including a built-in dictionary, audio transcripts and offline listening, I’d recommend this app especially for beginner and intermediate learners.
Remember: being a good listener has multiple benefits. Firstly, it helps you learn a language and speak it better. Secondly, it helps you become a more understanding and patient person, which are qualities which you must cultivate in order to be successful—in language learning and in life! So, in addition to developing your English reading, writing and speaking skills, make sure you don’t neglect listening.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.