“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
This famous quote by the English writer G. K. Chesterton makes an important point.
Hearing is simply perceiving sound. You hear a dog bark even if you were not expecting it.
But to listen requires attention and often patience. You listen to speeches, to your spouse’s story about their day, to poetic music lyrics, etc.
And not everyone listens the same way.
For example, maybe you and your best friend both listen to the same political speech, but you listen in bed and your friend listens while rushing to work. Your friend might only notice the most important points, while you notice interesting words and small details.
Or maybe you and your friend have different political beliefs. You will likely have different impressions after listening to the speech.
In this article, we will discuss how your listening style and even your personality can be used to get the most effective English listening practice possible.
Whether you are an emotional person, a logical person, someone who likes to be alone or anything else, we will show you the best methods for improving your English listening comprehension.
What Is Your Personality Type?
Your personality refers to your characteristics, attitudes and abilities. It is what makes you who you are!
There are many ways to describe different personalities, but here we will use the categories established by the famous Myers-Briggs Indicator.
Each of these personality types are best suited for different types of English listening methods. Later in this post, we will show you which specific listening practice methods work well for each type.
- Extraversion/Introversion: Do you feel comfortable when you are with people? Do you ask others for help when you are sad or stressed? If so, then you might be an extrovert—a person who feels happy and relaxed among other people.
Introverts, meanwhile, like to be alone, reflect on their own lives, read books and stay away from crowded places.
- Sensing/Intuition: Do you generally pay attention to the physical world and what you hear, feel, smell, taste or see? Then you might be a sensing type.
If you focus more on the patterns, overall impressions and the big picture (the overall message or point of something) then you are what is called as an intuitive type.
- Thinking/Feeling: If you like to make decisions just based on facts, and do not think about the people involved and their feelings, then you are a thinking type. But if you care more about people and their emotions and do not focus on facts and principles as much, then you belong to the feeling type.
Thinking types care most about truth. Feeling types care about harmony in relationships.
- Judging/Perceiving: People who fall into the judging type of personality like to have detailed plans. They want a structured life and they focus on goals.
The perceiving types live with a more open attitude. They like to work without structures and focus more on new information rather than long-term goals.
What Types of Listening Styles Are There?
A “style” of listening is a particular way of listening where we focus on one particular aspect of communication.
You might have one preferred listening style. But you may also use different listening styles in different situations. The listening exercises in this post are designed to match each of these listening styles.
- People-oriented: This type of listening focuses on the speaker. People-oriented listeners often think about why a speaker is communicating certain ideas or in a certain tone. After hearing someone speak, a people-oriented listener might ask questions about the speaker’s background or beliefs.
- Action-oriented: These type of listeners are more interested in what the speaker wants. Action-oriented listeners will pay attention to stated desires, instructions or goals.
- Time-oriented: When you just want to hear important details quickly, you are using time-oriented listening. This listening style is focused on understanding the main point of the communication as fast as possible. Time-oriented listeners do not want long stories or flowery language.
- Content-oriented: Content-oriented listeners focus on the message more than anything else. They are paying attention to the main points and whether they are interesting and logical. They do not want the communication to have gaps in information or irrelevant details.
A Practical Guide to English Listening Practice Based on Your Personality
Activities for People-oriented English Listening
1. Watching English-language Interviews
Best for: introverts, thinking and feeling types
Interviews provide the perfect chance for observing natural conversations between people. The best part is, you do not actually have to leave the comfort of your home to watch them. There are plenty of online videos where you can see famous and interesting people talk about their lives.
This form of listening practice is all about understanding the interviewee (the person answering the interview questions) as they talk in English.
This exercise is ideal for introverts since you can complete it alone. Thinking types will focus on the thinking process and the arguments given by the interviewee. Feeling types will consider the motivations and emotions underneath the interviewee’s speech.
Once you finish listening to an interview, summarize it in five lines to test how well you understood the conversation.
Start with an introduction, then write the major points and finally finish the summary by listing what you learned from it. This article can help you summarize the interviews better.
Recommended interview series for listening practice:
Best episode: Emma Watson
This is one of the most funny and entertaining series on the internet. Each episode has a famous celebrity playing with puppies (or sometimes kittens) while they answer questions from their fans.
Most of the celebrities are American and this can be a good way to learn American English. The language is very simple and casual, which makes it perfect for beginners.
Best episode: Time Travel
If you love comedy, then this series will help you understand how the minds of comedians work. The interviews are filled with dark humor, serious topics and deep discussions.
This is definitely for advanced learners since the discussions get very technical and the comedians use complex words when they talk about their lives.
Best episode: Ray Bradbury
This series animates interviews with famous artists, writers, actors and thinkers of the English-speaking world. You can find a short interview on any topic from death to identify and much more.
It is really interesting to note the different styles of speaking of these famous minds. While listening to them, focus on their accent and intonation. This will help you improve your speech along with your listening skills.
2. Role Playing English Conversations
Best for: extroverts and feeling types
Role playing involves changing your behavior and way of speaking according to a role you are given. It is a great way to prepare for English-language situations so you can handle them in real life.
For example, has an English teacher ever asked you to pretend to order dinner at a restaurant? This is a common role play to help English learners dine out in English-speaking countries.
Role playing is great for extroverts because they have fun learning with people and exploring different social roles. Feeling types will also appreciate how this exercise forces you to focus on attitudes, tone and emotions.
Recommended role play instructions:
Select a scenario: A scenario is the description of the situation, the characters, their roles and the cause of their conflict or disagreement. You can make up a scenario or you can select one from this article or this assignment.
Select characters: You need to have at least two people to do a role play. Depending on the situation, you might need more people. It is best to check the number of characters required for the role play before starting it.
After everyone has read the scenario, decide which person plays which character.
Role play: Act like you are that character in that situation and let the interactions happen naturally in English. Try to solve the conflict between characters as if you were really a part of that situation.
It might be hard for some people to pretend that they are someone else. But usually as the people around them start communicating, they simply react to others and understand what they have to do.
Focus on how your opinion influences how you listen to other people, and how you judge other characters while they speak. Record the role play and immediately after it ends, listen to it and identify errors in English. Practice those words or pronunciations later.
Note the motivations, thoughts and emotions of others: On a piece of paper, write down what you thought was going on in other characters’ minds and the reasons behind their behavior.
Confirm: Check with others if you are right about the other characters or not. Ask them if they would like to add something to your description about their characters. This will help you realize how well you understand what others were saying, or what you missed and why.
Activities for Content-oriented English Listening
3. Listening to Podcasts
Best for: every type
Podcasts are just talk shows of the internet. They are wildly popular around the world and you can download and listen to them anywhere.
You can find English-language podcasts on practically any subject! You can take them anywhere on your mobile device to listen with friends or get some practice alone in your free time.
Recommended podcasts for English listening practice:
This podcast combines stories, science and other events into audio documentaries. Each episode is at least half an hour long and is good for long practice sessions.
IRL stands for “In Real Life. This podcast focuses on how the internet is not so separate from our real lives. Everything we do online or every change in the internet has a huge impact on our life.
It is great for listening practice for intermediate listeners. The episodes are around half an hour long.
This podcast is about intimate stories from strangers that will touch your heart. This podcast is more about storytelling than conversations. Each episode is about a true story.
It is good for beginner to intermediate learners. The language is great to practice understanding everyday, casual English.
4. Watching Authentic Videos on FluentU
Best for: every type
FluentU is an innovative app where you can listen to real-world English audio and video that has been supercharged with language learning tools.
There are English movie trailers, news clips, YouTube videos, music videos… you name it! And each video comes with interactive captions providing definitions and native pronunciations for any word. So if the speaker is talking quickly or if they use a word you do not recognize, you can learn it instantly.
FluentU also comes with flashcards and exercises based on the videos to give your listening skills an extra workout.
If you are an extrovert you can watch the videos with your friends and use FluentU’s progress tracking tools to see who learns the most. If you are an introvert you can watch in the comfort of your home.
There are videos on a huge range of topics, so thinking types can watch science videos, feeling types can watch dramas, judging types can watch structured lessons… all while absorbing English the way native speakers really use it!
Activities for Action-oriented English Listening
5. Making Origami
Best for: introverts, sensing, thinking and judging types
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. Through origami you can make dogs, toys, birds, baskets and even dragons!
This activity is ideal for introverts and people who like to work with their senses. Thinking and judging types will also enjoy this because origami follows very logical, ordered steps to make complex designs with just a piece of paper.
The best way to use origami as an English listening activity is to watch instructional videos online and follow them simultaneously. This way, you will immediately get to know if you are able to understand the speaker, because if you make a mistake, the origami will simply look wrong.
Recommended origami channels on YouTube:
Best episode: Paper Boat
This channel has many origami tutorials that are quick and easy to follow. In terms of language, they are good for intermediate learners. The host often uses somewhat technical language while describing the process of creating the origami.
Best episode: Square Interlace Bracelet
These videos are on the longer side and even the designs are more complex. The channel is great for intermediate to advanced learners.
Best episode: Greeting Card Spinner
This is the most enjoyable channel out of the three. The host is very talented and knows how to juggle and sing along with making origami.
This channel might be easier to understand for beginners but is best for intermediate learners.
6. Treasure Hunting
Best for: extroverts, intuitive, thinking and perceiving types
A treasure hunt is a game where you try to find different objects by following clues.
This activity is best for people who like to be outdoors, interact with others, think about patterns and use logic to solve puzzles.
Recommended steps for treasure hunt listening practice:
- Plan the area in which you want to hold the treasure hunt.
- Decide the places where you want to hide objects.
- Create clues for the treasure hunt participants to find the objects.
- Decide if people will play in groups or as individuals. For this exercise, it is best to play in groups as long as everyone participates.
Make sure that the clues are not written down on paper. This is a listening game, not a reading activity. One person will need to read the clues out loud.
Make sure to keep the clues easy to solve and their wording simple so that players can focus primarily on their English listening skills. After the game is finished, have a review meeting where people discuss their problems and what they could or could not understand and why.
Activities for Time-oriented English Listening
7. Listening to Top News Headlines
Best for: introverts, sensing, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving types
Audio news is not only a valuable tool to learn a new language, but it also helps you keep up-to-date on current events around the world. This in turn allows you to join more conversations online or offline with English speakers and improve your skills further.
Listening to news can be a good way to practice English for almost all types of people. It just might not be perfect for extroverts (who learn better in group activities) or intuitive types (who like to go beyond facts and use their imaginations).
After you listen to the day’s news stories, keep a news scrapbook around you and note down one-line summaries of all the current stories.
Recommended news channels for English listening practice:
AP is an American news agency and on this YouTube channel they produce short videos summarizing news stories. They are released two times a day. They are best for learning formal American English.
The videos are less than a minute long and the narration is always brief and clear. Since it focuses mainly on American news stories, you can follow it specifically to have conversations with English speakers in the U.S.
This is one of the most famous news channels in the world. It has an international focus and caters to audiences from almost every nation.
The channel uses formal British English and is also quite good to learn that distinct British accent.
This news channel has a special focus on issues around the Middle East region, which are often ignored by other international news channels. Learners from that region will be able to connect more to their news stories.
Their English is also formal, but many of their guests speak English with a variety of accents. This might be helpful to people who understand accented English better but want to speak in a way that is closer to a native speaker.
8. Playing Catch Phrase
Best for: extroverts, intuitive and thinking types
This is a party game where there are two or more teams. In each turn, one player has to make the other members of his or her team guess a phrase using gestures and descriptions.
A timer keeps ticking in the background and when it runs out, the team still guessing the phrase loses the round.
This game is a good listening exercise for extroverts since it is a group game. It is also ideal for intuitive and thinking types as you have to make quick and logical connections between words.
Play Catch Phrase on your mobile device:
It is very important to know your personality and what listening styles you use in different contexts. Only when you have explored these aspects can you take your listening practice to the next level.
Dhritiman Ray is a writer of fiction, poetry and nonfiction. He specializes in topics like education, psychology and lifestyle. To know more click here.
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