It’s exactly two weeks since I last wrote about my quest to improve my listening (in French, so as to demonstrate to you guys that it’s possible to do the same with your Italian).
This afternoon I decided to call it a day.
Want to know how I got on?
How to improve your listening in Italian
Below is a summary of the advice I’ve given in the articles over the last six weeks (it’s also what I’ve been doing myself!)
- Above all, locate a good source or sources of recorded materials, organised by level, ideally with transcripts. I used exams, free stuff I found on websites, and simplified readers with audio CDs
- Measure your starting point (your current listening level). Mine was a shaky A2.
- Define your objective. I decided to aim for a B1 exam pass.
- Set a timetable, and stick to it if you can. I started my ‘listening challenge’ at the beginning of January and ‘studied’ for around 6 weeks (including periods when I did very little).
- IMPORTANT – start with the lower level materials and build up gradually over the period you have allowed yourself. Don’t rush. Give your brain time to adjust to level X, before moving on to Y, then eventually Z.
Basically it’s a question of setting yourself a realistic target, finding appropriate study materials, and using them in an intelligent and unhurried way.
But success comes not just from doing the right things, but also from not doing the obviously unhelpful things….
Pitfalls to avoid
Here are the biggies…
- Don’t fall into the ‘I don’t know this grammar’ trap! Listening successfully is about a lot more than grammar.When you’re working on listening, work on listening and forget the damn grammar.
- Similarly, don’t obsess over all those words you don’t know. Focus instead on what you DO know. It might be enough to work out what’s going on.
- And forget ‘perfect’. You don’t need it to pass an exam, or to get by when you’re using the language.You’ll never, ever, ever understand everything, every time. So don’t sweat it. Good enough is, unsurprisingly, good enough.
Teacher, teach thyself!
Teachers do a lot of ‘telling’, but not a lot of ‘doing’, so I was pleased to have a chance to learn something for a change.
And happy to see that the advice I dispense actually seems to work, at least for me.
This is what I wrote after first trying the B1 listening test (when I was defining my objective – 1st Jan. 2014):
I went on to the B1 page, knowing that it would likely be a step too far. This time I scored a terrible 5%, once points were deducted for the wrong answers I’d picked (sneaky French habit…)
More interestingly though, this time I had the clear sensation that I genuinely hadn’t understood large parts of the text. It was just a flow of sound, unlike the A2 material. My score came as no surprise.
Since then I’ve done all the available A1 and A2 material, and yesterday a reader at B1 level.
So, in an idle moment this afternoon, I thought I’d have a go at the next B1 test.
I still “didn’t understand large parts of the text”, but it certainly wasn’t “just a flow of sound” as it had been 6 weeks ago.
In fact, with several of the answers that I got wrong, I had been convinced that I had heard them correctly (they were ‘trick questions’, as became evident when I looked at the transcript afterwards…)
The final score was 60%. A pass on that particular exam is anything over 50%.
So, that’s me done.
Mission accomplished. Target reached. Point proven, I hope.
But what about you?
A lot of OnlineItalianClub.com readers ‘signed up’ to improve their listening at the beginning of this series of articles. Maybe you were amongst them.
In which case, I’d love to hear whether you’ve made any progress, what has worked for you, and even what hasn’t worked so well. Go here to leave a comment on this article.
So we’ve ‘done’ listening, but that still leaves speaking, reading and writing, and I’m not ready to quit studying just yet…
Which should we tackle next?
I’m game to have a go at developing another skill, just as I’ve been doing with listening. But which would be most helpful for you?
What would you most value advice on: reading, writing, or speaking?
Vote here by scrolling to the bottom of the page and leaving a comment.