Listening may seem like the easiest of the four language skills areas to master, but it comes with its own pitfalls and difficulties. One thing to do is to be aware of the essential steps of listening comprehension. This can help you through areas that may cause you trouble, such as not knowing some of the key vocabulary.
Two further things can help you as you seek to improve your skills.
- Work hard to expand your vocabulary. This means not only reading as much as possible in your target language, but also knowing how words are pronounced, so that you understand them when you hear them. Do you know how the word epitome sounds? If it makes you feel better, many native speakers don’t either. Online dictionaries, and those that come with CD-ROMs, offer recordings which make it even easier than the IPA pronunciation keys in the older dictionaries!
- Following on from point one, practice your listening! There are thousands of ways to do this without even leaving your home, but film- and series-streaming services are not always enough. If you need and want to improve your listening skills for academic and formal settings and purposes, those will not always help. Check out news providers: BBC and NPR have plenty of videos and podcasts that you can access, many for free! YouTube is full of more academic videos, some maybe on just the things you are studying. And TEDtalks is a brilliant source of presentations by experts from all over the world offering their insights on just about any topic that might interest you. You will even find some talks in English at the University of Hamburg’s own Lecture2Go.