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here are basically two ways to group listening practice. These two ways are extensive and intensive. Depending on what your skill level is, one kind is better than the other. If you are doing the wrong kind of listening practice, then you might not be improving your skills as fast as you would like.


It is Long
Extensive listening is listening to long recordings. By long, I mean over five minutes. These may be long CDs, movies, podcasts, and other similar recordings. They might be speeches, conversations, interviews, or audiobooks. But they are long, and for listeners with high listening skills, these recordings are great.

You Do Not Listen Many Times
When you do extensive listening, you might not listen more than once. Certainly, since they are long, you cannot listen to them many times, because it would take too much time. This kind of practice can help listeners with the frequency of language use, patterns, and pragmatics.

You Do Not Have a Script
Extensive recordings may not have a script available. Since they are long, making the script is usually too costly, and certainly reading would take a long time. Listeners with high skills are best doing extensive listening to recordings without scripts because they typically do not need scripts, and could make them if needed.

Understanding is Not the Main Focus
During extensive listening exact understanding is not so important. Probably your skills are quite high at this point, so even if you don’t understand clearly, you have a general idea, and your thoughts are confirmed or not by listening further. That means that you don’t have to worry about the details until you have listened at least once.

Memorizing Is Not Necessary
Memorizing is not necessary for extensive practice. Your skills are already high enough that you probably know 70 or 80 percent of the patterns, and memorizing will not give big benefits. At this level, you may want to memorize small parts of the recording but not the whole recording itself. Memorizing is still good, but it does not change your level as much as other things like general understanding and making inferences.

Often Gives Poor Results
Many people do extensive listening before their listening skills are high enough. As a result, they do not understand most of what they are listening to. It is not much more than just sound to their ears and brains. Worse yet, they repeat their listening even when they do not understand it, but it is far too long to remember or memorize. This kind of repetition is not intensive enough to build the skills they need, and they are listening passively. As you can imagine, this kind of practice gives poor results.

Intensive Listening

It is Short
For Intensive listening, the recordings that you listen to are short. When I say short, I mean up to three minutes.
These recordings are short for all the reasons listed below.

It is Repeated
Intensive listening practice is repeated many times. You listen to a recording more than ten times, and perhaps even more than thirty times. This repetition can help you to memorize the recording, which is discussed below.

It Has a Script Available
A good recording for intensive listening has a script available. As you practice, you actually do not use the script most of the time. But for the ten percent of the time that you practice, having a script is very important for building understanding.

Understanding is Important Sometimes
There are times when you do intensive listening when you may focus on sounds, and the overall meaning is not so important. But there are also times that meaning is important, such as when you want to learn new vocabulary and its meaning. You are balancing understanding with basic skills and the importance of understanding what you listen to changes with your goal.

Memorizing is good
With intensive listening, you are building up a repertoire of language patterns. For this,
you need to memorize what you are listening to. The more you memorize at this stage, the faster you will progress. Memorizing is very difficult at first, but it becomes easier and easier as you learn more, so your progress should become smoother.

Intensive listening builds skills. It breaks listening down into skills that can be improved, and systematically builds up each skill. Then the skills are put together for moving on to the next step: extensive listening. Extensive listening lets you listen to a wide variety of English words and patterns. You build the skills of listening for general meaning and making inferences. It is a great listening practice but you need to have the skills from intensive listening before you can do extensive listening effectively.

English Listening has lots of short recordings available for intensive listening practice. Drop by and see what we have in our selection!

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