UCT English Language Centre | Teacher Catherine in English Class

Boost Your English Listening – Two Week Challenge

How many times have said you need to get back to studying English? So you make some plans to arrange private English lessons, or you sign up at a language school, or just get out some old course notes, but life gets too busy and it never happens!

It is difficult to fit more into our daily lives and sometimes we just don’t have the energy.

So I’m going to challenge you to two weeks of listening to get your English back in shape!

Through listening we expand our vocabulary by either learning new words or remembering ones we have already forgotten. We prepare our ears for the intonation and rhythm of the language and we inadvertently become more familiar with different accents and pronunciation in the English language. However, the best part is this; you don’t need to put time aside and sit down and study, you can improve your English through listening while cooking dinner, going for a run, driving to work, or washing the dishes.

There are two types of listening, one is active listening where you try to understand specific information, and the other is passive listening where you hear something because it is there. An example might be when you overhear someone else’s conversation while sitting on a bus, or when the radio is playing in the background and you suddenly hear part of the news because it catches your ear. This type of listening is incredibly valuable and easy to do.

Where do you start? If your English is upper-intermediate to advanced, you could tune into BBC News or some TedTalks ( If you enjoy storying telling and very natural English, have a look at The Moth – a website collecting stories crafted by people like you and me. Otherwise, search for some podcasts such as those available on the BBC site. Choose topics that interest you and that you already have some knowledge of.

If your English is at Pre-intermediate to Intermediate level, you should choose to listen to more graded audios that are made for language learners. Take a look at these podcasts which cover 100s of topics and allow you to choose a level. The British Council also provides some graded podcasts  and for current affairs, you can read and listen to news articles at different levels here.

What’s the plan?

Step One:

Prepare your listening materials.

This is the only part that will take effort. You need to spend an hour looking for suitable audios from the suggested sites above. Make sure the level is right for you and that you are interested in the topics.

Download your podcasts and have them ready to switch on.

 Step Two:

Set your goals. The challenge is to listen to English every day for two weeks to see how much you improve.

So before you start, you need to decide when you are going to plug into your audios? In the morning on the ride to work? In the evening when you make supper? You can listen to the same audios as many times as you want. Each time you listen, you will understand something more than the time before.

Step Three:

Relax, and listen.

Good luck and we would love to hear from you on how much you improve after these two weeks!

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