How To Move From Understanding English To Speaking English With Listening Practice Ep 479

A traditional language learning classroom with students hard at work. The easiest way for you to learn to speak a new language are through listening and spoken practice with native speakers.

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Make The Transition To Actually Being Able To Speak English With Listening Practice

The best way to learn to speak English is through listening to English speakers, English comprehension, and more English listening practice. Today, we look at the problems with traditional language classes, and why learning a new language is not what it should be. Most language learning programs are so old-fashioned they should wear top hats and carry walking sticks. Our approach to language learning is a much better way.

Learning to speaking English is not nearly as easy as it should be. The way most people currently learn English as a foreign language is essentially you listen to a teacher talking, then practice using what you’ve learnt in a classroom environment. The problem with this approach is that it’s very slow, and limited - going to a class once a week for few hours can only help you improve so much. Most language students won’t learn to speak English at all, let alone fluently, using this approach.

What if there was a better way? What if you could learn from real life conversations where you don’t have to concentrate on speaking, but can just listen and learn? English as a second language doesn’t have to be slow and difficult. Imagine if instead of learning a new language from the teacher lecturing at the front of your classroom, you could learn, all day long, from listening to native speakers who talk naturally and freely about their own lives.

We teach people how to improve their conversational English listening and speaking, through listening to native English speakers. It’s the best and fastest way of learning to speaking English. Our way of learning to speak a new language is popular and gets results. We help you with listening and comprehension with high quality, free English lessons. Lots and lots of repeated listening is the most important skill when you want to speak a new language and we give you everything you need.

Be sure to subscribe to our Podcast for learning English through listening. Adept English Podcast will help you understand what are the most important listening skills you need to succeed in English that are not taught in traditional language classrooms.

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The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: How To Move From Understanding English To Speaking English With Listening Practice

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.

Learning languages in school – beginning

So did you start your English language learning when you were at school? If you did, it’s quite likely that at the start of each lesson, your teacher would ask you to get out your books. And then the teacher would go through the lesson, writing quite a lot of things on the board.

Whether that was a blackboard, or whiteboard probably depends on your age! And maybe, when you’re right at the beginning, right at the start of learning a language, this traditional ‘reading and writing’ approach – maybe it’s OK. It perhaps felt reassuring to learn how the most common verbs and the common vocabulary was written.

Vocabulary like ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ and ‘My name is Hilary’ – and it was perhaps helpful to have the words written down to help you remember them. And if you’re learning a new language where the script, the way of writing the language down is different to your own, then paying attention to writing is probably a good idea.

Even if the script is familiar, this focus on written words can be a sort of anchor early in your language learning. And it’s really quite hard going at the start of a new language if you’re ‘starting from scratch’ as we say. Progress can feel slow because there’s just such a lot to learn. So in traditional learning, how it’s taught in schools, quite a lot of classroom time is taken up with learning to spell and learning to read new words.

You’ll learn conjugations – you may even say them out loud with your class mates ‘I am, you are, he, she or it is, we are, they are’. For me, it was ‘ich bin, du bis, er ist, sie ist, es ist, wir sind, ihr seid, sie sind, Sie sind’ or ‘je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, nous sommes, vous etes, ils sont, elles sont’. These basics need to become unforgettable. And you’ll learn lists of vocabulary – common nouns like dog, cat, house, man, woman, common adjectives like the colours, big, small.

How languages were taught in my school!

So there’s this whole process to go through to get familiar with the basics and some of the mechanics of the language. You could call this ‘stage one’ of learning a language. Now, beyond this stage, your language learning could go in one of two directions. Let’s talk about the most common direction first - as this is what most people experience, this is what happens in most schools and colleges. You continue to learn English in the exact same way.

When I was at school, I learned languages this way too. So even beyond the basics, language learning continued very book-based. The teacher would begin the lesson ‘Open your textbooks at page 155’ and the focus would be very much on reading and spelling, consciously learning grammar rules and lists of vocabulary, possibly for a test the next week.

It may sound bizarre – but when I was learning languages at school, I don’t remember having the sense that actual French or German people used these grammatical constructs, used this grammar every day. It felt like language was academic, something that belonged in the classroom. It wasn’t as though we did no speaking at all in language lessons. But the way that this happened wasn’t ideal.


A photograph of a teacher at a white board. We teach you English with podcasts helping you learn to understand and speak it by listening to real conversations you care about

©️ Adept English 2021

Right at the end of the lesson, perhaps 10 minutes before the end, would come the part that we all dreaded. There would be what we call ‘quick-fire questions’. The teacher would fire questions at us in the language we were trying to learn – ‘Hilary, quel s’appelle ta mere?’ or ‘Hilary, wie alt bis du?’ and we’d all be terrified at the prospect of not understanding the teacher or at being expected to speak the language correctly, in front of our friends and our enemies.

The possibility of shame was never far away! And we were terrified of speaking the language because we didn’t get much practice at this. With 30 children in the class, you were one of the unlucky ones if the teacher’s eyes landed on you, so it wasn’t like we got much practice. And when we did, it didn’t make us feel good. Most of us, even adults, try to avoid doing things that don’t make us feel good. And to a bunch of teenagers in secondary school, this practice at speaking a language felt more like a ‘ritual humiliation’ than learning! The relief when the bell went at the end of the lesson! Phew!

The problems with the teaching of foreign languages in schools

And when it came to exams and tests in school – most of those were written too. And this was what we’d been preparing for – largely written work for largely written exams. It’s still the same in the UK. Thousands of students pass their GCSEs every year and many students may get a grade A or even a grade A (star) in their languages. But can they and are they willing to hold a conversation in that language? Not usually. And it’s the same with A level.

The understanding of students who’ve got an A level in a language is a bit better, but not much. The problem with learning language in this way – well, it doesn’t make you fluent. It doesn’t help you cope in situations where you’re hearing the language and you need to understand it quickly enough to make a response.

What most schools do is teach you to be OK at reading and writing the language. And the language exams that students do at this level? They’re mostly written. But even where there’s an oral – a spoken part to the exam – well, it’s not exactly a fluent conversation. What happens instead is that students learn the answers to a limited range of questions that they know they’re going to be asked. And there’s a hope that on the day of the exam, they can ‘trot this out’, like a parrot!

If the teacher were to deviate, were to ask the questions in a slightly different way – like might happen in a real conversation – the students wouldn’t know what to say! I know this, because I’ve passed exams that were like this!

Foreign language school exchanges are good though!

The one thing that schools and colleges sometimes do that makes a big difference in the ability to speak with fluency? Well, that’s when they offer exchange visits. Those who’ve spent time in the country where the language they’re learning is spoken – and those who haven’t? There’s a big difference.

If you’re a student on exchange, staying with a family in a foreign country, it’s a bit scary – but you’ve no choice but to use your language. And guess what? Your speaking and listening improves so much more if you do this. If you have this opportunity, it can really make a difference and you come out with some fluency.

I did two exchange visits to Germany and the effect of this lasted for many years. Even though I gave preference to learning French as an adult, because part of my family live in France., for many, many years, German was still the language that wanted to come out of my mouth when I tried to speak French. I think that was because of those exchange visits!


And when you speak your foreign language abroad, your ego takes a hit

So this is the usual state of language learning in schools – and anyone who’s tried to learn a language below degree level, will be familiar with all of this. And familiar of course, with that terror, that extreme fear and embarrassment, if you ever try to put your ‘classroom-based’ language skills to the test.

If you’re in a shop, on holiday and you try to communicate with someone who speaks the language – it’s often a disaster. And you say to yourself ‘Never again!’ and ‘It’s me. I must just be terrible at languages’. So this way of language learning isn’t effective and it certainly isn’t good for your ego.

Listen to learn approaches

So that’s one way to try to learn a language! The other way? The other direction you could go in, rather than traditional language learning? Well, it’s what you’re doing here. You’re spending time listening to a native speaker speaking English. There’s no pressure on you to speak, there’s no pressure on you to read or to write. It’s just listening. It’s not uncomfortable or difficult or embarrassing.

In fact, the worst that can happen is that the English I’m using is a bit difficult and you have to look up some words and listen again. But when you listen again, you understand more, you make progress. Your learning carries on privately, quietly, at your own pace. No embarrassment, you might even enjoy the podcasts that we do!

By listening, you’re working on your vocabulary and you’re working really hard on your grammar and the way that English is structured. It’s just it doesn’t feel like that – you don’t really know that you’re doing that. What’s brilliant is that with listening, so much of your learning is unconscious. And when you’re introduced to a new word as you’re listening, the correct pronunciation is automatic. You only recognise the word through hearing it, so it’s harder to get that pronunciation wrong. You remember it from the start.

From listening to speaking

So by this method, little by little, you acquire the language. And your brain gets more and more used to listening, hearing and understanding. You may find that you then get to the stage where your mouth wants to repeat little words and phrases that I say. You have the urge to mimic me. ‘To mimic’, MIMIC – that’s a nice word – try saying that one! If you ‘mimic’ someone, you copy their voice or their expression. Feel free to do that with me. And your pronunciation and your speaking ability will start to improve.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

You do have to actively work at speaking, at speaking English when you’re ready. But if you’ve done enough listening and your understanding is good, this phase is more of a linking up process in your brain. It’s rather like being able to read script in a language – and you’ve now got to write it.

Writing is slightly more difficult than reading – but it’s not ‘climbing a mountain’ if you can read. It’s a shorter step, and it’s the same with speaking, if you’ve got good understanding. You achieve it through practice. And if you’re understanding of English is good, it’s a much, much shorter step to speaking English.

Check out The Seven Rules of Adept English for more tips

If you’ve never done our course, The Seven Rules of Adept English Course – then sign up for that too, if you want to hear more tips and advice on effective language learning. And what’s even better – we give you this course for free! So free yourself up and make progress with your language learning – you’ll be really pleased you did!

Boost Your Learning With Adept English


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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