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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Active Listening in English - Improve English Communication Skills

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Hi, Im Marie.

Welcome to Oxford Online English!

In this lesson, you can learn about active listening.

Whatsactive listening’?

Youll find out in detail in the rest of this lesson.

Youll see why listening is not just a passive skill, and how developing active listening

skills will improve not only your English listening, but also your English communication

skills more generally.

Before we start, you should take a look at our website: Oxford Online English dot com.

You can find all our free English lessons.

Are you watching on YouTube?

If so, we also have free listening lessons, including vocabulary notes and quizzes to


Of course, you can also take classes with one of our teachers if you need more help

with your English.

Oxford Online English dot com.

Now, lets get back to our topic.

What isactive listening?’

Oh yeah, I meant to tell you: I got a message from that woman.

You know, the one who told me she had met me before, but in Peru?

Its unbelievable, but it turns out I have an identical twin sister, and we were separated

at birth.

And thats

I mean

Thats big news, right?


Thats why you need active listening.

Listening is often described as a passive skill.

However, when youre talking to someone, especially face-to-face, you cant be completely


The listener in a conversation has to take part.

If youre listening to someone, you need to give feedback.

You need to show that youre interested, or not.

You need to show that you understood, or you didnt.

If you dont, its difficult for the other person to continue, and the conversation will

become awkward.

Sometimes, we meet English learners who have the problem you saw in the dialogue.

They dont give any feedback.

Its difficult to communicate like that.

We understand; its because youre focusing so much on hearing the words and understanding

the meaning.

You dont have spare energy for anything else.

Anyway, what is active listening?

Active listening means that you take part in the conversation even when youre not


You give feedback, either verbally or non-verbally.

Active listening is essential, and it will help your English in many ways.

Well give you one important example.

Often, English learners dont want to show that they havent understood something.

Often, its because they feel embarrassed, or they dont want people to judge them

for their English.

If this is your situation, you might stay silent when people are speaking, and you wont

ask the other person to speak more slowly, or repeat points, or explain things again.

This makes communication difficult.

The other person doesnt know what you have or havent understood.

They wont know what to do to help you understand.

But, if you give the right feedback, communication will become easier.

Youll be able to show what you dont hear or dont understand, and the person

youre talking to will have a chance to adjust.

Thats just one example.

There are many more; active listening is essential for clear, comfortable communication.

So, what do you need to do to be an active listener?

Oh hey, I wanted to tell you something about the cottage for our Wales trip.

Oh yeah?

It turns out that they got the prices wrong, and the actual cost is much more expensive.


So, were going to look for something else.

Its short notice, but hopefully we can find something.


If we find something, well have to book it fast, so check the WhatsApp group.


I mean, do you want to check out whatever we find before we book?

No, if you find something, just go for it.


One of the most important forms of active listening is simple.

When youre listening to someone, you use simple words and sounds to show that youre

listening and that you understand.

Common words and sounds you can use areyeah’, ‘oh yeah’, ‘OK’, ‘mm-hmm’, ‘mmm’,


When you use these in active listening, theyre pronounced quickly and quietly, without emphasis

or much intonation.

You could also show understanding and interest with basic body language, for example nodding,

making eye contact, and so on.

Its simple, but its important.

When youre speaking your first language, you probably do it without thinking.

What about in English?

Think about it: do you listen actively in this way, or not?

If not, try to focus on it when youre listening to someone.

If you dont give this feedback to the other person, it will look like either you dont

understand, or youre not interested.

This is the most basic point.

What else can you do with active listening?

I got a promotion.

Im the new head of the regional division.


Actually, its a crazy story.

You know our manager, the one that we all hated?

It turns out shed been stealing from the company for years.

No way!

We found out when police officers came in and arrested her right in her office!

Are you serious?

Yeah, and thats not all.

She went crazy as the police officers were taking her out.

She was screaming, kicking, trying to bite them

Youre kidding!

Anyway, the next day, the head office people turned up, asked to speak to me and offered

me the position.


Thats great news!



To be an active listener, youll sometimes need to react emotionally to what youre


If someone gives you some bad news, you probably shouldnt just react withmm-hmmor


It could make you sound cold.

To listen actively and show emotion, you can use words and phrases likereally?’ or


Look at four different situations.

Can you think of words or phrases that you could use for each situation?

And, how could you pronounce them?

Pause the video if you want to think about it by yourself.

To react to good news, you might saythats great!’, ‘wow!’ oramazing!’

To react to bad news, you might sayoh no!’, ‘thats too badorwhat

a shame.’

To show surprise, you might sayreally?’, ‘no way!’ orare you serious?’

To show frustration, you might sayoh come on’, ‘you cant be seriousorno


Of course, there are other possible answers.

Here, you need to think about pronunciation, too, specifically intonation.

You saw that you could use the phraseno way!’ to express surprise or frustration.

But, the intonation is different.

To show surprise, youd say it like this: ‘no way!’

To show frustration, youd say it like this: ‘no way!’

This is true for many words and phrases.

For example, you could sayreally?’



Again, think about whether you do this in English already.

Do you use words and phrases like these to react when youre listening to someone?

Think about it!

Another question: do people do something similar when theyre speaking in your language?

This is important.

Some cultures and languages do this differently.

It might be normal in your language to show little reaction or emotion when listening.

But, in English, you might appear cold or uninterested to the person youre speaking


If you dont do this in your language, youll need to focus on it more when youre having

a conversation in English.

Next, lets look at one more important part of active listening.

Hey, Dave!

Happy birthday!

Are we going for tacos later?


I heard we were going out for tacos, right…?


I dont

Im not Dave.



Who are you, then?

Im Oli!


I thought you were Dave.

Thats embarrassing.

Daves over there What?

What? *Hes* Dave?

Ive been calling him Gareth for months.


Whos Gareth?

If you dont understand something in a conversation, its generally better to show this immediately.

If you show the other person that something isnt clear, you can deal with the problem

right away.

If you dont, its more difficultand more uncomfortableto go back to something

which was said one minute, or two minutes, or ten minutes ago.

To show that you dont understand, use a word or sound likewhat?’

wha?’, ‘uh?’ orhuh?’

As before, intonation is important.

A sound likehuhcan also be used to show understanding or surprise.

To show that you dont understand, it should have a high, rising intonation: huh?

Often, showing that you dont understand is enough.

The person youre talking to will see that something is not clear, and try to help, by

explaining or repeating what they said.

However, you might need to do more.

The question is: why didnt you understand something?

Did you not hear?

Did you not understand the words?

Did you not understand the situation?

Was it something else?

You can give the other person more feedback by explaining or asking a question.

For example, you could sayI didnt catch what you said.’

I dont get what you mean.’

I have no idea what youre talking about.’

Of course, this depends heavily on the situation.

But, if the other person doesnt know what you do or dont understand, its difficult

to communicate.

If you make it clear where the problem is, you have a chance to solve it.

Theres one more point about active listening: non-verbal communication is also important.

Facial expressions can show that youre interested, or bored, or confused, or surprised,

and so on.

Also, gestures, like shrugging or holding out a hand with the palm facing

upor downcan be part of active listening.

Again, think about how this is in your language and your culture.

You might use facial expressions and gestures more, or less, or differently than English


When speaking English, you might want to adjust your non-verbal communication as well.

Let us know in the comments: are these ideas similar in your language, or not?

How are they different?

Tell us, because were curious!

Also, try to use the ideas in this video when youre speaking and listening.

You can even practise when watching a YouTube video, or listening to a podcast, or things

like that.

Active listening is a useful habit, but like all habits, you need to practise it if you

want to use it naturally and comfortably.

Thanks for watching!

See you next time!

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