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There are generally two different ways of listening to an audio or a video recording. Sometimes you need to listen carefully for something specific (called selective listening), and at other times you just need a general impression of what it's about (called global listening).

Global listening

You can use global listening when you want to get an overall understanding of the content, e.g.:
  • what the main topic is
  • who and what it's about
  • what the most important information is
  • how it begins and ends.

Selective listening

You can use selective listening when you need specific information, e.g.:
  • names of people or places
  • dates, times, numbers
  • topic-related words
  • keywords about the plot or message in the text
  • pronunciation of specific words or expressions.

Extra information or signals

When dealing with an audio or video recording for the first time, you should be aware of the extra signals which give more information about the content, e.g.:
  • the title (if there is one) – what does it tell you?
  • body language and facial expressions (if it's a video) – what do they tell you?
  • background noise and scenery – when and where does the recording take place?

The Listening Process

Before listening

  • What is the purpose of listening and which strategy should you use?
  • Is there a title? What does the title tell you?
  • What do you already know about the subject?
  • Which topic-related words do you know?
  • What do you expect to hear?
  • What questions do you want answered?

While listening

  • Depending on your listening strategy, listen for specific words (selective) or try to follow what is being said in general (global).
  • Listen for answers to questions you have.
  • Write down words you don’t know but need to know.
  • Take notes.

After listening

  • Look up the words you didn’t know.
  • Did you get all the information you needed? 
  • Did you get answers to your questions? 
  • If you didn't get what you were listening for listen or watch once more.
  • Depending on your listening strategy, summarize what the recording was about (global) or write down the specific information you were listening for (selective).