The best place to learn English is in an English-speaking country because you are exposed to English a lot and have the chance to use it. You get practice listening in the classroom, and extra practice outside the classroom. In the 21st century you can expose yourself to lots of English in your own country. Everybody knows about it, but not many actually do it.  Below are 5 steps to help you “achieve” this.

1 – get hold of a variety of things to listen to in English. This way you can listen to what you feel like listening to at a particular moment. We spend hours of time “making” ourselves do things when working or studying at university  / school . So listening to English should be a pleasure, and not I DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO THIS NOW BUT I MUST DO IT TO LEARN ENGLISH pain mentality.  You’re not lazy, you just don’t want more pain than you already have. When choosing think about these guidelines:

a – the more interesting the better: If you like it you will do it. “English for pleasure not pain”

b – the more relevant to your needs the better: If you feel it is useful you will do it. E.g. if you want to improve your speaking with other people, listening to people speaking to other people is more relevant than listening to the news. If you want learn about motivation, then you need lots of motivation speeches.

c – the shorter the better: If the listening is 1-2 minutes, you can listen more times in 5 minutes = easier. If it is only 5 minutes of listening it is also easier to “find time”. People often complain “I don’t have enough time.” This is true if we need to find 60 minutes of complete focus on nothing but English, but we can all find 5 minutes somewhere in the day! If we find 5 minutes 3 times a day, that’s an extra 15 minutes per day,  an extra 30 hours per year.

d – the easier the better: If it is easy, it does not take as much energy = you will want to do it more. Of course, if it is “too easy” / “this is so easy it is wasting my time”, then it is not interesting. So “Easy” but you still feel positive about it. * Easy can be because it is slower, or does not have a lot of new words, or, for example, a movie with subtitles in your language. One example of “Easy” is a movie with subtitles in your language.


these are guidelines to think about. They are not 100% rules that ALL have to be followed with EVERYTHING.  Something may be long and difficult, but it is really interesting and relevant, so that’s fine. Use common sense and how you feel.   And remember, the types of things you feel like listening to can change with time or mood!

Examples of a variety of things are: podcasts with short dialogues, songs, TV series, movies, songs, news apps, English learning podcasts, audiobooks, audio fairytales, different youtube channels…

2 – Create “Easy – start” conditions: At the university where I teach, there are lots of machines selling Coca-Cola. If I want a Coke, it’s only a few minutes’ walk away wherever I am in the university.  It’s easy to get a coke.  Do the same with your listening. Make it easy to start. Put this “variety of listenings” on all your devices (phones, tablets, computers). Buy two / three earphones for listening. If you want, buy an mp3 player and put it with earphones in the pocket of a jacket you often wear. When I was doing this in Chinese, I had 3 mp3 players with their own ear-phones in three different jackets.

3 – Plan your “places of practice” :  Below is a table with my “plan” for the next month of “where” I will listen to Chinese / Arabic. Under the table are some more examples of situations:

Place / action


Listening type *


At the computer typing low-focus e-mails / blog entries

5 – 120 minutes

Low-focus only *

When I feel like it

Doing the dishes

15 minutes morning / evening

Both low-focus and high-focus*

Each time

Walking to the station

12 minutes


When I feel like it

Walking from the station to university

40 minutes


Each time

Washing the floors

20-60 minutes


When I feel like it

Skiing / running

20-30 minutes


When I feel like it

Tidying up

15 minutes


When I feel like it

Listening type *

This is really important to think about.

* High-focus listening = you feel the need to focus all your attention on the listening. Often this can be a movie you haven’t seen, or a podcast that you will only listen to once.  If you are doing some mental work or may be distracted by other people, then you can’t do high-focus listening.

* Low-focus listening = you can listen for a bit, then stop listening while looking at something else, then come back to listening. For example, as I type this I am listening to a Chinese TV series that I have already watched. If I focus more on my work, I stop listening, but when I focus less on my work, I hear more “bits” of the film. Because I have already watched the TV series, it doesn’t matter that I missed bits of it.

Other “Places of practice”

working out at the gym /  sitting in the train / bus on the way to work / walking my dog /putting on make-up / waiting in a queue in a shop, cafe, post office  / ironing the clothes etc

4 – each day keep a record of the approximate amount of time you spent listening when doing something.  At the end of the week look at

how many minutes you did

where you did the listening

why you didn’t do it where you thought you would


then re-write your table.

After a few weeks you will be listening a lot more.


5 – As you listen, speak!! More on this later.