This is a lovely task for training your ear to hear the different sounds of English and, particularly, the ways that we pronounce phrases ‘differently’ to how they’re written. Quite often, a language we’re learning can sound like a long stream of sound, with only a few words identifiable within that. This task allows you to practise ‘decoding’ this stream into individual words.

Work Desk

The Basics:

  1. Choose an audio text that you have listened to a couple of times and understand. It’s a good idea to choose one where you have a transcript available so that you can ‘check your answers’. About 30 seconds is ideal, but you might choose an even shorter section.

  2. As you listen, write down the words that you hear most clearly. (Try listing these down the middle of your page so you have space to write to the left and right of them.)

  3. Listen again, adding any other words which are said before and after.

  4. Repeat until you think you have all the words. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to listen.

  5. Compare your text with the transcript.

This can be a useful task for pronunciation as well as listening - all learners are aware that the way a language is spoken can be quite different from how it is written and familiarising yourself with spoken English is very important.
It’s worth noting here that you don’t have to listen to native speakers. Strong English speakers should be able to understand a wide variety of accents so it’s worth getting used to how different people speak. Also, there might be particular accents which are more relevant for you: if you work with lots of people in Japan, you might prioritise listening to Japanese speakers of English or if you live in Ireland, you might choose to focus on Irish accents. 
There are no better or worse accents - choices should be based solely on what is most useful for you at this moment. If in doubt, I’d recommend a variety.


  1. Think about grammar. If you only heard ‘Where you going?’, think about the grammar of this question. It’s missing the ‘are’, so listen again and see if you can hear it. Spoken English often has really small or subtle grammatical words so it might simply be a tiny ‘uh’ sound that you didn’t hear. (Of course, the speaker might not have said ‘are’ at all because their particular dialect doesn’t use it, they misspoke, or they were feeling tired that day!)

  2. Practise your pronunciation. When you’ve finished and have the transcript in front of you, try to repeat the text, copying the pronunciation of the speaker. Record yourself and compare it with the original version.

  3. Check your spelling. This is a listening task, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also work on your writing. Check your spelling and, if you made any mistakes, make a note of them to study later.


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