What is the difference between “hearing something” and “listening to something”? They may sound the same, but they aren’t.
When you hear something, you just picked-up (unknowingly) a sound or a word from somewhere you were. You don’t really pay much attention to this, and so you forget what that was you heard. However, when you listen, you have every intention of paying attention to what is being said or what sounds you hear in order to comprehend the situation This is why in learn languages we develop listening skills.
But, how can you develop listening skills?
Pay Attention to Phonetics
Speaking does go hand-in-hand with listening. When you know how the sounds of consonants, vowels, and syllables are articulated (produced) and used (transmitted), then you will know how they properly sound when you hear it (perception).
Phonetics is, literally, the study of speech sounds and is divided into three parts – production, transmission, and perception – of sound. It may sound complicated, but the entire foundation of listening relies on phonetics. When you look in the dictionary, all the words are syllabicated and are given the proper IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) sounds. Familiarizing yourself with phonetics will help you differentiate one word from another. Recognizing and properly pronouncing words won’t be difficult for you.
Pay Attention to Intonation
Intonation refers to the rise and fall of your voice when speaking. There are two types of intonation: rising intonation and falling intonation. This would help you understand what is being said and enable you to reply appropriately.
Rising intonation is when our pitch rises from the stressed syllable of the last content word of the sentence and continues to rise. We use rising intonations when:
Making Yes/No and Tag questions;
Making Rhetorical questions (these questions don’t necessarily need answers);
Checking or confirming something;
Signaling uncertainty or doubt; and
Using filler words and expressions.
Falling intonation refers to the rise and then a fall on the most important content word of the sentence. This can also be attributed to as rise-fall intonation. We use falling intonations when:
Making statements; and
Asking informative questions
Pay Attention to Tone
Tone generally reflects on the mood of the person. By paying attention to a person’s tone of voice, you’d be able to easily tell what is going on in the conversation and whether or not you should continue with the conversation. High tones usually denote feelings of happiness, anxiety, excitement, anger, or surprise. Low tones would usually denote boredom, sadness, or indifference.
Pay Attention to Facial Expressions
Proper speaking etiquette requires that you look at the person you are conversing with. If you’re the listener, you should pay attention to the facial expressions of a person. Some speakers are very good at masking their true feelings with their voice and words. Facial expressions, especially that of the eyes, can help tell you the genuine feelings of a person.
Pay Attention to Key Words and Phrases
After all that’s said and done, you must listen to key words and phrases. Like reading, listening requires speed – speed in getting the idea. Only this time, you can’t go back to the beginning because that would be rude and would mean you weren’t paying attention. Never listen to whole sentences word-for-word. Knowing which words to listen for will help you understand what is being said or asked easily. And, you’ll be able to reply appropriately.