Learn English listening to MP3’s

When I meet Italians that want to learn English one of the most common problems they bring up (besides the difficulty of speaking) is the difficulty of understanding speakers (or the film, song or whatever it is).  The response to this problem is undoubtedly active listening (that is not only listening for general understanding but also to gain a specific or pragmatic sense of the conversation).  For active listening you need to have a lot of listening material of the appropriate level for you, the student.  Bringing us to the MP3 format

Why the MP3 for listening to and learning English?

The audio format MP3 is the most widely used for computers and MP3 readers.  You can even download it on your ipod, ipad or iphone (on your android smartphone and also older phones such as Nokia’s and Motorola’s).  The beauty of the MP3 is that you can burn it onto a CD so that you can use it in your car or around the house.  In summary, the MP3 format is extremely flexible.

 The ipod, in the car, CD’s, MP3 Readers, Smartphones, PCS; practical aspects for transferring MP3’s

Even though you can use MP3’s with all of these gadgets they all load them differently.  An example for transferring MP3’s by PC or Mac onto an ipod you need to use the software itunes.  For listening to MP3’s in the car you have to put it on a thumb drive (if your car is modern) or burn it onto a CD ( if your car doesn’t have the USB function) or you need an adapter for the very old cassette player.  To have audio on CD you need to burn it using software on your PC or on your Mac (Usually it is a standard inclusion).  Usually to move MP3’s from the PC to an MP3 reader (non-Apple brand) you need to use a cable and copy the files or use the software supplied with the reader.  Also with your smartphone it is possible to transfer it from the PC to the smartphone with a cable, even if the smartphone (like the PC or Mac) is capable of downloading directly from the internet without the need of a PC.  Finally, you can use the PC to download MP3’s from the internet, via podcasting or you can buy them from sites such as audible.com

Different types of MP’s (Lessons, pieces of audio, podcasts, audiobooks)

We can see here types of MP3’s that are of interest if we want to develop our English listening ability:

  • Lessons: Usually they are podcasts (yes a podcast is a type of MP3) produced by a teacher that is doing a legitimate English lesson.
  • Audio clips: these clips put our listening skills to the test; they are tales, news reports (Like these from VOA) or clips specifically created for English students (Like this from elllo.org)
  • podcasts: besides English lessons there are also other types of podcasts; for a complete list of all podcasts visit our podcast page.
  • audiobooks: there are famous audiobooks in English for those who are at a high enough level (although it depends on the book); take a look at audible.com (An Amazon site) and also this free site learnoutloud.com

Where you can download free MP3’s for learning English

Here is a list of sites where you can download MP3 for learning English.

Be aware of your level of English listening

If your level of English is beginner or even intermediate audiobooks could be too difficult for you.  No amount of effort will allow you to understand material that is too difficult.  It is better to choose ‘graded readers’ (books produced in various levels that correspond with various levels of understanding). You can buy them in a bookstore or on http://www.amazon.it. The various publishers are Cambridge University Press; Oxford University Press; Pearson Educational; Black Cat; MacMillan.

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