Advanced Listening and Vocabulary Development

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EFS 693B
Week 6 Notes


I. Value of rewatching:

II. Homework: impressions of; Discuss in groups.

III. Review: discussion of dictation as an aid to processing. Remember the following:

  1. the objective is to get as close to the exact vocabulary and grammar as possible and then identify what you're missing;

  2. you can work on two levels--easy material you're trying to get 100% right and harder (for example accented or especially fast) to challenge yourself

  3. you can focus on chunks smaller than a full sentence: ultimately you're going for speed, accuracy, and capacity;

  4. spelling isn't critical as long as you know you have the right word (though try to learn from mistakes);

  5. only go through a chunk twice (three times at most) before moving on;

  6. do this with just 1-2 minutes worth of speech to avoid boredom/overload: even 30 seconds can be helpful;

  7. normally, do dictation last, after you've already listened to a piece well enough to understand it and looked up vocabulary;

  8. you need to have an accurate transcript (or accurate subtitles) to check your answers;

  9. at the end of a segment, after you've noted and thought about your mistakes, listen again to hear what's really there;

  10. finally, as an option, you can try "oral dictation", repeating rather than writing; in that case you should record yourself to check your answers.

IV. Focus on language processing: dictations and other intensive listening to build speed, accuracy, and capacity

     A. Groundhog Day revisited. Dictation: (1:05+)

     B. FlashACE. provides processing practice through rapid, intensive comprehension and optional dictation.

V. Practicing vocabulary: Note that Anki has mobile versions as well for Android and iOS.

About Anki: See also:, and You can see a list of 54 Anki videos here!


VI. Watching movies for language learning: discuss

1) What are the best types of movies to watch for language learning? Why?

2) What are the worst types? Why?

3) Think about a movie you watched recently--how could you use it to improve your listening skills?

4) Read below about Listening to Movies

Listening to Movies

Movies are interesting, but they can be less valuable than some other options for improving your listening skills. TV comedy or drama shows, talk shows, and news shows have the same characters or announcers, and if you watch them over time, it becomes easier to follow them. This isnít true of movies because they generally introduce characters and tell a story that is new. Once the movie is over, you will probably never see the characters again. If you want to use movies anyway, here are some suggestions for more effective ways of using movies on your own to improve your listening.

1)  Select a movie that is about something familiar, such as

∑    A movie that is set in your home country: this should be easier than a movie set in some place youíre less familiar with.

∑    A movie that you have seen before, perhaps in your home country with subtitles or a translated soundtrack, so that you know the story and characters.

∑    A movie with close captioning: in this case, watch the movie first with the closed captioning on, so that you become familiar with it. Then watch it again with the closed captioning off. Or turn on the captions when you feel youíre getting lost.

∑    A movie that is based on a book: this way, you can read the book first to learn about the characters and story and then watch the movie.

∑    A movie that is one of several in a series: in this way you at least get to know some of the characters and may even have a continuing story (e.g. Harry Potter).

∑    A movie that has a lot of visual elements to support the dialogue.

Note, you can listen to an unfamiliar topic for pure entertainment or if you are doing so to build cultural understanding, but be aware that it may be more difficult to use for language learning if you don't understand the references.

2)  For language learning purposes, some movies may not be as useful:

∑    Movies with slang, fast speakers, ethnic dialects, and so on are more difficult than ones with speakers who speak a relatively standard version of North American English and speak it clearly.

∑    Older movies often have patterns of speech that are no longer common, especially in this area.

∑    Some kinds of "action" movies have a lot of action and little language.

∑    Movies about historical events, especially from the distant past, if done well may have patterns of speech that are uncommon today, and the situations will not be relevant.

3)  Select a movie where the language is not too difficult and which you think may contain useful expressions: has vocabulary assistance for some popular older movies, many of which are available on DVD from Green Library.

4)  Find a part of the movie that is especially easy for you to understand. Try to do a dictation of 2-3 minutes of it. If the movie has accurate captioning or you can find a script, use the captions or script to check your answers.

5)  Listen to a part of the movie that has an interesting conversation you can understand. After one of the characters says a line, pause and try to say it right back (this is like a dictation, only without writing). The goal is not to memorize the line, but to build processing accuracy and capacity.

Remember, any time you listen to a movie in English and enjoy and understand it, you're getting some benefit. However, it's important to realize that you need to be actively involved in listening if you want to get the most from it. That means listening deeply to selected parts to improve processing, mining the material for useful words and phrases, and using specific strategies for interpreting meaning.

If you don't have access to video playback equipment, you can go downstairs in Green Library and get DVDs which you can watch there in the Media Center. You can also find free (legal) online movies at  



1) This week the assignment for your independent project is to do a minimum of two hours (again, a break for midterm week). At least 30 minutes of that should be a review of material you watched at least two weeks ago; at least 15 minutes should be a oral or written dictation. Upload your report by Tuesday, May 16, at 8:00 PM.

2) Explore or and download the program to your computer or a mobile device. Put in the 25 words (only 25 required this week) from this week's independent project work (and/or Groundhog Day). Practice these on at least three different days (more is better). Come prepared to discuss your experience in the next class. Note: 1) all of this (both setup and study) is in addition to your two hours of independent work and 2) if you already have a preferred program or mobile app, you may add your words to that and report on it instead, but if not, you need to give Anki or Quizlet a serious try.

3) Go to Finish FlashACE Intermediate1 (skip Lesson 2 for now--it has several errors; there are a few other questionable items--don't let it distract you). Then, go through FlashACE Intermediate Lessons 3, 4, and 5 on different days.  Listen first for comprehension. Then, for each lesson, try to do dictation on at least three items. Notice what you have to listen to most closely and any mistakes you make--come prepared to discuss your experience. Do not continue to FlashACE Advanced--we'll do it later.  Note: this does not count as part of your 2-hour project.

Last modified May 12, 2017, by Phil Hubbard