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Listening and Speaking

There are many different language skills we can develop to ensure we can communicate well with others. Whether written or spoken, we can use our language to express ourselves and convey our thoughts to those around us.

This article focuses on listening and speaking skills - other vital English language skills include reading and writing skills.

Listening and Speaking Skills

Listening and speaking skills allow us to communicate effectively with others. Communication involves more than the ability to simply talk and hear other people. It is essential to have good listening and speaking skills, as this will allow you to adapt your language to suit certain situations and improve your ability to successfully share your thoughts while also considering the views of others.

Listening and speaking skills also prepare you for the 'outside' world. For example, in an interview, you should show the interviewer that you are attentive and can confidently express yourself. Having good listening and speaking skills will definitely help with this!

Listening and Speaking Image of an interview StudySmarterFig. 1 - Good listening and speaking skills can help in professional settings, such as interviews.

Listening and Speaking Topics

In this listening and speaking study set, there are five main topics:

  1. Presentation skills

  2. Group discussion

  3. Address counterclaims

  4. Active listening skills

  5. Presentation technology

Let's look at an overview of each:

Presentation Skills

Presentations are an excellent way for you to show that you have an understanding of a topic. If you have good presentation skills, you can confidently share your knowledge with others. Presentations may seem daunting at first, but there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your presentation runs smoothly:

Try to speak clearly so the audience can understand you.

Although you may want to rush through a presentation to get it over with, it is important the audience can follow along with what you are saying. Make sure you aren't speaking too fast; it is okay to take your time, as this will keep you calm and collected. Also, try to make sure you are speaking at a decent volume, as you want the audience to be able to hear you well.

Use confident body language (such as eye contact and good posture)

Use eye contact to establish a connection with your audience. In turn, this will keep the audience interested and make them more likely to pay attention. A good posture will also help you to appear confident and relaxed.

Here are a couple of speaking techniques used when giving speeches:

  • Change your tone of voice and/or pitch to express a certain emotion (e.g. if you want to show enthusiasm, raise the pitch of your voice).
  • Leave pauses or gaps to help your audience reflect on what you said. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts. Think of a pause as a type of verbal punctuation!

Group Discussion

Being able to discuss a topic in groups effectively depends on a good balance between spoken conversation and listening to others. For example, if one person talks too much, they may not allow others to voice their opinions. Or they may not always pay attention to what others are saying if they talk over them and don't stop to listen!

One crucial thing to bare in mind is turn-taking. This refers to when one person in a conversation speaks at a time. Turn-taking ensures that there are no interruptions and allows everyone to voice their opinions one at a time. It also gives others the opportunity to stop and listen carefully to the person speaking, allowing them to properly pay attention to what they are saying.

It may help to sit around a table like this when having a discussion:

Listening and Speaking Image of a group discussion StudySmarterFig. 2 - Group discussions often address differing points of view.

This way, you will be able to see everyone's reactions clearly (both verbal and non-verbal) and maintain eye contact to show that you are paying attention.

You should also be aware that group discussions often address differing points of view. It is highly unlikely that everyone will share the same views! This leads us to our next topic...

Address Counterclaims

Although having a clear point of view is important, it is also equally essential to be able to address opposing arguments. This shows that you can justify your own opinion while also considering and respecting the views of others. You don't always have to agree with others, but you should be aware that your opinion is not the only one that matters! Try not to hold too much judgment on others, as this may make your argument seem too biased.

Active Listening Skills

When listening to a conversation, it is important that you are attentive and focused on what the speaker is saying. Active listening is a way of listening that improves mutual understanding between people in a conversation. If you listen well, you will be able to interpret the speakers' intentions more clearly and have a better idea of how to respond to them.

You can show that you are paying attention by using non-verbal cues such as eye contact, nodding, and leaning forward.

Presentation Technology

You should be aware of different types of presentation technology as they can help you to create an eye-catching and interesting presentation. Visual aids can be used alongside spoken words to help get your message across. This includes presentation software such as:

  • Powerpoint

  • Google slides

  • Prezi

  • Keynote

Don't rely too much on the presentation slides - for example, try not to read directly off the slides. This will make you seem less confident about your topic!

Listening and Speaking Strategies

"What are some good strategies to use when doing a listening and speaking exercise?" I hear you ask. Well, here are a few tips that may be helpful:

  • When talking in groups or pairs, make sure you are turn-taking. This allows everyone to speak and ensures there are no unnecessary interruptions.

  • Listen carefully to what others are saying and pay attention to their views. You should also consider non-verbal language, such as body language and gestures, as this conveys how someone feels. Maintain eye contact to show that you are interested in what others have to say.

  • Show that you are willing to participate in the conversation. You can do this by ensuring you are contributing to the discussion and expressing your views instead of only listening!

  • When you do speak, make sure you speak clearly so others can understand you well.

Listening and Speaking Activities

We recognize that high school can be stressful and challenging at times. You may want to do some activities to keep things interesting and fun!

You need something to pass around for this activity, such as a ball.

1. Get into a group.

2. Pick a topic.

3. One person starts with the ball. Only the person with the ball can speak.

4. The person with the ball begins the conversation about the topic.

5. Once their turn is over, they then pass the ball to another person.

But, here's the catch...

Each sentence should start with the final word of the previous sentence. For example, if someone said, "I think free school meals should be more accessible to all students, " the next person should begin their sentence with 'students.'

For this activity, write the names of a person or object on different pieces of paper.

1. Get into groups or pairs.

2. One person takes one of the pieces of paper and holds it up to their forehead. This person is the guesser. They cannot see what is written on the paper.

3. The other person/people give clues until the guesser figures out the answer.

4. Take it in turns until everyone has been a guesser.

Listening and Speaking Practice

How can you practice your listening and speaking skills? Here are a few things you can do to practice your listening and speaking skills:

  • Have a casual conversation with someone (this could be a friend, classmate, family member, etc.)

  • Listen to a podcast (you could also take notes while listening)

  • Practice speaking in a mirror - it may seem strange to talk to yourself, but it can help prepare you for conversations with other people or presentations

  • Read aloud - this will help you to pace yourself and speak clearly

  • Listen to famous speeches to examine changes in tone, pitch, and intonation

Listening and Speaking - Key takeaways

  • Listening and speaking skills allow us to communicate effectively with others.
  • Good presentation skills allow you to share your knowledge with others confidently.
  • Effectively discussing a topic in groups is dependent on a good balance between spoken contribution and listening to others.
  • Addressing opposing arguments shows that you can justify your own opinion while also considering and respecting the views of others.
  • Good active listening allows you to interpret the speakers' intentions more clearly, giving you a better idea of how to respond to them.

Frequently Asked Questions about Listening and Speaking

Both listening and speaking are equally important in order to have an effective conversation.

Listening and talking are important as it allows you to develop your communication skills and use your language to increase mutual understanding between people.

You can develop listening and speaking skills through lots of practice! For example, having conversations in groups/pairs, doing presentations, listening to podcasts, reading aloud, etc. 

Listening, speaking and writing are all equally fundamental aspects of learning English. Listening helps people develop their own vocabulary and strengthen their speaking. Speaking then helps the development of written language, as people can pick up more complex vocabulary. Generally speaking, language learners need to hear a language before they can speak it.

Speaking allows you to verbally express your thoughts/feelings through language. You can develop your vocabulary and strengthen your opinion through spoken communication with others. 

Final Listening and Speaking Quiz

Question

What do listening and speaking skills refer to?

Show answer

Answer

Skills that allow us to communicate effectively with others.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


It is important to have good listening and speaking skills, as this will allow you to _____ your language to suit certain situations and improve your ability to successfully share your thoughts, while also __________ the views of others.

Show answer

Answer

adapt, considering

Show question

Question

True or false?


Communication involves more than the ability to simply talk and hear other people.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false?


Listening and speaking skills don't prepare you for the outside world.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What should you do in a presentation to make sure the audience understands you?

Show answer

Answer

Speak clearly

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not an example of confident body language?

Show answer

Answer

No eye contact

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Being able to effectively discuss a topic in groups is dependent on a good _______ between ______ conversation and listening to others. 

Show answer

Answer

balance, spoken

Show question

Question

Using eye contact in a presentation helps to do what?

Show answer

Answer

Establish a connection with your audience.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Using _________ in a presentation will keep the audience interested and make them more likely to pay attention.

Show answer

Answer

eye contact

Show question

Question

True or false?


Having a good posture in a presentation will help you appear more confident and relaxed.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false?


Body language is not an important part of communication.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What does turn-taking refer to?

Show answer

Answer

When one person in a conversation speaks at a time.

Show question

Question

Turn-taking ensures that there are no what?

Show answer

Answer

interruptions

Show question

Question

Although having a clear point of view is important, it is also equally important to be able to do what?

Show answer

Answer

Address opposing arguments (counterclaims)

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Addressing counterclaims shows that you can _______ your own opinion, while also considering and __________ the views of others.

Show answer

Answer

justify, respecting

Show question

Question

Active listening is a way of listening that improves what?

Show answer

Answer

Mutual understanding between people in a conversation.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


In a presentation, ______ aids can be used alongside spoken words to help get your message across.

Show answer

Answer

visual

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


If you have good ______ listening skills, you will be able to interpret the speakers' intentions more clearly and will have a better idea of how to _______ to them.

Show answer

Answer

active, respond

Show question

Question

Which of the following indicates that you are actively listening to a speaker?

Show answer

Answer

eye contact

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a non-verbal cue?

Show answer

Answer

interjections

Show question

Question

How can you show you are actively listening to a speaker in a discussion?

Show answer

Answer

Use non-verbal cues

Show question

Question

What are the three types of group discussions?

Show answer

Answer

Topic-based, case study-based and abstract

Show question

Question

In topic-based discussions, there are two main types of topics. What are they?

Show answer

Answer

Controversial and knowledge-based

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Question

Fill in the blank:


____________ discussion topics often relate to current affairs and events. 

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Answer

Controversial

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Question

Fill in the blank:


______________ discussion topics rely on the group's existing knowledge.

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Answer

Knowledge-based

Show question

Question

What type of group discussion contains a vague or random topic that is often not well-known to the participants?

Show answer

Answer

Abstract discussion

Show question

Question

What does a group discussion involve?

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Answer

A group discussion involves having a conversation with others in a group setting.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Discussing well in groups allows you to ___________ express your own _______, while also being able to _______ the opinions of others. 

Show answer

Answer

confidently, opinion, respect

Show question

Question

True or false?


Group discussions encourage teamwork.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What can you do to minimize interruptions in a group discussion?

Show answer

Answer

Turn-taking

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


A case study-based discussion refers to a conversation in which participants are given a _________ and should communicate together in order to provide a ________.

Show answer

Answer

situation, solution

Show question

Question

Which does an abstract discussion NOT do?

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Answer

Rely on existing knowledge of a specific topic

Show question

Question

Group discussions allow students to improve what skills?

Show answer

Answer

Speaking and listening skills

Show question

Question

What does addressing counterclaims refer to?

Show answer

Answer

Addressing counterclaims refers to addressing the differing/opposing views of others.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Addressing counterclaims in written work is not always necessary.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Writing to persuade or argue involves __________ the reader of a certain point of view by creating a strong ________.

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Answer

convincing, argument

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Question

Fill in the blanks:


Writing to analyze or explain involves looking at a variety of _______ from a more _________ perspective.

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Answer

sources, objective

Show question

Question

True or false?


Creative writing always needs to address counterclaims.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

When addressing counterclaims in an essay, you should start by doing what?

Show answer

Answer

Stating the counterclaim

Show question

Question

Which of the following words/phrases is not used when trying to disprove a counterclaim?

Show answer

Answer

Additionally

Show question

Question

There are steps to addressing a counterclaim in an essay. What is the final step?

Show answer

Answer

Reinforce your own view and give evidence

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Addressing counterclaims ___________ your viewpoint and creates a ________ argument.

Show answer

Answer

strengthens, balanced

Show question

Question

Which language register is appropriate to use when addressing a counterclaim in an email from a friend?

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Answer

informal register

Show question

Question

Which language register is appropriate to use when addressing a counterclaim in an email from an acquaintance or stranger?

Show answer

Answer

formal language

Show question

Question

Although it is useful to have a strong opinion of your own to guide an argument, it is equally important to do what?

Show answer

Answer

Address the views of others

Show question

Question

When providing evidence from a source, what should you do?

Show answer

Answer

Make sure that it is appropriately cited

Show question

Question

True or false?


If you focus too much on other viewpoints, the purpose of your own argument may get lost.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

After stating a counterclaim in an essay, what should you do?

Show answer

Answer

Respond to the counterclaim by explaining why it is not credible or has limitations.

Show question

Question

Mary is about to go to a political science lecture. She thinks that since her professor is old, he won’t explain contemporary political issues accurately. She decides to just catch up on homework while he is talking. What is Mary going into the lecture with? What does she need to do to be an active listener? 


Show answer

Answer

Bias. She is biased against the professor because of his age. She needs to adjust her attitude to be an active listener. 


Show question

Question

What is the most effective position for active listening?


Show answer

Answer

Taking notes, making eye contact with the speaker occasionally, sitting up straight 


Show question

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