Listening is a very strange thing.
Sometimes it seems to easy, and sometimes it feels impossible.
Have you ever had an English class, or maybe another English interaction where you understood *every word*, and felt great about it? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?
It feels great to understand, like we’re finally getting comfortable with English. At the same time, have you ever had an interaction where you felt like you understood *absolutely nothing*? Maybe you were trying to listen to 2 native speakers talking, or maybe it was a TV show or movie — people spoke so fast that you didn’t even get the main idea.
This is a confusing feeling. Sometimes I understand, and sometimes I don’t — so what’s the difference?
It’s simple: You have to find your sweet spot.
“Sweet Spot” is a really fun English noun. It comes from sports — think about a tennis racket. It’s the area in the middle that delivers the best results.
But we can use the phrase “sweet spot” to talk about more than sports. The sweet spot is where you get the best results in anything. For example, let’s talk about listening skills. Take a look at this chart, which shows easier things to understand on the left, and more difficult things on the right:
For example, an advanced speaker may not improve their listening skills much by listening to podcasts made for beginners — it’s too easy! At the same time, a beginner would not improve much by listening to native speakers talk to each other — that’s too hard! Your sweet spot in the middle. If you want to get the best results, you need to find it.
To find your sweet spot, practice listening in a few different situations. If it’s so easy that you don’t have to focus your full attention on listening to understand, then it’s too easy. If you feel totally lost, it’s too hard. You should find the situation where if you focus all of your attention on listening, you understand 60-80% of what is being said — enough to get the main idea.
So how can you find situations that put you in the sweet spot again and again? Start searching! Maybe it’s a particular YouTube channel, or a specific podcast, or if you’re advanced, a television series. If you want to take your listening to the next level, find the audio that puts you in the sweet spot, and listen to it as much as you can — if you feel tired at the end, that’s how you know you were in the sweet spot!