How to understand a lecture in English - English Voyage

Your ability to listen and understand a part of a lecture or a whole lecture in English is an excellent skill, the one that can bring you additional score at IELTS, CAE or TOEFL. Asking yourself how to understand a lecture, keep in mind that listening to a lecture requires a set of the following strategies and methodological hints.

How to understand a lecture in English. Initial stage

1. If possible, learn or review as much as possible on the topic the lecture is going to be about.

2. Boost your background knowledge on the topic, try to recall any relevant examples, situations.

3. If not, define the main topic of the message by the first sentences the speaker pronounces.

4. By structure, lectures are divided into such parts: an introduction, a main part with principal statements and examples, conclusions. Thus, follow the lecturer moving from one part of a lecture to the other one.

5. Try to catch the main idea of each part of a lecture. Keep in mind that listening for gist requires your thorough attention to the headings, details given in the pictures, photos, presentations.


6. Make use of the visual aids the lecturer uses, learn the notes and inscriptions which accompany the speaker’s explanation.

7. Try to compare facts, thus activating the mental processes.

8. It is listening and taking notes at the same time that makes comprehending a lecture troublesome. To ease the process, define what the message means and if the information you’ve heard is important. If it is so note the ideas down using note-taking techniques (short forms, abbreviations, symbols, icons, individually-designed signs or drawings). What matters much while note-taking is to do it in a time-efficient way.

9. Relationships between the notes can be represented in two styles: by creating linear notes or mind maps. It’s up to you which way to choose to memorize the information better. So while listening to a lecture, make a plan or a mind map.

10. Taking into account the fact that the vocabulary of any lecture is specific, don’t try to differentiate and recognize every other word you hear, learn how to ignore secondary information. Make hypotheses when you aren’t sure of the meaning of an unfamiliar word or expression. Be focused enough to comprehend the main idea of the message you hear, however, don’t ignore looking up synonyms to the key words.

11. Keep chronological track of the facts and data given in a lecture, establish logical links between the notions, names, dates and other figures mentioned by a lecturer. Remember to use your background knowledge on the topic and connect geographical, economic, political, ethnic, agricultural and manufacturing issues to the problems raised in the lecture.

How to understand a lecture in English. Advanced stage.

1. Be ready to accomplish different types of tasks following the listening to a lecture such as multiple choice, matching, answering the questions, labeling etc. They require your different mental skills and abilities.

2. To be ready for completion a table, a graph or a diagram, make sure you have read all the headings and notices in it. Correlate the figures or other data with the possible answers, which you should predict beforehand. Mind the number of words for completion.

3. Read carefully all the questions or statements in a while-listening activity. Keep to the following steps:
1) find the key words in each line or phrase and write them out on a separate piece of paper;
2) try to predict the answers according to such criteria:
• what part of speech the answers are;
• whether they are singular or plural;
• countable or uncountable;
• proper or common nouns;
• offer synonyms to the probable answer.

4. While doing Pre-listening activities, define who is speaking, what the setting is.

5. To succeed in completing questions in multiple choice tasks, be sure you’ve managed to analyze and do the following:
— read the instruction and the question carefully;
— highlight the key words in the question;
— paraphrase the key words;
— read the alternatives to choose from;
— paraphrase the alternatives;
— predict the correct answer before listening to the text;
— don’t be in a hurry to mark the answer — be ready to be given all the offered options in the recording so keep listening up to the end;
— don’t expect that the correct alternative will sound in the audio message as it is — remember that the correct option can be paraphrased or presented with synonyms
— the words «but» and «however» mean that some contradiction, negation or contrast are coming next.

6. Listening and reading are closely connected, especially while doing while-listening and post-listening exercises. That’s why practise how to read and find key words quickly, without any delay, learn how synonyms can differ from the original words, how to form word families.

How to understand a lecture in English. Practice.

Before you start listening to the lecture in English, do the Pre-listening exercises.

Pre-listening activities

Exercise 1

Look at the photo and answer the following questions.
1. Why do people eat bananas?
2. Are they nutritious?
3. In your opinion, what is this secret weapon of bananas that the scientists have found out?
4. The title of the lecture is «Banana Protein May Be Virus Killer». What do you think the speaker is going to talk about?

Exercise 2

Here are the key expressions selected from the lecture you are going to listen to. First, guess what they mean. Then match the words with their explanation.

1 biodegradable A caused by a virus
2 HIV B very carefully in order to avoid possible danger
3 to ward off C breaks down or decays naturally without any special scientific treatment, and can therefore be thrown away without causing pollution
4 viral D bite and work (food) in the mouth with the teeth, especially to make it easier to swallow
5 chew E a virus which reduces people’s resistance to illness and can cause AIDS
6 cautious F to prevent it from affecting you or harming you

Answers: 1c, 2e, 3f, 4a, 5d, 6b

Exercise 3

Predict what is said about each of the expressions in the context of banana protein. All the words and phrases are taken from the lecture:

Vitamins, lower, biodegradable, infections, lectin, stomach acids, HIV, cautious, supply, banana crops.

Exercise 4

Try to remember what the key words and expressions were used in the previous exercises and make a list of them. Read the words and phrases carefully bringing up context associations. Opposite each word or phrase write a short form to be used during note-taking of the lecture.

While-listening activities

Exercise 5

Listen to the lecture «Banana Protein May Be Virus Killer» and write down the key words. Make use of the short forms you’ve come up in the Pre-listening activity.

Post-listening activities

Exercise 6

To hear and to listen are different things. Be attentive enough to define the key message the lecture produces. Read the summaries, choose the one which corresponds to the audio message best.
1. Bananas, being a good source of all kinds of vitamins and minerals, can prevent heart attacks. A protein found in bananas may someday fight viral infections.
2. Bananas are not considered to be perfect food. However, the biodegradable packaging bananas come can lower blood pressure and protect against viruses.
3. The researchers have proved that bananas are antiviral agents to treat a wide-range of such viruses as HIV, hepatitis and even the common flu virus.

Answer: 1

Exercise 7

Listen to the lecture again having analyzed your notes before. While listening to it for the second time, make either linear notes or a mind map:

Exercise 8

Being laconic and precise proves your high level of mental development as such abilities require excellent analytical skills, quick reaction and good knowledge of vocabulary. Complete the «Answer» column with one word only for each of the questions 1-6.

Questions Answers
1 What can bananas help you fight?
2 What could banana secret weapon protect you against?
3 What are scientists turning a protein found in bananas into?
4 Except for HIV and hepatitis, what virus can this antiviral agent treat?
5 What is BanLec?
6 Who will the BanLec protein not be tested on?

Answers: 1 depression 2 viruses 3 a drug 4 flu 5 protein 6 humans

Teach someone how to understand a lecture in English. This is the best way to learn and memrorize different listening strategies.

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