As we have discussed, the key to becoming excellent at English is to become brilliant at listening. However, this can be a challenge because the stress-timed rhythm of the language makes the schwa sound – which we need to be able to hear in order to identify tenses, articles, and prepositions – very difficult to hear. Practicing nursery rhymes is an excellent place to start, but there are other things that are helpful.
One of these is to enrol yourselves in Hogwarts, and practice with Harry Potter.
The exercise involves a copy of one of the books in English (it doesn’t matter which one) and an audio track of the same book. The books are read by Stephen Fry, who has perfect English. You can download copies from lots of places on the internet, but in order to get the best quality (important for pronunciation practice) it is always better to pay for the proper version.
At first, the aim is simply to listen to the beginning of the chapter whilst reading along at the same time. It’s important not to go too far: one or two pages is ideal. Repeat this several times, listening to the rhythms and patterns of the language. Try and hear the way that the sentences use the stressed and un-stressed syllables. When you feel that you are getting used to the natural sound of the language, you can start making marks on the next pages before you listen to them, and then check to see whether you were right. It tends to take a few chapters before the success rate improves! But it is a very good way of using concentration, focus, and magic to learn English.
You can check your progress with the help of a film with subtitles. Nature documentaries work best for this, because they do not usually have too much dialogue. Simply listen along and try and write down what you hear. Afterwards, you can check your progress. The ‘listen and write’ exercise is an excellent way to identify whether you are struggling with hearing any particular grammatical constructions.