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Why Listening Skills are the Key to Learning

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

Learning growth is slower without accurate listening

“From vocabulary development and decoding to the complexities of language syntax, it’s all a challenge if listening is muddy or inaccurate.”

Learning to learn is a sequence that starts with accurate listening. The art of listening serves as the crucial foundation upon which all subsequent skills are built. If auditory processing is delayed and listening is not accurate and efficient at natural language speed, each step after accurate listening is somewhat deprecated and compromised.

This article explores the significance of listening as the first step towards achieving independence, tracing its connection to listening comprehension, speech, storytelling, reading, reading comprehension, and ultimately, writing. By grasping the importance of effective listening, individuals can embark on a transformative journey towards personal growth and autonomy.

The skills that need to mastered in sequence are:

  1. Listening accuracy
  2. Listening comprehension
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Story-telling using language syntax
  5. Reading – decoding
  6. Reading comprehension
  7. Writing
  8. Learning independence

Listening Accuracy

Listening encompasses various aspects that contribute to the process of comprehending language and internalizing information. Firstly, it involves actively comprehending spoken words, phrases, and sentences, extracting meaning from them, and understanding their context.

Additionally, listening entails recognizing the sounds within words, distinguishing between different phonetic elements, and identifying the subtle nuances of pronunciation.

Furthermore, it involves observing language syntax and sentence structure, discerning grammatical patterns, and understanding how words are organized to convey meaning. Lastly, listening entails the internalization of information, where individuals absorb and assimilate knowledge, ideas, and perspectives into their cognitive framework, forming the basis for their understanding of the world, and for further learning and independent thinking.

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension entails understanding spoken language and extracting meaning from it. This skill plays a fundamental role in effective communication, as it allows us to comprehend and respond appropriately to the messages conveyed by others. By honing listening comprehension skills, individuals become more attuned to nuances, context, and subtext in conversations. It enables them to accurately interpret information, engage in meaningful discussions, and build connections with others.

Vocabulary & Language Syntax

When listening is accurate and comfortable, children are able to think about what they are listening to – how things are phrased, use of words, language syntax and vocabulary development. Through attentive listening, individuals are exposed to a rich variety of words, phrases, and expressions. They encounter new vocabulary in context, which allows them to grasp the subtle nuances of word meanings and proper usage.

When individuals are capable of actively listening, they absorb the sounds, tones, and intonations of words, enhancing their ability to recognize and reproduce them accurately. This process helps expand their vocabulary, enabling them to articulate ideas more precisely and effectively.

Furthermore, listening to conversations, lectures, and other forms of oral communication exposes individuals to the natural flow of language. They become familiar with sentence structures, grammar rules, and syntactical patterns. By observing how words are organized and combined in spoken language, individuals gain a deeper understanding of language syntax.

Active listening also aids in the comprehension of complex sentences and the identification of grammatical relationships between words. It allows individuals to internalize the rhythm and cadence of sentences, facilitating their ability to construct grammatically correct and coherent expressions in their own speech and writing.

Moreover, through listening, individuals develop an intuitive sense of idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms, and phrasal verbs. They become attuned to the appropriate usage of language in different social and cultural contexts, improving their overall communication skills.


Accurate listening paves the way for the development of speech. Through attentive listening, individuals absorb linguistic patterns, vocabulary, and intonation, thereby improving their own verbal communication skills. Active listening also fosters empathy and understanding, as it encourages individuals to consider diverse perspectives and adapt their speech accordingly. By harnessing the power of listening, one gains the ability to express ideas coherently, articulate thoughts, and engage in effective dialogue.

Storytelling is a compelling medium for sharing experiences, ideas, and values. Listening is an essential component of storytelling, as it allows individuals to immerse themselves in narratives and comprehend the nuances of plot, character, and theme. By attentively listening to stories, individuals enhance their imagination, empathy, and critical thinking skills. Storytelling nurtures independence by encouraging individuals to construct and convey their own narratives, developing their unique voice and fostering self-expression.

Reading – Decoding

Decoding words, reading, relies heavily on phonemic awareness, which stems directly from accurate listening. Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. It involves understanding that words are made up of phonemes and being able to distinguish and manipulate these sounds.

When individuals have developed phonemic awareness, they can effectively decode written words by associating each letter or group of letters with the corresponding phoneme. They can break down words into their constituent sounds, blend them together to form recognizable words, and manipulate the sounds to create new words.

The brain is able to create an automatic connection between between letters and sounds – required for reading automaticity.

Decoding also benefits from the skills developed earlier in this sequence. For instance, vocabulary and knowledge of how stories are told helps make reading text more predictable and expected, and therefore more familiar.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension empowers individuals to extract meaning from written material and engage with complex ideas independently. It requires active listening to the text’s message, understanding the context, making inferences, and critically evaluating the information presented. By developing strong listening skills, individuals enhance their reading comprehension abilities, enabling them to absorb knowledge, analyze arguments, and form independent opinions.


Writing requires good reading comprehension – a rich vocabulary, an understanding of sentence structure, and the ability to articulate thoughts coherently. By actively listening to others, individuals gather diverse perspectives, ideas, and experiences, which they can draw upon when crafting their own written work. Writing allows individuals to express their unique voice, synthesize information, and contribute to knowledge creation. Through writing, individuals demonstrate their independence by conveying their ideas, persuading others, and inspiring change.

Learning Independence & Metacognition

Learning independence requires metacognition, the ability to think about what you are learning and to adjust. Metacognition takes practice, which cannot really start until reading is automatic, reading comprehension is comfortable and writing is somewhat fluent.

Again, this all depends on earlies skills being developed as expected.

Accurate Listening Needs to be a Priority

Since listening is the platform upon which all other reading and learning skills are practiced and developed, delays in listening skills can have long-term repercussions.  For younger children, symptoms of processing delays are the best way to ascertain a listening problem.

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord to develop language processing skills, which are the key to listening skill development.

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