I know! As an immigrant, I know how badly we want to speak English fluently. Imagine how easy life would be! How many conversations and stories would we be able to share, and all the discussions we would deeply engage in! Sometimes we spend so much energy trying to improve our speaking skills that we forget about listening. Thus, I would like to share a little bit about the beauty of listening and how it is actually something we should be working on more. Maybe we should all be aiming to become a fluent listener, if that even exists!
I am not even referring to the CELPIP or IELTS listening skills, we will all—at some point during this journey—have to improve this listening, in the same way we hone our speaking and writing. I am talking about real listening—the one that is language-independent— because you can still be a bad listener in your mother tongue—, the one that can take ourselves out of the center of the world, the one that exposes hundreds of layers beyond your point of view. Hard, right?
I’ve been learning how to be a better listener since my shrunk vocabulary forced me to when I moved to Canada. I started paying more attention to people in order to understand what they are trying to say. Since I did not want to just keep nodding at them, I went the extra mile to really comprehend them so I could be able to say something afterwards. But first, I needed to learn how to truly listen. That was the moment I realized how many times, while someone was talking, I was already thinking on what to say next, or some related story—usually about myself—, or my opinion about whatever they were saying. I was only hearing, not listening. The upside of it was that I started to learn a lot of incredible stories that opened my mind and widely expanded my cultural knowledge and perspectives. In addition, I started to realize my place of speech by understanding that there are subjects that I do not have enough background or experience in to star in an argument. Yet I do need to truthfully listen to the ones that have it in order to become a better ally in the community.
I then started to practice my listening in my native language as well. I started paying more attention to the people I care about. And, because I was listening to them effectively, I was able to learn more about them, and they also started to share more with me. Another positive side effect of this practice is that it also allows you to be heard when it is your turn to speak! Isn’t that amazing? When you listen to people, they also learn how to be better listeners towards you. Not to mention that when you are really paying attention, your vocabulary grows, and, in return, you become a better speaker. So, no need to panic about not evolving your speaking skills because you’re staying more silent than usual.
To sum up, I just wanted to share this practice that might seem obvious, while it is actually hard to realize its necessity in the first place. It is possible to practice it in simple situations; for instance, when someone excitedly comes to you and share that they watched a movie, instead of saying, “Oh! I already watched that one. I didn’t really like it.” killing the conversation, try to respond with, “Wow! Nice! What did you think about it?” and then just listen to what the other person has to say first. Keep the conversation flowing; be interested. You will be surprised by how many things you will gain through this process. The first, learning about yourself.