Identify Which Type of Listener You Are

Which type of listener area you? When you hear English do you: 

  1. Try to hear every word
  2. Or only listen for words that you know

Both of these skills are important, but one is more useful for conversation and real communication, while the other one is good for studying on your own and trying to improve your skills. 

Check out this video where I explain these 2 ways of listening to help you identify your strength and weaknesses.

Read the TEXT version of this lesson here

When you finally reach an intermediate level, English audio starts to make more sense because you actually know enough vocabulary to understand the general topic.

This is the stage where your listening skills start to develop and you need to be sure that you do not make a common mistake…

It is important that you identify which type of listener you are because it will help you to know the types of activities you need to do to improve your listening for conversation and also to understand more of what you hear.


studying and improving listening skills


Which Type of Listener Are You?

There are 2 types of listeners. Each person is always a little bit better at one than the other.

  1. You want to hear every single word (Bottom Up Listener)
  2. You only hear the words you know and have to guess the idea (Top Down Listener)


Bottom Up Listening

Bottom Up Listening means that you try to listen for every single word. You are also trying to understand all the grammar you hear, every verb conjugation, preposition, etc.

If you are someone that needs to hear every word when you are listening… you feel uncomfortable when you can’t hear everything. There is this feeling of doubt that you will not understand what is being said if you do not hear every single word.

Bottom Up Listeners need to practice focusing on the words they CAN understand and continue listening to the new audio, instead of getting stuck on a word they don’t know or can’t remember the meaning of instantly. You need to practice ‘guessing’ if you can’t understand everything perfectly.

A great way to practice your guessing skills is to listen to an audio that is difficult for you to understand at your current level.


Top Down Listeners

A person who is a top down listener is really good at guessing what they hear based on the words they can understand. They do not stop to remember what a word means or think about what they can’t hear. Their focus is 100% on trying to hear anything they can to understand something.

The good news is that Top Down Listeners already have a great skill for listening to conversations… but you need to work on your listening skills to develop the ability to listen in detail ?


During a conversation with a real person, Bottom Up Listeners can’t ask them to repeat themselves 1000 times, use a transcript or slow them down to make sure you hear every word they say.

Top Down Listeners already have an advantage during conversations but they have problems developing the listening skills and patience they need to be able to understand more in future conversations. Meaning, they might become really good at guessing… but never really understand everything perfectly based on what they hear.

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