Listening Comprehension explained

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Listening Comprehension: in this article you will find an explanation of Listening Comprehension in a practical way. Next to what it is (definition), this article also highlights the differences between listening and hearing, the elements of listening and understanding, listening and language, an example and the characteristics of Listening Comprehension. After reading, you will understand the basics of this method of communication skills. Enjoy reading!

What is Listening Comprehension?

Before delving into Listening Comprehension you should first understand what listening is.

Listening is the ability to receive, understand, interpret and respond to verbal and non-verbal messages from the speaker. During the process of listening one can reach an understanding that is linked to several factors: listening, the message, the context, the memory, among others.

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The definition of Listening Comprehension

Listening Comprehension is part of the communication skills such as the development of reading and writing comprehension. Listening Comprehension has the multiple processes of comprehension in language when it is understood, interpreted and spoken.

This communication skill is connected to cognitive learning as it works with the development of memory, attention, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension monitoring.

Listening then is the interpretation of spoken language and this includes the recognition of discourses of sounds, the understanding of the meaning of individual words or the understanding of the syntax of sentences that may arise in a dialogue or discourse.

The importance of recognising context in listening means that the person can relate what they hear to the real world in which they live as they can symbolically recognise concepts with language and link them together in order to understand what they hear and give it a meaningful meaning.

Differences between listening and hearing

Hearing is:

  • Physiological order
  • Perceiving the sounds
  • Passive process

Listening to is:

  • Interpretative order
  • Interpreting sound and verbal and non-verbal actions
  • Active process

When listening, gestures, postures, facial expressions, silences, among others, are connected in order to understand the message given by the speaker. The relationship between words and actions is what makes up language and how it is interpreted when there is an understanding of what is being heard.

Listening then means not only hearing, but also being able to interpret and analyse the information that is received, creating one’s own analysis of this information and creating one’s own concepts, opinions and comments on what is heard.

Elements of listening and understanding

By listening carefully, meanings are built up by the listener. During this cognitive process the following elements interact:

  1. The listener
  2. The message transmitted (text)
  3. The context (linguistic environment)

Listening includes the sounds and organises them into sequences. The message is what is built up through linguistic understanding. The context is the message that the listener has. These stages are evaluated and give the understanding of the listening.

For listening comprehension there are several developmental components, which are:

1. Before listening

This is the planning phase, where it is determined why one is going to listen, to whom one is going to listen, among other questions.

2. During listening

This is the execution phase. Actions that are carried out as we listen, such as formulating hypotheses, creating mental images, observing and supporting the speaker’s gestures and movements, analysing and using cognitive skills in the process.

3. After listening

This is the assessment phase. This phase is about determining whether what was heard was understood by making summaries, forming questions, etc.

All of this forms a cognitive level of learning, including memory and listening skills.

Listening Comprehension Skills

The following listening comprehension skills are distinguished

  • Recognition: connecting, recognizing the components of a message (sounds, words, linguistic elements such as pronouns, verbs, among others).
  • Selection: select the most important words in the message (names, verbs, key words among others), then group the selected details in level of importance.
  • Interpretation: is the understanding of the information that was heard. This means knowing the intention and purpose of the message, its main ideas and the importance of the most significant part of the message the speaker is giving.

The message is then related when it is listened to carefully as details and their relationship to the sender / speaker’s discourse can be captured. Detecting with the understanding of the listening the importance of the message or the most relevant thing.


Activating the information you have in order to use it in advance on a specific topic and to be able to understand it better by having the right bases such as language and body expressions.


To be able to infer the data of the sender, this means that it is possible to extract the information from the situation that is being presented at the moment with non-verbal codes such as gaze, fascial and body movements among others as a complement to being able to understand the discourse much better.


Remember key words and ideas in order to know how to interpret them. Retaining in the long term memory is important to get the most out of a message that is heard.

Listening comprehension with socio-cultural interaction

The development of Listening Comprehension is directly linked to language and how this helps to enhance learning and significant understanding of our reality, that reality which is lived either professionally or personally.

Listening helps to interpret the speaker, his speech and what he wants to achieve with that speech.

This relationship goes from the speaker, message, and listener, the latter being the listener as the one who deciphers the message with the language and learning tools he or she has. Listening is the key to understanding the speaker’s message.

The development of listening has also been able to generate social skills as listening to others and not simply hearing sounds and linking these sounds are essential. Listening is being able to give a meaningful sense of rational interpretation to what a person says and this results in the human being, being able to develop the social skill of being able to sympathise with others.

With Listening Comprehension, friendships, relationships and professional collaborations can be generated for good teamwork, including in the leadership that one wants to transmit in the field of work.

Listening and paying attention is fundamental for social interaction and how it can be converted or improved into a communication skill.

This social interaction of listening is often seen with the learning of a new language. Most people learn a language out of a desire to adapt to a new environment or out of a cultural desire to satisfy and expand their knowledge.

Listening and language

The learning of a new language generates the development of cognitive skills for the person, in which writing and speaking can be evidenced in order to complete the knowledge of that language with the power of Listening Comprehension.

Listening Comprehension Example

Patrick is a student living in Switzerland and his native language is Swiss-German, however, he wants to learn Spanish because he wants to travel to South America for a student exchange. Patrick knows that the native language of this continent is Spanish, so he starts to study Spanish before starting his trip.

He began to study Spanish from scratch as he had no basis in the language, thus developing and improving his cognitive skills for the processing of information from the language he is learning. In his learning process are the communicative skills he needs to acquire to be able to speak, understand and process Spanish naturally.

Listening Comprehension is vital in this process because it is a fundamental part of the first steps in immersing yourself in the new language. Listening carefully will lead to imitating sounds, identifying them and being able to repeat in the best way what your teacher is teaching you. In this process, little by little, your memory will generate that what you learn is related and that you will be acquiring the skills of listening to generate new knowledge.

This example shows how listening plays an important role in language learning.

Characteristics of Listening Comprehension

In order to be able to have a comprehension in the listening it is necessary to have clear some characteristics that are

  • To know the linguistic code to be able to listen and understand better. The message always has a sequence and congruence in order to be able to relate sounds and words and bring them ideas of thought.
  • Auditory skills are needed for this, as the person has to store information to be able to give feedback or reflect on the message he or she is hearing.

This involves some important elements: sounds, voice intonation, rhythm, volume, among others.
With this, the person will hinder the correct interpretation of the message and eliminate what is not useful and not relevant.

Listening Comprehension summary

Listening Comprehension can generate skills for retention, relationship and understanding of a message.

To be able to get the most important things out and to be able to interpret them in the best possible way in order to develop knowledge.

It is also important to emphasize that the relevance of listening comprehension is not only to be able to channel and understand a message in the best way, but also to know how to listen can improve social skills.

In the case of the improvement of social skills, listening is an important role in order to be able to relate to other human beings in both personal and professional life.

Understanding listening builds confidence in being able to interpret messages in the best possible way with attention focused on being able to connect to what the sender wants to convey.

Listening attentively will help communication skills become social and enable better integration into society. Listening brings analysis, identification and understanding in order to be able to carry out responses, feedback and even good teamwork cohesion.

In listening comprehension one can construct the meanings of a message and be able to bring that message into oral interaction.

If you are able to listen carefully this can strengthen personal, family and work relationships and reduce arguments and misunderstandings as you can understand the emotions of the sender and his message much better when you listen in silence and without interruption.

Your memory will exercise the most important elements of the message and this will lead to reflection on what the sender wants to convey.

Be clear about why it is important to listen and what the objective and achievement of the listening action is for personal or professional reasons.

Taking advantage of the understanding of listening will make decisions and reflections clearer and more concrete in daily life.

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It’s your turn

What do you think? Do you think that Listening Comprehension develops social skills? Will the communicative skill of Listening Comprehension bring benefits to cognitive learning? Do you have anything else to add or any suggestions to give?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Ur, P. (1984). Teaching listening comprehension. Cambridge University Press.
  2. Rivers, W. M. (1966). Listening comprehension. The Modern Language Journal, 50(4), 196-204.
  3. Boyle, J. P. (1984). Factors affecting listening comprehension. ELT journal, 38(1), 34-38.
  4. Byrnes, H. (1984). The role of listening comprehension: A theoretical base. Foreign language annals, 17(4), 317.

How to cite this article:
Ospina Avendano, D. (2021). Listening Comprehension. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Published on: 07/03/2021| Last update: 01/19/2024

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Daniela Avendaño
Article by:

Daniela Avendaño

Daniela Avendaño is a content producer and translator at toolshero. She obtained a Bachelor in Communications & Journalism, and with her theoretical and practical knowledge she supports the toolshero production team with interesting articles on management, personal & professional development, marketing and more. She is driven by sharing knowledge and stimulating others to develop.


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