7 Keys to Improving Your Chinese Listening Skills Fast — #4: Get the Gist Before You Drill Down Into the Details

In How to by Angel Huang

Listening in the real world is about communication — it’s about getting the message.

To do this, we don’t need to catch every word. In fact, when we listen in our first language we can miss big chunks of what someone is saying and still understand exactly what they’re communicating because…

… we pick out keywords and use context to make sense of what we hear.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t do this particularly well when we listen in a second language. Instead we often get lost or left behind trying to understand every word or translate words we “half-know” into our first language… This takes the focus away from actually listening to what we’re hearing!

Train yourself to avoid getting lost in details by making a habit of always trying to understand the gist first when you practise listening.

Once you’ve got the gist you can listen again and concentrate on getting the details of the recording (e.g. the exact words, phrases and grammar the speaker used or didn’t use…).

Summary #4: “Get the Gist Before You Drill Down Into the Details”
  • It’s usually NOT necessary to understand every word of what someone says to get their overall message — Keywords + context goes a long way.
  • When you practise listening, focus on understanding the gist (i.e. getting the message) first, before concentrating on the details of the clip.