To develop listening skills, it is best to find a source of spoken English, with only sound: Not TV, as too many images give information that allows the watcher to infer/ guess what the subject is.
- Easy listening for Beginner and Elementary level: Voice of America has talks that are spoken slowly, some with texts. Storycorps is another source of simple listening, with subtitles and transcipts to read. BBC 6 MinuteEnglish. British Council Listening Beginner A1, Elementary A2, Intermediate B1, Upper Intermediate B2, Advanced C1,
- Listen to live radio: you ‘catch’ as much information as you can, and let the rest go. One good source with varied programs is BBC World Service Radio: Either online  or on a radio that has Medium Wave/AM. In the evenings and at night (in the daytime interference blocks the signals), tune to 1250-1300 kHz.
- Listen to podcasts. Choose a topic of interest, and listen many times to the recording. Select from TED Talks, BBC Radio Podcasts, General – BBC Documentary Podcasts, General science – BBC Life Scientific (over 200 episodes), BBC Crowd Science Podcasts and Listen to English + http://www.china232.com/
- For e-books and audiobooks: AudioBookRadio.net – the first and foremost spoken word Internet radio station.
All the information is by sound: voices, music, sound effects. Tone of voice, silence, …and words. Listening is not just about understanding words, it is about getting an idea of about the topic, being able to hear patterns (e.g. verb forms/modals), recognising key connectors, and dividing sections of speech.
Live radio, unlike a cassette or CD, cannot be ‘stopped and replayed’. You need to learn an important skill, that of being able to get what you can and let the rest go. Forget trying to understand EVERY word; this is not done even in a mother tongue. We subconsciously use a number of strategies that allow us to get meaning even from only partial recognition of words.
So just start listening, and see HOW MUCH you can understand 🙂
Can you understand what language is spoken? Can you guess what type of topic the program is about? (Sports programs tend to have informal, relaxed speakers, often speaking very fast during races and matches; Financial/ economics programs tend to be the opposite. Etc.
Can you recognize a few words? First you will recognise international words spoken in the different accent, with different stress (Pizza, piano, telephone, …). This way your ear will tune in.
Learn to catch what you can, stop worrying about the word you couldn’t catch and make a few guesses – you could be right; if you don’t try, you’ll never be right!