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Speed listening techniques

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Books on June 27, 2022
Mastering the skill of speed listening can help you absorb more content in a quicker period of time. There are steps you can take to become better at speed listening.

    You’ve probably heard of speed reading, but what about speed listening? Whether or not you’re familiar with it, it’s an actual thing, and as you can probably guess, it’s a rather useful listening technique that will help you consume more audio content faster.

    Of course, just like all other skills, speed listening requires practice to perfect. But, once you’ve nailed it and learned how to concentrate, you’ll save yourself a bunch of time, no matter whether you’re listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or textbooks.

    If time efficiency and improved listening skills sound like your cup of tea, you’re in the right place. We’ve got a few fantastic tips on how to maximize your listening efficiency and take your workflow to a new level.

    How to expand your listening comprehension 

    If you’ve ever listened to an audiobook — or just people talking, really — you’ve probably noticed that, at times, you felt like things could be going much faster. Maybe you’ve even increased the speed on YouTube a few times to get through a boring part of some video essay. Well, you’re not alone.

    The reason why we sometimes get bored listening to audio material is not because of the content itself but because our brains can process information much faster. Of course, we’re all typically attuned to the average rate of speech (let’s call it the normal speed), so getting used to more rapid audio input could be a challenge. Luckily, our brains are flexible machines and can adapt to anything. 

    Here’s how you can start speed listening now.

    The benefits of using a TTS Reader

    Since we’re talking about speed, it’s only fair we give you speedy answers, so here it goes — text to speech software! 

    There is no better, no easier way to start speed listening than to use a TTS tool to narrate text for you. Why? Well, you won’t depend on pre-existing audio material, and you’ll be able to turn already familiar texts into audio files.

    If you’re already familiar with the text you are listening to, you can skip the normal speed stage and up the rates to, say, 1x or 2x speed to go through the whole thing quickly. That will maximize time efficiency whenever you need to reread or review things, be it for work or school. 

    But what about unknown text-to-speech projects? What if you need difficult textbooks read to you? No problem! With a quality TTS tool like Speechify, you can adjust all speech parameters to accommodate your needs and speed listening skill levels. Narrators, voices, playback speed — you can fine-tune it all to create the best possible listening experience and ace your exams.

    Techniques for speed listening

    As we’ve said, speed listening is a skill, and so it requires time and practice to really make a difference. But practice does not have to be all passive, especially if you are learning a new language. Sure, actually listening to higher speeds is at the core of becoming a more efficient speed listener, but you can always do more.

    Speed up the playback rate of audio content

    We’ve already somewhat covered this, but there’s still something we’d like to make clear. Namely, if you’re engaging with not-so-important material for fun, say, some fan-fiction that won’t make or break your grades or encumber you at work, you shouldn’t be afraid of pushing yourself, even if you are listening to a foreign language. Try turning it up to 3x speed, and experiment. Over time, you’ll see that your brain is adapting and becoming more perceptive of even the most minute details.

    The same goes in reverse: if you feel you can’t follow at all, slow down. There’s no shame in taking it slow, especially if your end goal is to become more efficient at listening in the long run. Dial back down to 1x speed and start again.

    Take notes as you listen to improve comprehension

    Another thing you can do to turn speed listening into a more active process is to take notes. And not just notes on the material you’re consuming — try adding some comments on how your speed listening experience is going. Later, you can review those notes as feedback and adjust things accordingly next time you practice listening.

    Repeat important points out loud

    Repetition is the mother of knowledge, so you definitely don’t wanna skip this part. Simply put, whenever you hear an important sentence or something that you think might be important, try repeating it out loud. This will help you acquire and absorb the information you’re listening to, which is, ultimately, the goal.

    Use a timer to keep track of how long you’re listening for

    Now, practice is important, but there’s always a point at which you become tired, and any further persistence becomes counterproductive. Think of it as going to the gym — your body needs rest to adapt to stimuli. So, use a timer to keep track of how long you’ve been speed listening. When you feel like you’ve had enough, stop, and write down how long you’ve been doing it. Then, you can work on beating that goal the next time.

    Listen to audio content in different environments to get used to different sound distractions

    Some studies show that studying, working, and living in the same environment is not as productive as doing all that in different places. That is especially true when it comes to listening. After all, we only rarely engage with auditory input with no distractions and background noise. So, to make sure your speed listening skills transfer over to the real world, make sure you practice in different kinds of environments, exposed to different kinds of sound distractions. 

    Using Speechify to Improve Your Listening

    If you need a powerful, versatile TTS tool to help you practice speed listening, Speechify has got your back. It is by far the best text-to-speech reading aid, with tons of adjustable options and lots of supported languages. 

    In addition, it works with all text formats (it is even able to turn images into audio files), it supports all major platforms and OSs (Windows, iOS, Mac, PC, Android, etc.), and the audio quality it provides is so extraordinary you won’t be able to tell you’re not listening to an authentic human voice (or a chipmunk, if that’s your thing!).

    Not to mention that it comes as a browser extension, too, so you won’t have to bother setting it up and lose precious time.


    What is the best listening speed?

    The optimal listening speed is somewhere around 210 words per minute (wpm) for English speakers, at least when it comes to the average person. Go above that, and you’ll likely sacrifice comprehension. But, with proper training, learners can go beyond 210 words per minute.

    Does speed listening work?

    Speed listening does not just work — it is one of the most efficient time-saving and studying techniques that will help you improve your listening skills and become more productive. 

    How can I practice speed listening?

    To practice speed listening, simply start upping the audio speed when you’re listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or learning material. Then, try engaging with the material for about ten minutes. If you feel comfortable, increase to a faster speed, and repeat the process.

    How can I listen to 2x speed?

    If you’re listening to something online or if you’re watching a video, you can tap the settings icon and look for audio speed options. Then, simply click on the x2 speed option. Of course, if you feel it is too fast, slow the reading rate down to facilitate retention.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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