This article is the third in a series which is focusing on English for Academic Purposes (EAP). This type of English is very different in context and style from the English we use in our day-to-day situations. There are courses available which focus on the skills needed to help understand and use EAP.
This article will focus on how to become more successful at listening and note-taking in EAP. Listening tasks are quite often the most difficult for students learning any language so don’t worry if you find listening in English difficult! In EAP your listening skills will most likely be used when attending a lecture, or a formal talk or presentation. Listening to these styles of speaking is often more challenging because the listening is one-way. We are not given the opportunity to interact with the speaker; we can’t stop them and ask them to repeat certain parts or ask questions about parts we don’t understand. One way to familiarize yourself with listening to lectures, and train yourself, is to listen to TED talks (www.ted.com/talks). These talks are similar in style to a lecture because the language is quite formal and the listening is one-way. They are available online on a variety of topics and of varying lengths, meaning you can listen to them at home or on your daily commute. Choose a topic which interests you and see how much you can understand. You can always look back at the transcript afterwards to see any points you missed.
Note-taking skills go hand-in-hand with listening abilities. When attending lectures you are often required to take notes as you listen. It is impossible to write down every word you hear so it is key to be able to take efficient and concise notes in these situations. Firstly, you should focus on the key information. Then try to write shortened word forms and develop a note-taking code. For example, you could use arrows ↑ ↓ for the words increase and decrease, you could write ‘info’ for information etc. It doesn’t matter how strange your code looks, the important thing is that you feel comfortable using it and will understand it when looking back at your notes later on!
The lecturer often tells you at the beginning of the talk how many parts will be in the lecture and what will be covered in each portion. You can therefore divide your page up accordingly into these sections, with headings for each, so your notes will be in a coherent order and will also help you better remember what was said about each part of the lecture. Give yourself lots of room on the page for notes and scribbles. Finally you should take some time soon after the lecture, while the information is fresh in your mind, to write up a more detailed report from your brief lecture notes, which you can use for future reference on the topic.
The British Council Malaysia offers Academic English courses year round which focus on EAP skills, including listening and notetaking skills, by using authentic academic recordings as well as formal talks on a variety of topics. They are particularly relevant for those intending to study at university in Malaysia or abroad.