You’re probably familiar with dictation from your time at school.
Dictation is when the teacher reads a short text and the students have to write down everything they hear.
Sometimes, it can feel like a really boring and pointless exercise. That being said, there are many reasons as to why dictation can an effective learning tool and there are ways in which you can make it fun.
In this blog post, we’ll have a look at some of the benefits of dictation for learning English and how you can do it in a more interesting way.
What’s great about dictation?
Dictation is good for practising your listening skills.
By writing down what you hear, you’ll be forced to use your knowledge of the language to work out exactly what was said – you’ll be familiar by now with the fact that English doesn’t always sound like how it looks.
Dictation is good for practising your spelling.
If you hear a word you’re not sure how to spell, you’ll have to draw on your knowledge of spelling patterns and have a guess at how it was written.
Dictation is good for your vocabulary.
It’s often said that to learn a piece of vocabulary we have to hear or read it several times before it becomes a part of your active vocabulary. If a word is in your active vocabulary, this means you’ll be able to use it when writing or speaking. So, the more you see or hear a word, the more likely you’ll be able to use it.
Dictation is good for practising grammatical structures.
Often in English, grammatical words such as prepositions (e.g. in, on, by) or auxiliary verbs (e.g. have, was, are) are not said as clearly or as loudly as the content words – the words which carry the meaning. This means you might not hear every single word, but you’ll have to apply your knowledge of the grammatical structures to write down every word correctly. For example, in the sentence I’ve been to Japan, you might not hear the ‘ve or the to but you know that we need both these elements for sentence to be correct.
Dictation is good for practising your writing.
Language learners often don’t get many opportunities to write in English. Doing so will help you become more confident when you have to write something.
Dictation is also good for practising your comprehension skills.
Comprehension is about understanding. After you’ve written everything down, you’ll have to read it back to check it makes sense.
Dictation is good for your speaking too.
As mentioned, the more you see or hear a word, the more likely you’ll be able to use it. The same goes for grammatical structures. The more familiar and confident you are with them, the better you’ll be at using them.
Making dictation interesting
Hopefully now you’ve been persuaded that dictation is hugely beneficial. But how can we make dictation more interesting? How can we do it without a teacher to help you?
The first step is to choose source materials that you like. It could be a YouTube video, a TED talk, a song, a podcast, a scene from your favorite movie. Anything which is in English will do!
Don’t choose a video clip that is too long. You don’t have to make it necessarily harder for you, if you’re just trying it out.
Listen to the video or audio once to get a general idea of the topic and then start writing. Playback and repeat as many times as you need. Pause and rewind. Then, double check your work before checking it against a transcript if there is one.
Remember that if you’ve chosen a song, sometimes grammatical structures will be altered slightly so fit with the rhythm. Keep in mind that song lyrics are sometimes not in grammatically correct English. If you’re not sure about what you’ve written, look it up and check it.
Useful sites for dictation training
There are also some online resources which you could use. TubeQuizard has a huge selection of short clips. You can sort by level, skill or category. As you listen, there’s a gap fill task for you to complete.
LyricsTraining is a similar activity but with songs. Again, you can sort by level. The benefit of both these websites is that they will tell you if you’re correct.
So, the next time you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, challenge yourself to do some dictation. You could even ask an English speaking friend to record themselves saying something funny for you to write out. Doing 10 minutes a few times a week will a positive impact your English language studies. Good luck!