The hardest component of learning any language is listening. Unlike reading and writing, listening is instant. The sounds you hear appear once and then they are gone; if you miss them, it is too late. Many students worry when trying to listen because they know they must catch the words and understand them quickly, and do this repeatedly.
There is an easier way to do this. Many students try to catch every word that they hear. This is a good long-term goal but for a student who is still learning and improving, it isn't necessary. A better strategy is to focus on the important words, the ones that convey the basic meaning. Some students might argue (and some have with me) that this is wrong, that it is important to catch the full meaning. While this is true, they must realize that perfection is a gradual process; it can't be achieved by simple willpower, but only by practice and improvement.
Let's consider this from another angle: English focuses on detail and precise meaning, but communication only requires the basic meaning. Everything else is an added reward. For example, look at the following sentence: “Ben and Jane went ice skating on Saturday but it was very crowded, so they went for a coffee instead.” This sentence has a basic meaning plus many subtle details, but we only need to know the basic idea in order to communicate.
If we re-wrote this sentence to convey just the basic idea, it would look like this: “Ben Jane ice skating Saturday crowded coffee instead.” Obviously this is not a proper sentence, but it contains enough information to allow communication. In fact, if a student were listening to this sentence and taking notes, the revised sentence is what they would write down. Writing down more than this is unnecessary, difficult and time consuming. When you, the student, are listening, this is all you need to hear and remember in order to understand.
Notice that in the revised sentence, we have deleted almost every word except for the nouns. When you are practicing listening, it is usually only the nouns and verbs you must listen for. In our example, we have focused on the nouns, the adjective “crowded” and the adverb “instead”. This is all we need to hear in order to understand. We have ignored the verb “went”, because when we hear “Ben”, “Jane”, and “ice skating”, we can assume that this is something they did. The meaning is obvious and implied, so we don't need “went”.
Try this by yourselves. Go to my teachers profile page and click on “demo lesson”. I will, by the time this article appears, have uploaded a lesson demonstrating what I've explained. I will read a sentence to you, then show you the transcript as I read the sentence a second time. I'll give you a bit of time to try and edit the sentence, then show you how I would have edited the sentence. I will try to include two or three examples. When you feel more comfortable doing this, locate a website that offers practice listening audios & their transcripts and practice this activity on their materials.
As your English improves, you will be able to hear more words more easily than before. As we said, perfection is a gradual process, so don't punish yourself for not getting there quickly. The purpose of all languages is to communicate. If you can hear and understand the basic ideas, and respond to what you have heard, you will have succeeded.