What's the best way to use TED talks to improve your English? Here are the steps to follow:
- For English practice, search by duration (0-6 minutes is best to start with), and then choose a talk that you think looks interesting.
- Read the description of the talk. Look up any vocabulary you don't know. Knowing the context and some vocabulary related to that context is the first step to listening comprehension.
- Watch the talk once without subtitles. Afterwards, summarise what you understood. If you understood the global meaning, that is great. It's ok if you didn't understand every word, or even 30% of the words.
- Was there anything that you understood a little of, but not completely? Watch the talk again with English subtitles and see if you can understand what those things were. Do this twice if you like.
- Now watch again with the interactive transcript. This will help you to separate the words that you might not have heard before.
- Were they any important words that you really need to understand to understand the meaning of the talk? If so, look them up in the dictionary. Now listen again.
- **I do not recommend looking up every word you don't know in the dictionary - try to choose a maximum of 10 for example. If you look up too many words, you will never remember them and you will get bored. You need to practise knowing which words are important to know and which are less important.**
If you'd like to try my method, here is an absolutely beautiful TED talk about animals with some amazing photographs, by wildlife photographer Frans Lanting. It is also a chance to hear excellent English being spoken by a non-native speaker. (He is from the Netherlands.)