ESL Online Magazine

helping English language learners expand their skills and their lives

Dictation that makes a difference


Dictation is a long-used method for improving language skills. Traditional dictations require the listener to write word-for-word what is said by either a teacher or recording. This time-tested method requires a variety of language skills such as listening, grammatical, vocabulary, and spelling skills.

Dictation Practice

Listen to these four sentences several times, writing down exactly what you hear. Compare what you wrote with what was actually said.

Dictogloss Practice

While still a valuable tool, other ways of doing dictations can also prove helpful. For example, dictogloss is not a word-by-word diction but rather a written summary that is written down after the entire sentence or string of sentences has been listened to. Listen to the following passage from Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Listen two to three times taking notes on what is said; however, do not write it down word-for-word. This passage is from the original book and is more advanced. Some vocabulary words that you may not know are: surveyed, melancholy, hollow, sighing, and streak. Look these words up in a dictionary before doing the exercise, if needed.

Now, using your notes, summarize in your own words what was said. Write it down, and then compare it with the original . How did you do? If you found this helpful, check back next month for more types of dictation exercises from ESL Online Magazine.  If you would like feedback on your summary, post it in the comment section or email it to me at

Additional Dictation Practice

For more great dictation exercises, check out the dictation pages on English Club website here. This is just one of many recommended sites available on this free resource page:
Click here to get your free guide!




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