Many students of English use “listen” and “hear” as if they were the same. Don’t be confused; there is an important difference! Intention is the difference between listening and hearing.
Listening is something that you do on purpose; you listen to music and listen to your mother. Your parents and your teachers always want to know whether you’re paying attention; they ask, “Are you listening to me right now?” Hearing often refers to volume and sounds. When you go to a rock concert with friends, you might yell, “What?! I can’t hear you! The music is so loud I’m going deaf!”
Imagine a spy snooping outside the door, trying to listen in on a secret conversation. This act of eavesdropping shows the difference between listening and hearing. If the walls are too insulated and the door is soundproof, he might be disappointed to report: “I was listening outside the room for an hour, but I couldn’t hear a thing!”
Nowadays, with telecommunications as a part of daily life, we often have to check on the quality of the signal or connection: “I only have a few bars (of cellular reception); can you hear me?” Or just before the call drops, you hear your friend complaining, “I’m sorry–you’re breaking up–I can’t quite hear you.”
You can also get clarification or check whether you have understood someone by asking, “Did I hear you correctly…?”
Esther received her TEFL certification through the University of Cambridge and has studied Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, and most recently Python. Passionate about educational linguistics, instructional design, intercultural communication, and new media, she also loves alphabetizing, biking, farming, food, people, piano, theology, traveling, and ultimate frisbee. An incurable ENFP, Esther believes in tech startups and is stoked to be a VoxyTutor and blogger!