By Victor - 15/apr/2021 #Language and Education
If you’ve read the preceding two posts, you now know that listening is the highest priority and easiest language skill to practice, and you have 8 recommendations for great sources of listening content.
Now, I’d like to give you a general game plan for listening according to your proficiency level.
If your target language is similar enough to one you already know and you are able to understand a couple of words every few sentences, you can skip to the next section aimed at beginners.
However, if you’re tackling a brand-new language that is unlike any that you currently speak, you should first learn the meaning and pronunciation of at least the 300 most commonly used words in the language. Tell me which language you plan to learn, and I will help you get started.
At the same time, you may also watch shows on YouTube aimed at toddlers. Toddlers are learning the language just like you are, so these shows provide sufficient visual and contextual clues for you to begin picking up vocabulary as you watch. An example I used while dabbling in Mandarin Chinese was Qiao Hu. Notice how you can learn colors in this video, starting at minute 2:08. I learned numbers, a few Chinese characters, and a host of other vocabulary words the same way.
Once you’ve learned a few hundred high frequency words, you can get started practicing listening in earnest. Here are my three top suggestions for the beginner level:
The best source for beginners is music, whose use as listening resource I detailed in the previous post. Study up on the lyrics and listen to a song again and again until you internalize it and can sing along.
However, for this method to be highly efficient, you will need help from a teacher or a native speaker to find songs whose lyrics meet the following criteria:
I can help you with English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French songs that meet these criteria.
If you’re familiar with Sesame Street, you know exactly the type of video I’m referring to. Quality children’s videos can be enjoyable enough for motivated adult language learners to watch and are designed to be extremely educational and/or catchy, thus aiding language acquisition.
Connecting this recommendation with the previous one, you can find endless music videos with lyrics on YouTube. You can watch videos of adult songs that meet the above criteria for lyrics or, even better, you can select songs aimed at children. The best resource that I know for beginners to learn Brazilian Portuguese has just the combination of extremely catchy (maddeningly so) tunes, simple children’s lyrics, and visual cues that make them even very accessible. I’m talking Galinha Pintadinha.
While I do not generally advocate inauthentic language sources (those where language is adapted for foreign language learners), exceptions can certainly be made for beginners.
There are countless resources in various languages available on the Internet. A great example is the Voice of America news page aimed at English language learners. It is updated daily, has a written version of each article, teaches vocabulary, and, most importantly, is read very slowly with clear diction.
Once you reach the intermediate level, your options explode. I now recommend ditching any inauthentic listening source and beginning to select those movies, series, news sources, podcasts, YouTube videos, and audiobooks that you love and that also have a written version that matches exactly. In other words, at this level you can tackle most authentic listening sources by combining reading and listening.
Here are five specific strategies for an intermediate level:
You can now listen to anything and can let your enjoyment and interest be your guide. However, to keep progressing, make sure you listen to a variety of different topics and sources and challenge yourself with difficult material. Here is how you will master a language for life through listening:
I hope you now have plenty of motivation, ideas, and a game plan to listen your way to language mastery.