Power listening and language learning.

I recently posted that I am aiming for between 500 and 1000 hours of listening to my foreign languages in 2011.

Some people suggested that it is difficult to listen that much. This caused me to reflect on when I have listened in a concentrated time for a long period. This is only possible occasionally. For example when driving from Munich to Porto in September I listened to 22 hours of the fabulous Portuguese Podcast Pessoal e Transmissivel, fascinating interviews broadcast over a period of several years. When I arrived in Portugal my Portuguese was at a new level.

I have gardened for hours listening to Balzac, or Proust in French or driven for hours listening to I Promessi Sposi or La Provinciale by Moravia in Italian. I still remember myself cross country skiing for hours while listening to Turgenev or Bulgakov in Russian.

When I am able to put together a listening marathon, by which I mean at least 4 hours of solid listening, while doing something else, I inevitably feel I have made a great step forward. The content must be interesting, at least 70% comprehensible, and the voice must be pleasing. I feel that I get pushed past a threshold and achieve a new connection with the language, one that I mostly keep. Try it some time.


4 thoughts on “Power listening and language learning.

  1. Eight hours a day most days (all day, at work). And yes, it’s done wonders, even when I can’t always fully concentrate. Doesn’t take long to get 1000 hours that way either.

  2. I agree with this totally. In my case I find the most difficult problem to be finding 70% comprehension type material. I am in that weird no man’s land region of intermediate skill, where a typical podcast or audiobook is too advanced, but beginner material is too short or too simple. Occasionally I find material that is ideal and I consume that content voraciously. Here’s to hoping I get over the intermediate "hump" in 2011!

  3. When I am not able to understand at least 70% of what I am listening to, and even when I can, I like to work the transcript, whenever I can get a hold of it. I read it. I save words and phrases in it. I review these words and phrases. Transcripts of all classic literature are available on the Internet. Echo Moskvi has transcripts and of course all the content at LingQ has transcripts. Reading and working the transcripts really powers up the listening.

  4. I’m sort of the same as the second commenter – it’s hard to find pre-intermediate/intermediate material. Chinese also has the added difficulty of being less likely to understand the transcript than the audio! But, good advice. I need to listen to more audio at work.

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