10 Tips to Pick Up a New Language – #5 – PASSIVE LISTENING

By Manu Venditti | All Levels

Oct 05

 

Today we look at another important aspects of learning a language and becoming fluent: LISTENING / WATCHING material in your Second Language.

Many adult learners of a second language believe that they just cannot learn a new language. That’s it. They are just not “good with languages”.

This is completely not true for most people. If you can speak your native (verbal) language, then you are an expert linguist.
You understand languages, you know how languages work.
All you have to do is apply to knowledge and gift to a foreign language!

 


You too can pick up a foreign language! 


 

Why is it so hard?

One of the hardest aspects of learning a foreign language, for most, is being able to understand the native speakers when they speak.
And this is true. But why?

People speak their native language:
– very rapidly
– with lots of slang and colloquialisms (not taught in books)
– slurring words

That’s why using traditional methods to learn a language are not the most effective. Books, CD’s, Apps, etc, they just fail to expose you to the REAL SPOKEN LANGUAGE.

They use highly scripted dialogues, acted out at a much slower speed than they would be in a real situation, they cover topics that you are not interested in, and they don’t teach you the language used in everyday conversation.


No wonder so many people fail at picking up a language! 
It’s the method that fails. Not them. 


So, what’s the best approach?

First of all, DO NOT, under any circumstance, WATCH THE NEWS in the foreign language.

The news are hard by definitions. Journalists use a much higher register than most people in everyday life, they use literary words and all sorts of difficult stuff!
On top of that, when you watch the news, you don’t really have a context or visuals for what they are talking about.

In most real life situations you do! 


DO NOT WATCH THE NEWS!


But shouldn’t I hear the language spoken by natives?

Yes you should!

But in the first few months of your learning, your level is just not good enough to try to actively listen/watch something in the foreign language and expect yourself to understand.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice since this would discourage and demotivate you, leading you to the conclusion that you are just unable to learn a language.

So NO. Do not watch movies, do not listen to podcast, do not listen to music… thinking that you should be able to understand.
No. This is not the right time for that expecation.


THE KEY IS IN PASSIVE LISTENING


What is Passive Listening?

You should be spending as much time as possible listening to material in the foreign language, but without trying too hard to understand it.

This means, just play the movie and be happy and excited that you are playing a movie in a foreign language.
That’s it!
Treat it like an abstract painting that you don’t quite understand, but can still appreciate it for its beauty!

At this stage your goal is to:
– become familiar with the melody of the language
– get used to the sounds and pronunciation
recognize words and phrases, occasionally
– try and guess/assume what the general topic is

 

To increase your chances of “passively understanding”, pick material that you are already familiar with.

Many countries (Italy is one of them) dub all movies back into their language.
This means that you can watch your favorite flick, a blockbuster or a classic in the foreign language!

The same goes for Podcasts or Youtube channels.
Engage with content on topics that you are extremely familiar with and passionate about!

 

THE TAKEAWAY
1. YOU DID NOT FAIL LEARNING A LANGUAGE. YOUR METHOD FAILED YOU
2. ANYONE WHO IS FLUENT IN THEIR NATIVE (VERBAL) LANGUAGE CAN LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
3. DO NOT WATCH THE NEWS TO HELP YOU LEARN THE LANGUAGE
4. ONLY WATCH CONTENT IN THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE ‘PASSIVELY”, THAT IS WITHOUT THE EXPECTATION OF UNDERSTANDING IT
5. PICK MATERIAL ON TOPICS YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH AND PASSIONATE ABOUT

Looking for a Structured, Ongoing program to Learn Italian? Check out 'From Zero to Italian' then!