Putting listening at the center of language learning

At this stage of my language learning, I am convinced that improving listening comprehension is the key to gaining fluency in Spanish.

When I first started re-learning Spanish, I think my brain only caught about 30% of the words I heard. This was despite having a good foundation in intermediate level vocabulary, grammar, and speaking.

I soon concluded that Spanish speakers were not speaking unnaturally fast. Rather, my brain was not sufficiently exposed to hearing the language spoken at its natural speed.

Given that realization,  I figured that the challenge was to continuously expose myself to the natural speed and sounds of Spanish. So, I settled in for the long haul of improving my listening comprehension.

I am yet to head off to a Spanish speaking country. However,  this hasn’t stopped me from listening extensively to the language.   As I live in the digital age,  I am using the Internet, TV, and radio to  bring naturally spoken Spanish to my ears on a daily basis.  listening


Listening Strategies

My strategy for improving listening comprehension is to daily listen to as much Spanish as possible at different levels of difficulty.

My main source of spoken Spanish is YouTube, my car radio, and Univision TV.

YouTube has tons of  videos about daily life, all in Spanish. For example, you can find videos about street encounters, ball games, shopping, soap operas, court cases, etc . To get good results from YouTube, make sure you enter search terms in the language you are trying to learn.

I generally like listening to political news in Spanish. I also listen to sermons, motivational speakers,videos on history, geography, culture, and of course, la música latina.

Latin gospel and pop artists such as Alex Campos, Lily Goodman, J. Balvin, and Sharika bring me quite a bit of listening pleasure. As a rule, I always study very carefully the lyrics of songs I add to my play list. The book El Idioma es Música has been a big help in helping to understand how music promotes language learning.

After scores of hours of listening to native speakers, I am now able to immediately get the gist of what is being said in most encounters.   Obviously, I still miss many words, phrases, jokes, and nuances in the language.  However, I am amazed at how far I have come just by listening to spoken Spanish on a daily basis.


Current Listening Goal

At this point, I like to think of myself as having progressed from “hearing” many words and not being able to link them together fast enough to derive meaning, to understanding the gist of complete sentences.

My current goal is to effortlessly understand extended blocks of conversation without too much of stuff passing over my head.

To master this next level, over the next six months, I will spend lots of time passively and actively listening to the language. For me, passive listening is when I listen to Spanish on my car radio or the TV. On these mediums, I pay lots of attention to the sounds, rhythms and accents of the language than to comprehension.

For active listening, I use videos from YouTube and elswhere. During active listening, I play back the media over and over again paying close attention to the technical details of pronunciation,  accent, grammer, discourse markers, etc.

If you have any thoughts on how to take “listening comprehension” to the next level, feel free to share them with me and other readers of this blog. You can slso check out the video below for more on listening.




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