At what point does your listening comprehension potential reach it’s limit?

I’m curious. (French) If I stopped reading and gaining new words, and only listened. At how many hours would my comprehension reach a plateau. Often when I’m listening to something in French and I don’t understand something, I can’t help but wonder if I am not understanding it because I don’t know enough words or I simply haven’t done enough listening.
For example recently in German, I thought that I wasn’t understanding the podcasts that I’m listening to because I didn’t have enough words, but in reality all I needed was more listening time not more words. I know that this is true because after I did a ton of listening to podcasts started to become more and more clear. And during this time I was not reading at all. So this tells me my listening comprehension had to catch up to my known words.
So now coming back to French. How far behind is my listening comprehension compared to my known words? Is it behind at all?


You can always do a check…For example you mentioned you were only listening to German podcasts for a bit and improving as you listened. If you feel like you stopped improving and still weren’t grasping things, then import the transcript (if you can get it) into LingQ and read it. If you understand everything, then your listening hasn’t caught up. If you’re missing a lot of words, then you need to up your words known.

I have a bit of a theory (not necessarily originally thought up) though, that reading, even this content that you understand when reading, but not through listening would help your listening. I notice for myself that I understand quite a bit during reading, but I may have to take it slow, read a sentence a second or third time. Even though I understand it, there’s virtually no way I would grasp it all listening…practicing reading would speed up the comprehension and then allow listening comprehension to likewise speed up.


I’m sorry but I think the question you ask: “At how many hours would my comprehension reach a plateau?” is not referencing a real thing. Your comprehension does not plateau based on an hour by hour figure – it will plateau based on a quotient of Known Words times Listening Practice (KW x LP). That quotient would make whatever you’re listening to either comprehensible, or not.

In your screenshot your German known words are almost at at the level of Advanced 2 and your French known words have not reached Advanced 1 yet, so comprehension quotient is gonna be different in those two languages and any activity you’ll do will give you different results.

For best results, of course it’s best to do a lot of reading and a lot of listening – and ideally, you’d want to do a lot if it simultaneously, reading and listening along until you build up enough comprehension in both.

But the thing is, if you only read, your listening comprehension will still go up, but perhaps at a different rate, and if you only listen, you will still pick up new words from context, but again at a different rate.

So, you’re comparing two different languages at two different levels pursuing different activities. Your results will not be the same.


You need to do both. Listening and learning words. Also learning words doesn’t help if you’re learning the written word without knowing what they sound like.

My 2c on this is I feel like listening and reading are two completely different things.
It’s easy to get confused on this when you are learning a language that is kinda sorta like English (French, Spanish, Italian, German etc). You get the feeling that you understand it because you can (kind of) sound the word out or make a guess what it sounds like.

BUT… it’s very different when the sounds actually hit your ears. They are not going in through your eyes.
So you need to train your ears as well as your eyes.

I dunno that’s how I think of it. Works for me more or less.