"I can understand podcasts made for natives, but when it comes to a TV series, I barely understand anything."

“I can understand podcasts made for natives, but when it comes to a TV series, I barely understand anything.”


Umm, then, listen to podcasts?

Depending on the type of podcast, the podcasts may have a speaker who is speaking slower, clearer, reading from a script of sorts.

The TV series is going to often feature a lot of “normal” conversation. i.e. fast, not clear, words being abbreviated, more colloquialisms, stutters, stopping and starting of thoughts midway.

Some podcasts are more conversational and have more aspects like TV series, but may still revolve around the same topic for awhile so you’re able to understand a lot through repeated vocabulary.

To understand real native conversations, you’ll just have to start listening to these conversational pieces and get used to that. It’s quite different.


Advice I got back when I was in that place, which helped me tremendously:

  1. Start with dubbed cartoons/anime. Only 1 person speaks at a time in cartoons, there is very limited other sound when someone is speaking. Voices are clear as it’s just voice actors speaking into a microphone. When this is easy to do, go to step 2.
  2. Watch 80% of actual TV shows with subtitles, and 20% without. Try to focus on the sounds and read the subtitles after you have heard the sound. Start decreasing the subtitles as you feel more and more comfortable 70%-30% → 60%-40% etc…
  3. Until you reach 100% native without subs. Some shows may still be difficult to understand. That just means you need more listening exposure, so just continue with shows you do understand for the most part. You can use things like Lingq or language reactor for targeted listening practice at this stage as well.

As always, the more hours put in, the quicker results will be visible.


I’ve found this - and started watching futurama with the french dub (and english subtitles). I love the show so already sort of know what’s going on, which really helps.

I have this problem with films in French. I have started to use Lingq for French, listening to a more difficult podcast, then reading the text, and finally listening while reading. I have found that this helps me with the comprehension of films. As others have said, find TV with subtitles in the target language, watch the TV while reading the subtitles. Then try it without. I find that rather than doing this over and over again with one film (or TV show), it’s best to move onto something else, then a week or more later, return to the film (TV show) and repeat the process.

I’ve tried just watching a film over and over again but it doesn’t work. The brain is an amazing pattern recognition system, but it needs priming with example speech and the matching text, It’s a bit like an artificial neural network which requires a learning phase with example inputs and outputs.

I know a great carton,hes name is maruko chan,its perfect

  1. Increase your reading dose on LingQ. Try reading contemporary novels which offer modern language, idiomatic expressions, slang etc

  2. In parallel,watch dubbed shows that you have already watched in English or native language. For example, I watched Prison Break and Homeland TV shows in English. They were dubbed in German so when I was learning it from scratch. I watched these shows and I only focused on hearing the German language since I was already familiar with storyline.

  3. They can be used as a springboard then you need to watch TV shows that are meant for natives and watch them in original. That’s how it is. Get used to the native speed.

  4. Watch them daily. Consistency is key.

1 Like

Thanks. I am a recent user of Lingq and I am surprised how effective it is compared to just listening to podcasts. Obviously while driving I cannot use Lingq, I usually listen to podcasts. I would like to read contemporary French novels but I have no idea which to get. In general I loathe novels in English, but adore non fiction.

If someone has ideas for French novels to read, which will teach day to day language, and which are not ‘deep’ or ‘philosophical’, please let me know.

Not all TV series are equal, so maybe you just tried with ones that are too hard for you at this stage in your learning. I know that I can almost fully understand some and yet barely catch whole sentences in others. Sometimes I can get everything a certain character says, but next to nothing with another character.

Look for something simpler, like a soap opera, or even a show aimed at early teens. If they’re too boring for you, or even still too tough, then I’d recommend dubbed shows. Something like Game of Thrones was surprisingly easy to me when I thought it would be really hard, same with Breaking Bad. You might surprise yourself.

But yeah, native shows with more complex themes/language (especially those with lots of slang) will take a VERY long time to understand with any degree of comfort.



Well, we’ve had a rocky start, you and I, but I’ll throw in a novel which is working for me: Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” (“Le soleil se lève aussi”) in French.

After slogging through the first Harry Potter in French, I wanted something more adult and I know Hemingway, so I went for his first novel. “Sun” is not contemporary and it’s not French, though parts of the novel are in Paris, but I was surprised how refreshing and accessible it is. I find it easier to read than Harry Potter.

One may not care for Hemingway’s persona, but he does write clear direct prose and clear direct dialog. The novel is almost a century old, so there is some dated language, but it is basically about personal interactions, relationship problems and partying. The sentences are short to medium length without being childish.

Just a thought.

1 Like

I’d look for crime novels on babelio (the french goodreads)

1 Like

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve listened to about 650 hours of my target language, and at this point my average listening comprehension on a TV series looks like this on the first listen, with no subtitles:

Can I follow the story accurately? Yes, 100% of the time.
How much of the language do I understand at the sentence level? ~50%
What percent of the program do I parse at the word-by-word level? ~25%

Bear in mind that my comprehension issues are entirely due to challenges with listening comprehension, and not vocabulary problems. If I turn on subtitles or have a whisper transcript my comprehension on the first listen - no rewinding or relistening - jumps to:

How much of the language do I understand at the sentence level? ~95%
What percent of the program do I parse at the word-by-word level? ~85%

The lesson I drew from my first year of study was that I did not listen enough. Based on my progress, anecdotes from other language learners who have reached truly advanced levels, and the “scientific literature”, my expectations are that I will need to log at least 2,000 hours of listening to reach my goals. And until I hit my goals I don’t think I can rule out that I may need even more listening than that.

In my first year I only listened 500 hours. In my second year I am targeting 1,000 hours of listening.

So lace up your running shoes. This is a marathon.


No “bad” news here, it’s just called a realistic expectation -
at least if we’re talking about advanced levels in this context.
In short, it has always been a marathon - even for native speakers.

Unfortunately, the SLA industry sets the wrong tone by pretending
that language learning is super-fast, super-fun, super-easy, blah blah blah.
And that’s one of the reasons why the dropout rate for online language learning
seems to be around 90 percent.

That said:
How many hours have you listened to VT vids / podcasts with multiple native speakers
and TV series in Italian?

In other words, you get good at what you train for:
That is, listening to podcasts for language learners or audiobooks where there is only one speaker with a slow, good and clear pronunciation won’t help you much in understanding fast-paced dialogues with multiple native speakers whose pronunciation is sloppy / unclear, full of informal speech / slang, etc.

In general, quantity is a quality in itself when it comes to SLA. However, if you pick the wrong audio material (e.g. audiobooks with a narrator), then it’s to be expected that you will struggle with TV series…

By the way, that’s even true for the selected TV series:
So, if learrners want to become good at everyday speech, then it doesn’t make sense to focus on hobbits, dwarves, dragons, etc. … most learners I’ve met in my life don’t understand this :slight_smile:


My go-to (thriller) guy in French was / is: Jean-Christophe Grangé (Jean-Christophe Grangé — Wikipédia).

  • You could start with the “Crimson Rivers” (Les Rivières Pourpres: book + audiobook), see the list of novels below.
  • By the way, there is also a nice TV series of the same name: The Crimson Rivers (TV series) - Wikipedia


inspiré par le reportage Voyages d’automne qui traite du suivi par satellite de la migration des cigognes. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 6 janvier 1999 (ISBN 2-253-17057-7)

Adapté au cinéma en septembre 2000. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 7 février 2001 (ISBN 2-253-17167-0)

Adapté au cinéma en novembre 2006. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 13 février 2002 (ISBN 2-253-17216-2)

Adapté au cinéma en avril 2005. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 22 juin 2005 (ISBN 2-253-11393-X)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 7 juin 2006 (ISBN 2-253-11659-9)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 1er février 2009 (ISBN 2-253-12708-6)

Adapté au cinéma en juin 2013. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 5 mai 2010 (ISBN 2-253-12847-3)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 4 mai 2011 (ISBN 978-2-253-15848-6)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 2 mai 2013 (ISBN 978-2-253-17573-5)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 26 février 2014 (ISBN 978-2-253-17916-0)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 3 mai 2017 (ISBN 978-2-253-09246-9)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 2 novembre 2017 (ISBN 978-2-253-04474-1)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 29 mai 2019 (ISBN 978-2-253-25993-0)

Roman inspiré de l’une des enquêtes de la première saison de la série Les Rivières pourpres. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 27 mai 2020 (ISBN 978-2-253-24152-2)

Roman inspiré de l’une des enquêtes de la première saison de la série Les Rivières pourpres. Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 5 mai 2021 (ISBN 978-2-253-07946-0)

Paru chez Le Livre de poche le 1er février 2023 (ISBN 978-2-253-19554-2)

3 mai 2023

Apart from this, see also:

PS -
If the books were published pre-2023, you should still be able to remove the DRM from Kindle books using Calibre + the DeDRM plugin. So you can buy them from Amazon.


Oh yeah, definitely. That was a “rhetorical collocation,” but we shouldn’t passively accept the negative framing.

I would estimate that no more than ~15% of my listening in year one was that sort of listening. This is why I made some changes to my listening comprehension plan for this year. Right now:

  1. Passive listening is mostly talk radio, interview/panel television, and re-listening to TV programs I have already studied (i.e. L+R-ed) at least once. When I do listen to audiobooks, I have been listening at 1.5x speed, so that I least I am challenging myself in some way.

  2. My goal for the year is to study 200 hours of television programming. Since “studying” means that I am listening 2 - 4x to each item that means that about 60% of the material I listen to will be in this domain.


According to your LingQ stats for the last year, you’ve been listening for 523.73 hours. However, I don’t know if these are your overall listening hours.

Be that as it may:
If we use a little math here, then 15 percent of those 523.73 h amounts to ca. 79 h watching TV.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that this figure is correct. Then that is far too little if you want to watch TV without any problems.

If we’re talking about an advanced level in this context (C1 and above), it’s probably better to aim for ca. 500-1000 h (TV / streaming series, YT vids / podcasts with multiple speakers talking about everyday topics - and I don’t mean scientific, political, etc. discussions here, but everyday stuff with a lot of informal speech, slang / jargon, contractions, etc.).


Yup, that’s about right for an estimate, and I realized at my year-end review that was why my skills were lopsided in the way they are. Generally I have a hard time finding TV shows and podcasts that are interesting enough and so I am pretty good at listening to documentary films and university lectures - meaning I can enjoy them without assistance from a text - but less good at an everyday register. But I’ve bitten the bullet and am focusing on that material this year.

By the end of the year I will be in the 500-1000 hour range for this domain and then I will back in Italy, all things being equal, to take another crack at using the language in an everyday context.

EDIT: Actually, in regards to the OP’s question, this is good context. Obviously some of the ~400 hours I did listening to non-TV shows will translate to TV shows, but the domain specific qualification is important. That said, probably the first 250 hours or so were done to more learner-directed podcasts, which might not be that abnormal for anyone. People generally aren’t going to start listening to TV shows from day 01.


how are you still seeing people’s stats in this new forum layout? I didn’t know it was still accessible

It’s a little annoying that you can’t click directly on a user profile in the forum and be taken to their profile on the Lingq site, but generally people use the same usernames, so you just have to search them in the Community section on the main site.