Is it worth the effort to listen to audio we don't yet understand?

I have access to many podcasts and audio series in German that are intended for natives/fluent speakers and I was wondering if it is worth listening to them even if 80% of it flies over my head.

See I can hear a lot of words and recognise the individual word meanings, yet they are spoken at lightning speed and my brain just can’t sort it out quick enough before the next sentence is thrown at me. Therefore I miss a lot of the meaning and it’s a struggle to latch on to anything.

The paradox of this is, I really enjoy listening to authentic content and can listen to it for an hour or so without getting bored. Unlike beginner/intermediate content which sometimes gets tedious.

Are my listening skills going to improve this way though or is it a waste of time that should be better spent on slower more easier to grasp content?

If you don’t get bored, do it! Steve can give you a more scientific explanation of why it helps you in learning a language. I just use the rule of thumb that anything that isn’t boring is helpful.

Yup, I’d say so long as it doesn’t bore you, or start to make you “tune out” of the language, then do it! Even not understanding most of it, you’ll get reinforcement of the stuff you do know, in different contexts; hear lots of natural filler words and common phrases that natives regularly use in linked speech. You may even hear and pick out word you’ve only seen printed before. It’s good! Though of course shouldn’t be your only method of learning : )

Check out AJATT for a lot of articles on this.


If you like listening to real authentic content and don’t get bored by it, I would say the single best thing you could do would be to get your house wired up for TV in your target languages. (Which are German and Spanish right?)

If you spend a couple of hours every evening watching TV in these languages, you should make some massive progress within a couple of months.


I can find some good streams of German tv on the net. So you think this would mimic immersion in a sense? In the sense that if I lived in Germany then I would probably be watching tv and listening to people talking all around me anyway.


What is AJATT?

You can get quite a bit of stuff online (see for example:

But you could also buy a satellite TV receiver which would let you watch loads of additional channels on your regular TV set: Serbian, Russian, German…you name it…

Yeah, I think this would be a great idea. IMO it’s the next best thing after actually living overseas.

I don’t wish to spoil the party, but in my experience this isn’t the most effective way to achieve results. I tried this with a certain French podcast (in my area of interest) a couple of years ago and would listen repeatedly to an hour’s worth of fresh material (all excellent) per week. Like you, I enjoyed the process which kept me listening, but I could only understand fragments of the podcasts and didn’t get any kind of real understanding of the material covered. Progress was slow (though tangible). Then I (re)joined LingQ and listened to the various content with text, did a lot of LingQing etc… and my listening comprehension improved rapidly. After a few months of this I went back to the podcast site and to my delight found I could understand well over 50%, whole phrases, sentences, ideas etc. and was able to finish the podcasts with a good comprehension of what was discussed. Now I can understand much more (although it does depend on the guest speakers, some are more difficult to understand than others).

I kind of agree with Jamie. I find it effective to listen to ‘live’ podcasts when I understand 50% or more. If you LingQ hard for a few months, you’ll be surprised with how quickly you reach this level.

I agree with Jamie.

And for TV: I wouldn’t recommend RTL. This programm is gruesome. On my blog you’ll find lots of helpful links to TV programms and other interesting stuff:

Here you’ll find radio and TV:

@Jamie + Peter

Not my experience guys - but each to his own

(What is fine brandy to JayB and Guitario may be rat’s piss to Jamie and Peter, I guess…)



“Balko” was the best TV police series ever made!!

Es lebe RTL!!!

Probably there are one or two series that are ok. But in general their programm is not worth to see (nor to speak about)

@ JayB : Dann doch eher “Schimanski !” or even “Großstadtrevier” … Lang lebe Dirk Matthies!

Whattt? What about ‘Derrick’? That was a great show!

We might as well mention “Kommissar Rex”, available in German and Italian.

Rat’s piss is highly sought after in some parts of Britain. They use it to flavour the beer :wink:

Seriously, I would vote for material you can listen to many times, which rules out live TV.

Helen, a slew of Germany’s best (?) “rat’s piss”?

I have never found it very effective to listen to content that I did not understand and where I did not have access to a transcript.

It’s how I learned most of my German…

(I must be wired differently, I guess…)

“(I must be wired differently, I guess…)”

By a crazed, loony leftie is my guess !