Is raw listening needed in order to reach high levels?

has anyone in the community had any successful listening stories just by watching/ listening stuff with target language subtitles or the transcript ?
is it really necessary to do raw listening to achieve a high level of listening ?


*maybe it’s possible without but I’ve never heard anyone do it that way.

Look, in the end you need to train your listening skills. If you are training your listening skills by keeping the subtitles on, it will work. If you are slightly or heavily focussed on the reading, it will work slowly or not at all.

if your reading is good, but your listening is bad, I agree it’s not a nice place to be in. You will need to start with clear spoken language. easy podcasts, easy audio books, before moving on to cartoons or anime or dubbed content, and then moving on to native series/movies


I’m still in the beginning phase of my learning again, I find raw listening to be enjoyable as long as there’s context on screen to pick through (I’m not really at pure listening stage yet).

But listening and TL subtitles can help you pick up the flow of the language. You can see the words as you hear them. However, depending on how the subtitles are written (whether they’re CC or DV or auto-generated etc.) with the content, this can be hard because TL subtitles can not match 1:1 to the audio you’re hearing.

If you’re not studying through LingQ with like Youtube or Netflix or whatever, you might get the gist of the speech through the subtitles, but you’ll have to be okay with stuff not matching up and that could slow down listening comprehension because you’re trying to sort out what the subtitles are saying and also what’s actually being said.

In cases like this, I use NL subtitles to refer to the meaning of the audio rather than a text version of what’s being said, but it’s hard to use them too, because I find myself drawn to them for comprehension instead of focusing on the audio - so most of the time I use TL subs or go in blind.

If you’ve got good subtitles and/or transcript it could be worth using them as an aid

The following is based on learning a closely related language to your native language. In my case, as an English native learning Spanish.

Raw listening is something you’ll naturally start doing anyway. There’s no reason to force it, IMO. Pretty much everybody (who isn’t a native) uses subs during the early stages, and even during the intermediate stages, but there comes a point where you just don’t need them anymore. You’ll know when you get to that stage.

During those early stages, ‘repeat listening’ almost acts as listening “raw.” I always used to listen raw to casual podcast conversations (about 10 minutes in length) for a first attempt, not really expecting to get much of what was said, and then I’d go through a transcript. After that, I’d listen to it on repeat, somtimes up to 10+ times without looking at the transcript.

I believe that was the single most beneficial thing I did during the first 6 months or so. I’d even say it’s the most beneficial activity I’ve done during 12 years of language learning.


I met a guy from Germany who said he learned English just by watching Scrubs with subtitles. Having said that he was probably a false beginner at the time (having had English in school but not being good at it). I watched a lot of Danish box sets before I knew about Lingq, but I needed Danish subtitles on and understood it from Swedish. Wouldn´t work with Chinese or Russian for example.

What is raw listening?


Listening without subs/text present. Like just listening to the radio.

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Before I started LingQ, I regularly listened to French podcasts and I was making what I thought was good progress. Some podcasts I understood perfectly, others were tough. After starting LingQ, I discovered that listening while reading the transcript is incredibly useful. The language became clearer, and I could get a better overview of the information presented. Clearly this process trains your brain to map between the noises you hear, and language in your head. Of course real speakers don’t articulate as per the written transcript, there’s all sorts of nonsense going on e.g. missing or shortening a vowel sound, slightly changing a consonant, eliding syllables and so on. Thus by reading while listening, we let the brain figure it all out. Without the transcript, the brain has to guess, and that takes ages.

I now do half pure listening (while driving or walking), and half listening while reading (at home). I still struggle with films, sometimes sentences pop out, sometimes it’s aural wallpaper. But to be fair, I sometimes get that with American films too, even though I am a native Brit, but it’s usually not so bad,


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