Passive listening in beginner stages

How beneficial is passive listening in the beginner stages in learning a language, I am doing a lot of passive listening and I cannot understand anything I might get the odd word now and again because my level is still too low would passive listening be more benefital when I am at a higher level? And at this moment in time just keep reading while listening and learning new words?


I don’t think passive listening is effective at all when at the lower levels. I think at higher levels when you understand what is being said but aren’t necessarily fully involved in the content it is useful because you can multitask. The only reason I would think passive listening would be remotely useful is to be able to get used to the rapid speech patterns in a new language and to hear different accents. However I still think this is better achieved with listening you can understand at least half of, plus it will help with vocabulary in context and actually helping you understand.


please define passive listening (there’s more than one definition floating around)

To me it is very important but I heard about people who learn to read not caring about how the language sounds. I agree with Wulfgar it depends a lot on what you mean by passive listening. Mistakes I recently made with japanese was not listening enough to the same thing and getting more interested by the stories than the language. I think listening 2O times to 10 episodes (25 minutes each) to be better than listening 2 times to 100 episodes. By the way 5000 minutes is very far from enough.
Remember it takes time before you understand anything and the goal is not to understand everything but to understand more and more or better and better.
If I don’t do it, I put my own sounds on the words, very bad indeed. Never being sure how the words sound slow me a lot in learning english.

I’d suggest listening to more level-appropriate material. Have you been through all the beginner stuff in the LingQ library already? What about Notes in Spanish Inspired Beginners or SpanishPod101?

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ok passive listening in the sense that you mean it is never going to get you fluent by itself at your level but neither is reading a grammar book or just talking to people if you don’t know any words to communicate like some people believe it should be done in moderation with reading and listening together lingq has some every good content for spanish

but it is not a useless activity i use it to gauge how much my listening comprehension has improved and to get my brain used to the rapid spontaneous speech of how natives speak instead of the artificially studio recorded slowed down audio courses out there

In the beginning stages, it’s more of white noise to help drown out other distractions to be honest. The only “passive” I would consider in the beginning is music (if you consider this passive, I do because it’s so little work), because often times the chorus you can at least mimic the pronunciation of the words and help get that down.

Passive listening really becomes useful once you understand the main concept/gist of what is playing. So, you studied a lot of news podcasts for Spanish, then you put the news on the background, you will zone in and out of listening to it, but you will more than likely understand it.

Read/Listen to content for the subject that you are wanting to passively listen to. I think that would be the best way to go about it and for it to be beneficial.

Depends what you mean by passive. If you mean just listening to the language with no transcript etc then yes it is - it’s good to get used to the rhythm of the language. You might even spot the same words being said over and over. For learning vocab etc it’s probably very, very limited though.

I can’t find the actual figure but to be able to parse what you hear at a native level it supposedly takes thousands of hours of concentrated listening to the language. Can’t remember the figure but it was something daft like 5000+.


Yes I agree about the thousands hours - don’t know how many thousands either. It is less with each more foreign language you have, with proximity to your best ones. I don’t think anybody here claimed that it should be our only way of learning. I think it should be our first and main method but be free to have your own opinion. My goal is not to parse the language from listening. My first goal is identifying the language each time I hear it, then understanding the general sense, then understanding more and more details. I never reach or target 100% understanding, even if I could reach that now and then, not often for sure.

I did a lot of listening right from the start: podcasts, movies, dramas, music, anything and everything. Even at the beginning it got me used to the flow and rhythm of the language. Perhaps my musical background makes that important for me to notice. YMMV

Passive listening is listening to in my case spanish audio when I am walking driving going to the shop it is basically just background noise that I am not focusing on