Reading versus Listening

There are plenty of views regarding which of these is more or less useful depending on which level you are so far .

For me listening should be the foundation block for beginners considering that ( I know that I mentioned this in other threads ) we are able to communicate to a considerable good level before we learn to read and write.Also I read in book called ‘‘Super learning techniques’’( ‘‘Tehnici de superînvăţare’’ in Romanian ) that people remember 10% of what they read and 30% of what they listen to so I think this can help me prove my point .

Reading on the other hand , can ensure you evolve if let’s say you’re at a B1 or B2 level and you want to reach the C levels . This though doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read if you are a beginner, but I believe we shouldn’t get disappointed if you don’t get the results which you were after .

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I have been juggling beginner levels in 5 or 6 languages for the last couple months, since I’m in ‘exploration mode’ so as to decide which language I want to learn next.

I’m finding that the best way to introduce oneself to a language is to not read at all at the beginning. Polish, for example, has a latin script, but one that is quite different from the one that is used in English. I have been learning basic phrases through an audio course, and slowly introducing the written language using words that I already know. Slowly I am learning the alphabet.

I’d definetly agree with you that reading is great at the B levels and higher.


I mostly focus on listening because…

I don´t wanna read poems, I wanna understand songs.
I don´t want to read a fricken newspaper, I want to watch movies.
People in real-life don´t have subtitles…

So yeah, call me “the listener”.^^

“…people remember 10% of what they read and 30% of what they listen to so I think this can help me prove my point .”

I´m sceptical about anything called “super learning” and “listening is 3x more effective!” and stuff like that. Do you (or anyone else) know sources that back this up?

@djvlbass:Yes exactly . I mean there are so many benefits from listening that it makes it impossible to learn without it but unfortunately there are people against it.

For example I had a syntax professor last year during the second semester who said that it is wrong to learn a language from listening and she gave the example of gypsy fiddlers and how they learn songs. Her view was that the only way to learn a language was via the structure of that language.I mean who knows maybe she learned how to read when she was like 2 years old and she started reading about Chomsky’s Universal Grammar theory and other interesting things like this before she went to day care .

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I think it depends on our goals. If we are interested in reading literature, for example, we should focus on reading. If we want to learn to speak or write, we should do some reading and listening, and even study some grammar. Reading can help us analyse grammar and learn vocabulary in a way that’s more difficult to do while listening.

Reading and listening are both very important. I gain more vocabulary through reading, but I still gain a lot of vocabulary through listening, and listening also helps you pick up the rhythm and tonality of a language and improves your listening comprehension.


Not in a spirit of defiance with the opiniobns above, but I believe that the only listening at the level Beginner 1 gives almost nothing.
Yes, the children don’t read, they only listen and listen, however they have to listen 1000 times to understand and to repeat the simpliest information.
Listening without reading at the beginning is VERY DIFFICULT. You cant improve your vocabulary if you don’t understand the most of words. I remember I tried to listen French, and for the first month all French phrases were for me like one word that I couldn’t understand at all!
By reading you can stop, think, at least you can look up in the dictionary. You don’t have such opportunities by listening.
But the best solution is of course: to read and to listen the same text, and after understanding it you can listen already without reading.


“Yes, the children don’t read, they only listen and listen, however they have to listen 1000 times to understand and to repeat the simpliest information.”

Children not only have to learn the meaning of a word, they have to learn the meaning itself. They don´t learn “Hund is the German word for dog”, they learn what a dog is and associate it with the sound “Hund”.

“Listening without reading at the beginning is VERY DIFFICULT”

Don´t forget that not everyone learns a language with a familiar script. Reading a Japanese word might be even more challenging than recognizing the sound of it.

“But the best solution is of course: to read and to listen”

Indeed :slight_smile:

I don’t think the example of how children learn their first language is in any way useful for anybody learning a second language. As Paule has basically explained, children start from basically zero. They have no experience of the world, know nothing about anything, and have never learned a language before. On the other hand, as I think evgueny was saying, it takes them an extremely long time, completely immersed within the language, to learn even the basics in a language and much longer than any hard-working language learner to get to even a basic level of fluency.

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@evgueny: Don’t worry you were not out of line here. Yes I must agree that you can’t learn a language without any reading what so ever. I was just emphasizing the fact that to me listening is more important in the incipient stages in a new language because it doesn’t require as much concentration as reading and you can also do other things while listening .

Of course, listening is very important: without learning of listening you won’t be able to speak.
I only think that at the very beginning listening helps only to get accostomed to the language because at this stage you can’t separate foreign words and understand them only by listening.
However, the more you know the language, the more important and more interesting could be listening.

@evgueny: Listening is without quintessential when it comes to language learning. If I hadn’t had the chance to watch cartoons and movies made in America and listen to how natives make use of their language , I wouldn’t have had known even 10 % percent of what I succeeded to acquire so far . Language learning in schools is obsolete and I think almost everybody here can agree with me on that. Their approach which takes advantage of tons of grammar rules is without a doubt utterly useless and makes people waste their valuable time for nothing.

I strongly believe that in order to really create an environment for language learning we must exploit the use of podcasts and graded reading materials in order to build a reliable foundation which will not collapse such as in the case of the outdated methods from which you’d forget a substantial amount of information after cramming all those word lists and grammar rules for a written examination.

Francly speaking I can’t understand why you are arguing with me. I also believe that listening is very important. However, I think that listening and reading (and not listening versus reading) is even better, and this opportunity we have here in
I also believe that to concenmtrate on the ‘tonnes of grammar’ is not useful for language studying. However, I think it’s stupid to ignore the grammar at all. We have to know the basic grammar to make up phrases and not to make too many mistakes.
And I’m sorry, Madera, but I looked at your profile and I discovered surprisingly that you last 7 days have in English no reading, but also no your favourite listening and no new Lingqs!.. About what can I discuss with you???

Sorry, but I think it’s sort of a silly debate. It’s unfortunate that learning languages in a various unbalanced ways is so popular. Listen only. Listen and read only. Read only. Speak only. Maybe somebody should push a “write only” language learning plan. Might as well.


Yes, you are right. We have to use all opportunities of language learning: reading, listening, writing and speaking - this way we can obtain our goals best of all.

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@evgueny: You got me all wrong I wasn’t arguing with you , I was just expressing my own opinions and I wanted to stress the importance of listening.
Indeed there is no way to learn a language with 0 % grammar but at the same time it we mustn’t let it concern us to much.

And about my stats, I’m in my last year at university and I have my own share of reading for my English literature course so I can’t spend too much time here on Lingq. Regarding the listening and lingqs part , well for one thing I am somewhere between B2 and C1 so I don’t really need to much listening and also I have a free account so I can’t really lingq to much.

‘too’ as an adverb and not ‘to’ as a preposition in orthography: That info might come in as important to a English Lit univ student if writing is a tested subject, don’t you think?


@MADARA - “Indeed there is no way to learn a language with 0 % grammar but at the same time it we mustn’t let it concern us to much.”
That is a vague statement, so I’ll interpret it to the extreme - “don’t work on grammar in isolation”. This is an example of an unbalanced approach that is very popular.

That was cold verdad, even by my standard. Well played