Reading while listening?

How do you go about listening to something you have a transcript for? Do you listen as you read or you are just listening and trying to pick up as much as you can?

I have the feeling that listening to something while reading a transcript of it is not a viable strategy, but I want to see how people go about it.

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Peter would love this. :smiley:

In these previous 2 recent threads you can read quite a lot about the opposite: in this case ultrareading.

In any case, LingQ is based, I believe, exactly on reading and listening while reading.

Me personally, I’ve been learning to mix the two for now and improve my method. But definitely listening and reading at the same time is worth it.

Like a lot of things, the more you do it better you learn on how to take the best from it.


I think it depends on your level.
When you do not understand much is better to read a sentence first and check the words you do not know. Then you can play the audio while you reread the same sentence.
After doing that for a long time, you get to a point where you do not need to check the words anymore.
It improves your reading and listening comprehension at the same time.

Thanks for your response.

I am usually reading a text and then listening to the audio of it. What I want to know is whether listening to a text and reading that text at the same time is a good strategy.

Suppose I am listening and reading at the same time. Will I get to a point when I won’t need to read the text any more and listening will suffice? Has that been your experience?


I’m working on it so I’m not sure what’s the best answer. For me listening is a weak point so I’m trying to experiment now with this “ultrareading” method to reinforce it and at the same time learning everything I can from it. But I dedicate only 2 slots “Pomodoro” per day. And not at faster speed but at regular 1x speed.

The rest of the time I use it for reading only. Sometimes writing or other stuff.

Reading before and listening afterwards is something that I don’t like much, not even at beginner 1. I’ve also used Assimil and never liked it so I guess it’s not my thing.

Listening before and reading afterwards is for me useful as I can reinforce the words I missed. But only at advanced level.

Surely others can have better answers as they experiment reading+listening for longer time than me. But if I think it’s worth trying in the right way for a long period of time to understand if it’s useful. I think it is but at the moment not sure about saying what’s the best strategy overall.

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If I’m starting, I like having my transcript ready to check any new words or things I couldn’t pick up (because of accent, speed, etc).

For example, I’ve been watching Italian series all year. At first, I always had the subtitles on, then I stopped at at point where I could understand most of it, but I would keep turning the subtitles on/off to check some words or expressions.

Now I simply don’t do it. If I’m watching something and I find a new word, I simply try to guess the meaning (like I would do in L1), or don’t bother and keep watching.

What I mean is … do what suits you best.

I’ve always felt it beneficial, particularly early on but even at my current level. For one thing it is very helpful to see and hear the words to both learn the proper pronunciation as well as to start to associate the words to their pronunciation. It’ll help to recognize the words better when you just listen.


Peter would love this. :smiley:
Davide, your ability to read my mind is amazing :slight_smile:

Davide is right: The more you get used to it, the easier it gets.
I´ve practiced “reading-while-listening” with many languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Dutch, and Esperanto) in my own language learning journeys for thousands of hours, and it has always worked.

But you don´t have to follow the “ultrareading-while-listening” approach right now if that´s too “fast-paced” for you. Instead, you could just play around with the audio speed. So if 1.0x is too fast for you then simply try 0.9x, for instance.

Or try the strategy that @herrm suggested:
“read a sentence first and check the words you do not know. Then you can play the audio while you reread the same sentence.”
And I´d like add: then listen to the sentence or the whole text again without reading.
This 3-step-method (i.e. read, read-and-listen, listen one or more times) is also an excellent strategy!

In sum, “reading while listening” is definitely helpful because it improves your

  • listening and reading comprehension (esp. with higher audio speeds!)
  • intonation and pronunciation patterns
  • focused attention by reducing distractions

Apart from that, it´s very time-efficient, esp. when using an ultrareading(-while-listening) approach.

Have a nice weekend


“Will I get to a point when I won’t need to read the text any more and listening will suffice?”
That´s usually the case when you reach a B2-C1 or C1 level (and upwards) because your (passive) vocabulary is large enough, etc.

And the “ultra-reading-while-listening” approach is designed to speed up this listening and reading comprehension process so that a C1 level can be reached very quickly…

However, this doesn´t work at the beginning stages A1, A2 or A2-B1. Here, a more slow-paced approach (audio speed: 0.9x or 1.0x) is the more effective strategy…

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For me, I prefer listening to the audio first to see what I can understand. I then read the transcript to get a better understanding of each sentence and I take a look at the sentence structure and grammar. If there were a lot of words I had not recognised during at first, I listen to the audio a second time after the reading.

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In the past, I practiced this approach of listening first (without reading) excessively, esp. with Japanese. But I´m no longer convinced that it´s a very efficient strategy:

  • For example, I just didn’t (and still don’t) understand enough at the beginning levels A1 and A2 in Japanese. In other words, most sentences were / are meaningless but melodic noise.
  • At the B1-B2 levels, I´d say ultrareading-while-listening (and then re-listening one or more times afterwards) is the more efficient approach.
  • And at the advanced levels (C1/C2/native-like), it doesn´t matter any more because advanced learners can do whatever they want: reading-alone, listening-alone or (ultra-)reading-while-listening, etc…

Maybe it’s different with languages closer to my L1 and the L2s I already know, esp. at the intermediate levels, because guessing is still mental training :slight_smile:

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I think it can work, even at the beginners level, but only with short text. I especially like listening to dialogues because you usually get the same structure that you get used to and then you can focus on recognising the words in between. Also, it is often questions and answers which I think are a very good practice. Of course, it doesn’t work as well for podcast or monologues. Still, its interesting, without knowing the vocabulary, to see how much of the content I could figure out ^^

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When I read the text before reading, I feel less focussed on what I am listening because I already know the content. That is why I prefere listening to it first. I also wait a few days before listening to it again, otherwise I feel like I understand some parts when I don’t necessarily recognise the words but rather remember the translation from earlier.
I also don’t read and listen at the same time because my reading spead is usually not as fast as the audio (especially when it is in a different alphabet).

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“its interesting, without knowing the vocabulary, to see how much of the content I could figure out”
I agree - it’s definitely a good exercise for the mind!

However, I´d say at the beginning stages it really depends on the distance of the second language to be acquired to one´s native language or other second languages that are well known. For example:

  • Dutch : listening first? No problem for me as a native speaker of German.
  • Portuguese: listening first? No problem, because there are many similarities with Spanish (which I know well).
  • Japanese: listening first? Huge problem. However, I must have listened between 600 and 700 hours now, so this problem is no longer the monster it used to be :slight_smile:
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“because my reading spead is usually not as fast as the audio”
That´s exactly what should be trained :slight_smile:
Or to be more precise, the goal is to increase both the audio and the reading speed in language acquisition!

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