Should Beginners Focus on Listening?

I was reading “Effortless English” by A.J. Hoge and he advises beginners to focus up to 80% of their study time on listening practice. What do you think of this?
I can see why if it is a complete beginner who couldn’t even make up the sounds of the words in his head while reading, but would this make any sense past that point?

With language learning everything is so subjective and it varies according to the learner. Personally, if it were possible, I’d want to read a beginner leveltext line by line with both the target language and a language I know well next to each other with native audio too. Language is first and foremost sound so I can why many people emphasize doing a lot of listening right up front even when you can’t understand. That’s ok for a little bit if you’re multi tasking like doing chores. But if you sit down to study can you imagine limiting yourself to audio input only and not using a text? It just seems like you’re handicapping yourself for no reason.


I know there are people that have strong opinions about it but at the end, if you are able to know very well yourself, you build the way you learn languages around your needs, capabilities and situation.

If I learn a language directly living abroad like I did, I learn by constant interactions with people, few textbooks and working there. I learn faster, better and without any mental stress in this way. Now, with more knowledge, I would integrate with text+audio or text only to increase vocabulary.

If I learn at home, which is new to me and it took time to figure it out, I prefer text+audio all the time. But I might struggle with listening first, so I go with text until I increase the necessary vocabulary to put my mind at ease, and introduce the audio. Then writing and speaking as output.

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You shouldn’t completely ignore listening comprehension, but I probably agree more with Steve, that your primary goal as a beginner and lower intermediate probably should be vocabulary acquisition.

You should obviously be trying to build your listening and/or reading comprehension at the same time, but the crux of not understanding as a beginner is vocabulary. Obviously, if you are learning Ancient Greek or Latin, you don’t care one bit about listening comprehension. Whereas, some people learning some character languages don’t care much about reading comprehension. So your secondary goals may differ, but vocabulary acquisition remains the same.

A workflow, which worked well for me as an Italian beginner, was to:

  1. Read the Mini Story / beginner content and lingQ the New Words with TTS on
  2. Turn TTS off, then re-read the lesson while listening to the audio, clicking on the words you forgot the meaning
  3. Re-read while listening again clicking on forgotten words
  4. Put the audio in your playlist and re-listen to the audio while walking the dog, commuting, washing the dishes, etc. perhaps the following day
  5. Re-listen a few days later

  1. Re-listen months later

After about 15 listens, I got bored of the content and felt that the usefulness was diminishing, so I deleted the lesson from my playlist. If you do at least one new lesson per day, your playlist is plenty long, so you don’t have to worry about that.

This workflow focused on learning vocabulary, drilling them in through the multiple re-reads and re-listens, improving listening comprehension, improving reading comprehension, and intuitively increasing your understanding of grammar.

I used this workflow from a beginner until about mid-intermediate, when I changed it to focus more on solidifying the words I already knew in a much wider range of contexts (i.e. more novel content, less re-listens).