The importance of audio quality in language learning (or the problem with bad audio quality)

I have found it far easier to learn Korean than Japanese here on lingq, and I think one of the reasons is the audio quality of the beginner content. They have lots of “talk to me in korean” lessons hear which have superb, professional sounding audio quality that are really nice to listen to and helpful to spam on my iphone when I’m out and about.

Conversely, I struggled mightily with the beginner material in Japanese in part due to the less than stellar audio quality of “who is she” and the other Japanese beginner lessons; most of which seem much older than the Korean library, and lots of them are too quiet and noisy which makes it much harder to understand, even if the content is easy.

In Russian, I love listening to Echo Moscow radio lessons and benefit from lots of listening even if it’s advanced… until they do call in interviews on the phone where I can hardly understand anything they say… while I’m sure a native speaker could understand both just fine.

Needless to say, I think audio quality plays a big role in listening for beginners and Lingq should make sure that they don’t have beginner lessons with lousy audio quality.


As a beginner to the Italian language, I have found that high quality speech plays a major role in my listening comprehension. Obviously as one progresses they will be able to understand lesser quality audio but as a person who has very little exposure to how the language sounds, I find that it’s so much easier to start off with audio that has clear pronunciation with very brief pauses between each word to determine where the word begins and where it ends.

In English and Spanish, I can easily find the high quality contents here on LingQ and it’s definitly playing a big role in learning. Sometimes, I just want to listen to the VOA lessons just because I love the accent of the narrator (Rick Kleinfeld) and the high audio quality.

Even some natives or the advanced learners cannot understand a podcast with low quality.

I agree if you, the audio of some leasons they are not good.

Recentle, I found a podcast with transcripts, but I don’t use yet. I don’t know if the content is good so give it a try.

Sometimes the audio quality is too poor to take it as it is. But it is possible to use software to improve audio. It will not sound any close to professional recordings from radio. The algorythm which may improve the quality and possibility to understand the speech:

  1. normalize
  2. noise reduction (if there is too much hiss or background noise)
  3. compression
  4. reverberation

It does not mean I use all of them.
Normalization is the easiest solution to increase the loudness, but it may help if the recording was made without paying attention to the input level.
Noise is a matter of cheap equipment.
Compression is usually used in broadcasting to make the voice closer and thicker.
Slight reverberation helps to make the speech more understandable.

Unfortunately it is not possible to improve the audio automatically or without hearing the result. Of course, there is more pleasure from good audio quality. But there exist possibilities to make even bad audios a bit better.


Is there something that can be done to the Echo Moskvy recordings? They aren’t horrendous, but there is something that wears on me.

Could you provide a link?

I just find it to be true of all of them. Compared to audiobook recordings, the ones from the radio station are just tiresome. As much as I love the material in vse-tak, I find the amount I can listen too quite limited. I donèt even know what it is, whether itès compression or the mics they use.

Ress, you forgot to mention EQ. If I’m having trouble with a particular voice recording on my computer, I normally just adjust the EQ levels on my media player. It makes a substantial difference in overall sound quality.

I did not mention EQ (I wanted to mention but excluded) because it depends on:

  • equipment where you are going to edit the sound
  • equipment where you are going to listen to it
  • trained ears of the editor
  • understanding what should be corrected and how

I just wanted to give some tips for average LingQ user on how to improve poor audio or what they can do before uploading and sharing audio,

I found and opened the 1st lesson form the course Э́хо Москвы́ Pадио - ВСЕ ТАК.
They used a very strong compression rate 32kbps to decrease the MP3 file size. LingQ recommends 64kbps. According to my experience 54 kbps is the lowest rate for speech. The lower the rate the worse the audio quality. It’s no need to have 128kbps or higher for speech. But at 32kbps some frequencies are lost. I am pretty sure there exist algorythms to add them back (it will not restore the lost data but emulate it). But I have never tried such things.
You may play with EQ to make the sound a bit better for your ears but you will never get the good quality back for these files with such a low MP3 bit rate.

It seems EQ will not help. The audio has nothing above 5.5 kHz, you will not be able to EQ the absent frequencies.