I’d like to start incrementing this counter, but I’m not quite sure what I should add as “listening practice”.
My gut tells me focused listening, but then again, listening is listening as long as you’re not completely blanking out. Even if it is the latter, it might be a little hard to count your listening time accurately.
I have a premium Spotify account and I’ve built a fairly impressive list of German music over the past several months and I listen to it ALL the time. I work from home, so I listen through my headphones and while I’m at the gym for an hour or two. If I were to count this as listening, I’m sure I’d be in the several hundreds by now.
I’m just curious on other people’s opinions on this matter.
I haven’t done lots of listening there are reasons for that but they are not really important for this post, I did however listen a lot for about a 2-week period, here’s what I learnt. I don’t think it is such a big deal how you count listening time, I think it is far more important to find a system that works for you and stay consistent.
Having said that I do think from a learning perspective focused listening does triumph over just having something in the background for the sake of it. What you could do is a simplified version of what I did, I am a very ambiguous person and can get really bogged down in nit-picking about details so take this more as a template to customise.
During the two-week listening period I always had with me a small pad of paper, pencil, headphones (wireless) and a phone which I used as a clock. I would have files ranging from 10-45 minutes on my phone. Every time I started to listen to a podcast, audio book, or whatever I would look at my clock and note it down the time at the start of listening as well as when the podcast ended (*).
At first, I started to get distracted at say 5-minute mark and noticed it only 10 minutes later or something to that effect. As I continued to do this over the course of the days, the minute mark at which I got distracted increase while the minutes it took me to realise it diminished.
When ever I did get distracted, I tried to evaluate the amount of I was zoned out, and detract that time from my listening time. As the days went by, I got better at this as well.
- You might wonder why not just write down the name of podcasts and sum up the length of time at the end of the day. That might be a easier way of doing it but I prefer the liberty of jumping from one podcast to the other or between languages if I get bored.
A small addendum, I would not add time listening to music lists on spotfy or other music providing service. I don’t have a really have fancy reasoning. In essence, I believe that if you are beyond the absolute beginner stage, the time would be best spent at content that are longer in length and which is more unfamiliar in the sense that you listen to it for the first few times.
For me there is a clear difference between “hearing” and “listening”. What I consider as listening practice is definitely focused, active listening. I listen to a lot of podcasts and stuff and if they have an accompanying transcript, then even better! I usually listen once to get a feel for the audio, see how much I can understand without reading. Then when there’s something I don’t understand I just make a quick mental note. Then I go back and listen with the transcript. For me this latter stage is CRUCIAL for learning a language, not only because it helps my oral comprehension, but because it also helps my pronunciation (knowing how a word is written and how it’s spelt).
Plus I’m quite a visual learner so seeing the words written down helps me retain vocabulary much better. I don’t really agree with just listening passively as the only method for improving your oral comprehension skills because language learning is not a process of osmosis, we don’t just absorb language passively anymore like how we did as babies. I know so many students who come to me very frustrated saying things like “I tried to watch this movie in English but I got so lost that I ended up just giving up after the first thirty minutes”. I always recommend watching movies with subtitles for my less advanced students, because if not they are just faced with a confusing wall of sound that’s impossible to break through and they lose motivation fast.
It also depends on your level. For instance, I now speak Spanish fluently so I don’t need to read and listen at the same time because I understand everything they say, maybe there are some words that I don’t recognize but I’m at the level where I can register them and pick them out from the rest of the dialogue. Someone with an A-B1 level won’t be able to do that very that well so having a visual aid to boosting their comprehension can be a very effective and powerful tool. And also picking out level appropriate material is very important; there’s no use just switching on the radio and trying to absorb another language if your level is very low because you won’t gain much (if anything) from doing that.
In my opinion, the methods of listening ranked from most intense / impactful / hardest to less intense / easiest are ranked as follows:
- Audiobooks – requires both high vocab, and attention to the material to follow the story
- Films / TV shows with no subtitles – they’re harder than books, but technically less impactful for vocab building
- Specialty subject podcasts – TED talks, etc.
- News / Talking Heads Political Podcasts – usually these are the best first, native level contents to get into – you can loose thread of a conversation and grasp it again later, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just chatting.
- Repeated Listening of Beginning / Intermediate Language lessons – Assimil etc.
- Music / Songs in target language
- Audiobooks while reading along the text – by far the best way to build vocab and comprehension
- Language Courses with Audio and Text
- Films / TV shows with active study of ripped subtitles on LingQ – w/ optional Audio Description
- Films / TV shows just with watching subtitles on the screen
I have 740+ hours of Spanish listening time logged on LingQ. The bulk of that is TV show episodes I watched on NetFlix. It also includes audio books, talk shows, news broadcasts, lectures, and documentaries. It definitely does NOT include music. Like regular (American) music, there is too much slang, too little clear enunciation, too much background noise. It is music after all, so the focus is on the melody, not the speech. There are people who say they learn with music, and even encourage it. Susanna Zaraysky of “Language is Music” fame is a very successful polyglot, and relates the benefits of this approach, but I personally have never been able to utilize music for anything other than a reward or as motivation to get me in the “Spanish Zone.” Just like when I watch movies like Sicario. T
o your original question, I essentially record as listening hours any content where I’m going to make a conscience effort to listen. It’s okay to do other things (even Master Steve does the dishes and exercises) while listening, but he doesn’t zone out or just have it on in the background.
I’m super strict when I count my listening time.
I only count comprehensible listening. This doesn’t mean I have to understand everything im listening to. I don’t even have to understand 70% of what im listening to, in order to count it. But as along as I went through all of the words on LingQ and know what they are talking about. Thats good enough for me. Because now, I at least have the potential to understand what im hearing.
I only count listening when I am fully focused. Often I will go on an Hour long walk, and listen the entire time. But I sometimes find myself day dreaming. So I just take a little mental note, of how long I wasn’t paying attention, and factor it in at the end of the walk. so instead of 1 hours of listening time, I would only count it as maybe 50 or 45 Min of listening time, depending on how much I was focused on the audio and not distracted.
Music listening has been valuable to my language learning in different ways than other types of content and I would say that it does have some value beyond beginner levels. Maybe it should still be counted separately so that you can see your focused listening etc. + music as a bonus.
Personally I think that counting anything like this accurately is too much work. Instead I try to make language learning a natural part of my day and not worry about how much time I spend on it.
What are your reasons for tracking listening/study time?
There isn’t any particular reason for tracking listening, other than just seeing how others here on Lingq define it.
I read a ridiculous amount every day, my native tongue and German. By doing so, I come across many opinions about what is good, what is not, what should be counted, what shouldn’t be, etc. In the end, it seems like I’m hearing a bunch of talking heads splitting hairs about what is effective or not.
In my opinion, language practice is language practice whether it be passive or active.
I mean, think about when you were a kid growing up, how much of your language acquisition was active? Quite a bit was passive, but your brain was still constantly being bathed in your native tongue…and it helped, a lot!
I’m a big music lover, always have been, so I figured this would be a great way to learn German. I have to say that it has been really effective and the German language isn’t “noise” anymore. I owe a big part of my comprehension to listening 100’s of hours of music the last several months!