So, some time passes, I complete my beginner course, I learn to speak a little and make myself understood...but then I run into a brick wall with my listening comprehension.
People still speak as fast as ever, and however much I study, I can simply never keep up.
When conversations are slowed down, I can often get the gist of what they’re saying...but you can’t slow things down in real life!
I don’t want to have to ask people to repeat 20 times, and I get tired of having this dumbfounded look on my face where all I hear is sounds, or individual words, but the overall meaning is lost on me
It’s no fun!
The worst part? Listening never seems to get any easier!
The cloud takes a very long time to lift… if it ever lifts at all… and it can be thoroughly depressing, as an ambitious language learner to always struggle to understand.
Can you relate to this?
It happens to all of us!
The question is what to do about it.
After all, you’ve outgrown your beginner’s textbooks, but as you’ve already discovered, real people don’t speak anything like your textbook, so you’ve got a problem.
When you ask people for advice, especially native speakers of the language, they tell you:
• You should watch movies or TV
• You should listen to the radio
• You should download podcasts
Look… I’m just going to say it… this is terrible advice!
I’ll go even further… it’s harmful advice!
But it took me a long time to accept this. You see, I’ve always wanted to be able to watch movies and listen to the radio in my languages.
Of course I have!
But as a learner, whenever I tried to watch this "native-level" material, I’d be so overwhelmed by the speed of the conversations, new words, unfamiliar accents, slang expressions and difficult topics that I’d feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and borderline depressed at the fact I couldn’t keep up.
What’s more, even if I could find something interesting to listen to, it never had any of the supporting material I would need to actually make good use of it… such as a transcript so I could read the words that were being spoken.
Eventually I realised the problem, and it lies in an important concept in language learning theory called “Comprehensible Input”.