Do you think Audiobooks (without text) are really Effective?
I think it depends on how well can we do without text. Also, some people prefer listening over reading. In addition, it can be the content. If it is interesting or engaging, then it is possible to do it without text or can do with text. I think it depends on where we are, in terms of fluency as well as preference and content.
I believe that it is very effective, but only if you know a majority/are learning a majority of the words. When you are learning new words you might forget them quickly, but if the words are re-introduced you remember them quickly. The more often those words are re-introduced to your brain the quicker you will retain them long term. Audio books will allow you to go through many more words than a tv show would. For example, there are no awkward pauses, blank stares, no dead space between scenes. Another point is that you will experience many more words, mainly descriptive words, through audio books. I'm not saying I think you can learn solely on audio books, but it will defiantly help as long as you know a large portion of the content. Just pick your level and go with that.
Kids learning their first language versus educated adult language hobbyists learning an L2 are an apples and oranges comparison.
Kids aren't in a language lab 24/7, even though it's often quoted that they are. They're picking up the language because they have people interacting with them in simplified language they can understand. My pediatrician told me the average (not advanced) young child uses sentences equivalent to their age, i.e. a one-year old utters single words, a two-year old mostly two word sentences, a three-year old three word sentences....And of course, the goal is to stretch that...adding to the two-year-old's sentences to make 3, 4, or even 5 word sentences to get them to progress even faster. Soon, they're also picking up on the random noise around them, but it won't happen without the sympathetic communicator who got the ball rolling up front.
As for L2 learners., I've heard anecdotal claims that 30% plus listening comprehensibility is the minimum for immersion without wasting your time. The trouble is, it's very unscientific because a lot of language hobbyists are perfectionists. My guess would be that there are many folks who are understanding 50 or 60% of what they're listening to and calling that 30% because it feels unsatisfying to them. Calling something 30% will vary greatly depending on the subject (the person), so it's unreliable. The experienced language learner needs to go by feel.
Listening to noise isn't very helpful. Listening (L2) Reading (L1) makes the language comprehensible.
And, no, an adult doesn't have to go through baby steps and take years to re-learn shapes, colors, and go through kindergarten., etc.
I know absolutely no Korean. Take a newborn born to Korean parents and take away all my responsibilities except to learn Korean. Pick your time period.. 4 years, 5, 6, 7, 8 years. I would destroy that child in vocabulary size and creativity in using Korean. Even if I had the worst possible luck and the child ended up being a national prodigy ready to enroll in college at age 12, I'd still be destroying his skill in the wonder years before that. It just isn't a fair comparison. I'd be having adult conversations about politics and philosophy already at the 6 or 8 month point, albeit making a fair number of mistakes, but I'd be amazing after a few years, again, with no other responsibilities like raising my own kids, working, paying bills, shopping for food, maintaining the house and cars.
Give me a place to live and food and no responsibilities, and I'm dominating any language on the same timeline as any native newborn.
Atleast someone is trying to make sense. Infact adults have a competitive advantage in the sense that their cognitive ability has already developed and can understand much more complex topics at 6-8 month point. I was in the USA visiting my nephew. He is 13 years old. His mother tongue is English. I was reading his writing. What he produced was not earth shattering at all but if you give the same 13 years to an adult and on top of this a place to live, food and no responsibilities. Their output will be far superior.
I have been listening intensively everyday hours and hours like a child does - I have built a strong sound system in German in my head that my subconscious is already doing “sound check” automatically. I am in my thirties.It goes to show that adults approach the language wrongly through grammar studying and reading extensively without prior to building a good sound system. First, listen 2000-3000 hours of listening actively and check whether your subsconscious mind has the ability to decode noise and convert it into words.. In 13 months, I have already done 1600 hours of active listening. Im understanding a lot now and noise is sounding like clear cut indvidual words. My goal is to reach 3000 hours of listening by the end of this year and see what happens. Yesterday the nurse talked to me in full fledged German for 5 minutes. Not once I said wie bitte./I beg your pardon. My subconscious mind doing this “sound check” assures me that we never lose the ability of hearing the sound of our TL correctly. It is just that we do a lot of conscious study to never activate our subconscious ability.
I may be wrong or right with my assumption/assessment but I am having very different sort of experiences with heavy listening approach.
I've never said "Wie bitte" while visiting Germany either. But I've said "Was?, "Noch einmal", and "Nicht so schnell, langsamer".
In all seriousness, I think the clarity (from the experts) is lacking on what constitutes comprehensible input.
I met a lady who took French for several years in school, and like most western students, she didn't actually learn to speak the language fluently at the time. She mostly learned a bunch of vocabulary & grammar and did whatever she needed to do to get A's every year.
She told me she now believes in listening to incomprehensible input because she said she got fluent from listening to French while "not understanding anything".
First, there's no way she wasn't understanding anything given her studious background and attention to detail. But, also, she technically was telling the truth because it's a glass half full/ glass half empty kind of thing,. One person might call it a victory comprehending 75-80% during listening, but someone else might call it incomprehensible input. And in some ways the pessimist is correct because they ARE listening to incomprehensible input 20-25% of the time.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who have heard that incomprehensible input works, and they actually are listening to incomprehensible input and wasting their time.
Here's an example:
1. Someone listens to Jack and the Beanstalk in Japanese and hears the words "Jack", "Giant", "beanstalk", and "magic bean". Almost nothing else makes sense. This is a waste of time.
2. Someone else hears that the old cow is traded for magic beans, the beanstalk grows, and Jack makes several trips to steal a bag of gold, a golden egg laying hen, and a golden harp. They can hear that general framework while listening but they have zero granularity beyond that summary. During the minute-and-a-half golden harp sequence, they say to themselves, this sounds like the part where he wants to take the harp, but they don't know what's going on beyond that. This listening is still no good in my book.
3. Another person picks up all that PLUS the harp knows how to play itself, the giant goes to sleep, Jack tries to grab the harp while the giant is sleeping but is surprised that the harp knows how to shout out and wake up its owner. But, several of the adjectives are hazy and missed and other pieces of sentences (or even complete sentences) aren't clear and are missed. This is where you want to be in terms of listening to i+1 comprehensible input. Or, somewhere between #2 and #3, but closer to #3.
I find them to be roughly comparable in enjoyment, really. Books allow me to sit down and carve out time to do something that is just reading, and I get to play out the narrative in my head. Characters get their own special voices and it's quite pleasurable.
Audiobooks, especially ones done by a very skilled reader, are marvelous in their own way. They can still be completely immersive, and a good narrator will build different voices for each character to ensure that they're distinct. Examples for me are Sherlock Holmes (Stephen Frye narrating), the Expanse series (Jefferson Mays is a goddamned treasure), Altered Carbon (Todd McLaren), and The Unincorporated Man (also Todd McLaren).
The other main advantage to audiobooks for me is the exact opposite of why I enjoy reading books - I can listen to one while doing fairly manual tasks (like the dishes, laundry, cooking, or repairing appliances) and still get immersed in the tale. Plus, driving. I can listen pretty attentively to an audiobook while in the car without losing focus on the road itself. I have "read" more books through audiobooks than I have by sitting down to read for about the past year. I still have a massive collection of books and love reading them, but I often don't have a lot of time to allocate to it.
Listening to audiobooks helps with listening comprehension, pronunciation, motivation, and learning some new words or phrases in context (when you already understanding nearly everything else).
Audio is not helpful if you don't understand what you're listening to. Then it's just oganized noise. You'll need to import the text into LingQ to learn what the words mean.
I have a question if you do not mind answering it.
How come we can learn to decode and understand our native language just through listening? I do not remember reading books in my native language yet I am very fluent to discuss whatever needs to be discussed under the sun. I used to watch movies and the most important slang/informal words were repeated many times in the plot so, with enough contextual clues, my subconscious mind was able to decode the meanings of such informal words.
I just did listening and watching without using a dictionary or a LingQ system. for learning my native language why it should be different for learning a second language?
You can do that again if you can find a pair of erstatz parents in your target language, who will talk to you constantly in simplified language. After a couple of years you will know all the colours and the words for circle and triangle and that the dog goes whoof and so on. Than you could try to continue to simulate the development of a normal child by finding a nice kindergarten and later an elementary school but you might stick out due to the age difference. But at this part even the children start reading in school.
So in short children do not decode the language simply by listening. They have several years of extremely close relationships with parents who repeat, gesticulate, create clear situations for the child to understand with single new words and concepts being slowly introduced over the span of years. And later in the childs development literacy will bring about a giant boost in their language abilities. Also in your native language you can most likely recognize a difference between regular readers and non readers.
Audiobook in a foreign language is very much comprehensible if you get a translation in your native language/your best language. Just looking at the translation text alone will make the audio comprehensible. Do not even read it just following along- all of a sudden foreign sounds/words start making sense. Thoughts > words.
This answer by ramonek is probably better than I could have come up. For brevity and not to repeat too much of it, I can summarize here and refer back to ramonek's post for detail. In short:
1. Native babies and children are 100% surrounded by, and foused on their learning with parents, schools, family completely devoted to these efforts.
2. Kids read A LOT of progressively harder material in school in their native language.
3. It takes these children 5,6,7 and more years, ie their entire lives, to get to a little kid's level of learning, which isn't so great.
4. You said you "do not remember reading books in my native language yet I am very fluent to discuss whatever needs to be discussed under the sun." No offense, but either your memory or your fluency isn't as good as you think. Most people read a lot over the course of their lives in school, on the internet, books, etc. If they don't, it shows.
Long time. I do not even remember what I ate last night ;)
Same here. I actually remember reading a great deal in school even on my own time, but I don’t remember actually learning to read ever. I only remember the very first day in first grade. I remember plenty of things that happened before I even started learning.
The answer to this is obvious to me, despite me not being a linguist or psychologist or anything like that. When children grow up, they learn words and later the meaning of phrases and sentences through context. A parent will say "fell" when the kid drops something, they´ll say something like "open up" when they spoon feed an infant, while opening their own mouth to get the child to mimic. You can even try learning languages in a similar way to how a toddler does it by using Rosetta Stone and opting not to show text. It will then just show you pictures and let you listen to phrases, where you have to select the correct picture, described by the phrase, right after you hear it. They then give you a signal not note whether you picked the correct one. If you keep doing this over and over, you´ll eventually learn quite a bit.
When you listen to an audiobook, on it´s own, you have nothing but talk. It is completely useless if you don´t know anything in that language. It can be very useful if you have a decent knowledge of the language already or a good knowledge of a very similar language.
It’s definitely beneficial for language acquisition but not easy to quantify.
I re-listened to a chapter I downloaded last night about a group of people getting ready for a trip. Last night I heard they all had to bring some of the group gear along with their personal stuff. Today, I heard 選んで, so I picked up that extra granularity of meaning between taking and choosing/taking something.
That’s all I remember differently this time listening, but that probably doesn’t mean it’s all the benefit I received. It’s just the only thing I consciously recognized as an improvement to my understanding of the chapter.
I indeed think they are! You not always have the possibility to follow the text. You can just put on your earphones and listen to some audiobook or podcast just for listening a target language. You don't have to understand everything. You just remember the phrases, constructions which later you'll recognize easier from context.
I think that only audiobook is not enough for me. I usually cannot understand what I am listening to. So I prefer the Whispersync for Voice of Audible (). That helps me a lot.
Whispersync could be very useful. Unfortunately for international people it's a mess and can't be used.
I have US Audible because I used to read more American books but I have an Amazon Italian account. Whispersync works only if you buy ebooks from Amazon.com and Audible.com. But you can't buy ebooks on Amazon.com if you are in another country. And Audible.com doesn't work with whyspersync if you buy ebooks from other Amazon other that .com.
It's a nosense policy for people that study languages!
It is a trillion dollar company and people who actually buy kindle books can't even copy texts from amazon cloud reader and if try to convert it to another format then there is DRM protection issue. I do not know if this strategy actually made them a trillion company in the first so can't blame them. It is a lose cause for users from a language learner point of view
In general, audiobooks on Audible are expensive. Being in Germany I have a slight advantage that we have a local ebay and German people believe in "circular economy" so instead of throwing them away in a bin they give away to students like us at a meager price. I bought 100 CDs for 10 euros comprising 40 audiobooks in total.
I didn't know Whispersyc was region-based -- but for what it's worth, even in the US it's kind of "language-based" meaning really the only languages that audio whispersyc seems to be available in is English and German for some reason. The other languages, don't seem to have it at all.
My guess is this has to do with added cost vs. demand / langugae as well as various international rights clearances etc. -- I think a lot of these decisions are made as consequence of another decision that's meant to serve international publishing interests etc.
For example: A US entity owns the rights to "Novel X" but the right to publish it in French is owned by another company and the translation of Novel-X into French is in and of itself under French copyright, and the audio recoding by a French performer is in and of itself another derivative work that is subject to its own rights protections. So to bring this all under one umbrella where you can just buy an American book in French with a French audiobook on the same website in Canada requires some jugging and bartering of rights, fees, and services.
But that's jut my guess.
Yes, exactly, it's something like that plus blocks from countries and companies inside countries on how they want to have "their" products distributed.
It's just a nosense showing that we don't have a global world but just a global mess. ;)
Yeah, but these types of copyright agreements are necessary in order to facilitate the existence of an international publishing industry. And with time, they allow for a free-er flow of content with less and less inconvenience.
When I started learning languages, buying French editions of e-books on Amazon US was still pretty restricted. Years later, it started becoming easier and easier because the international groundwork was being laid out for it through various agreements.
Today it's very easy -- though not quite as easy as would like it to be, but hopefully it will get even easier as time goes on.
It really depends on your level at the language you are listening too. It has to be high if you are to be doing something else while listening. If the audio book would otherwise be a little too difficult to understand, having read the novel beforehand really helps your understanding.
Ah, I think you mean when there is no way to ever read the text. Well then maybe having watched the corresponding movie beforehand would really help you understand the read text.
An important point is that when people are performing two tasks at the same time their performance deteriorates. People think that multitasking is productive and efficient for learning or getting work done, but the evidence is in the opposite direction.
Language learners are often advised to listen to audio while performing others tasks, as you note, but you will likely have a better learning experience if you focus on listening by itself.
Related to this, There is very likely a value to listening to an audiobook while following along with the written text. This permits you make the link between spoken and written language. In many cases spoken language will be unclear, for example in determining where words begin and end. Following along with the written text will help reinforce your recognition of where words begin and end.
I agree in general with the point about focused listening vs listening whilst doing something else. I do actually listen to audio whilst working (it's a craft job, not mouse clicking job), but this only seems to work best with dialogues rather than prose. With prose I miss large chunks and in fact I do the very same thing of missing parts even when listening to prose in my native language while doing something else.
I strongly believe in the value of using text with audio; in order to, but not just to, make the link between spoken/written, language. I feel it speeds up the comprehension of the audio by adding another facet of comprehension of the same idea in a manner you've already mastered: reading.
Anyone can do the experiment. If you read, perhaps several times, the same words as are in an audio book (perhaps per chapter) and then listen to the audio chapter, you'll understand far more than just listening to the audio 'cold'. Exactly the same as dialogues and their transcripts.
Knowing this the question I would pose is: do you learn to understand and recognise such language in general, or do you learn to understand only THAT particular piece of prose/dialogue in isolation? I've found that I can understand audio very well in this way, but applying this to general listening is not so easy.
I think audiobooks are great for polishing your listening skills when you already have a certain base. If you are only starting with your language learning, they won't help you at all.
I think a couple of points should be clarified in this discussion. The OP asked whether audiobooks without text were effective. The simple answer to that is: Yes. Very effective.
But that answer takes two presumptions into account:
1) People don't listen to audiobooks unless they want to. It's a form of entertainment that appeals to a lot of people who'd like to read more, but don't have the eyeball time to read all the books they want. As such, in the vast majority of the cases, an audiobook is a voluntarily selected content with a presumption of interest in the story itself.
2) It is rare for someone to listen to an audiobook without a reasonable level of understanding that would allow to follow the story. For most people, these recordings cost too much money for something that you won't understand enough of it to enjoy.
So, since no one listens to audiobooks unless they want to, and those who do listen to them tend to understand enough to follow the story, this form entertainment tends to be a classic example of "engaging comprehensible input" for most people who use it regularly. And as such, it's a very effective way of engaging with the language, and building up comprehension and vocabulary. You can learn a lot of words from the context of audiobooks -- you won't know how to spell them until you look them up, but you will be able to pronounce them.
If the idea is that someone would just start listening to audiobooks by themselves as a primary method of learning a language from early stages, that's not a question effectiveness -- it simply doesn't happen. No one does that. No one would suggest to do that. No one would succeed at doing that. AND, no one, in this "free, free, gimme, gimme, free" time we live in would spend $14 on a recording that bombards them with 20 hrs of audio they don't understand a single word of. So that angle is simply pointless to discuss.
Yes, people like to claim they listen early to native podcasts "just to get used to the sounds," but they do that because the podcasts are FREE and you don't need to understand so much of a podcast to get something out of it -- it's usually just people chatting, who cares if you only get 10% of it. A book is different. I've never heard anyone say they listen to books without having reached a reasonable level of comprehension.
if you are not advanced enough to understand a good portion of what you listen to it's useless in my opinion i don't believe in this theory floating around the internet that you can just soak up the language by hearing it even though you don't understand a great deal of what you hear . and it can be confusing especially if the language you are learning has a pronounciation that differs dramatically from the way it's written or if the sound of the letters differ dramatically from your mother tongue
I agree, if there is even more difference between the spoken language and the text it would be a lot less efficient anyway.
The key question to ask, IMO is what is the purpose of listening?
For me, the purpose is to train my brain to get used to the way phrases are actually spoken rather than the way they look on a page. But if I don't know the words and phrases that are being spoken, what good is it to listen to it?
If I know, oh I don't know, maybe 90% of the content, then perhaps I can take figure out the meaning of the occasional word from context or if it's important enough, make a note to look it up later. So for me, comprehensible input for listening would be something that I know nearly all of the words in the material. I can then focus on getting used to the sounds and rhythm.
Personally, I think that if you can't follow the story, then it's just a wash of noise with the occasional word or phrase being caught. It really depends on your level. If you're at upper beginner, then listening to "beginner" stories might be effective. If intermediate, then perhaps some podcasts. As long as you can get the gist of the conversation.
But books? I don't know. If you are able to read the book in print, then perhaps it might be somewhat effective as passive listening.
yeah, I was even thinking at advance level actually. When you basically understand the meaning without having the need to know all the words. But the feeling is that you’re language learning process doesn’t move up anymore because there’s no focus on the language but just on the meaning (which is another story here).
Our brain is going to skip the effort to add new vocabulary and even different structures as it’ll be focus on doing other activities at the same time, there won’t be any text on where to be focus so it’ll just skip any no relevant thing. Plus it’ll wander as usual.
My answer would be that it depends. In my opinion, if you have a good grasp of the sounds, rhythm and flow of the language and can link those sounds and nuances with the words/phrases/sentences they are linked to; that is, in text (bonus points if you can spell the words out in your mind). Then that is good enough for a beginner/intermediate
However as you acquire vocabulary I believe listening becomes relatively more effective in terms of the value gleaned from the usage of your time. If you are at a point where you can listen, recognize words and guess/fill in gaps then that is a great way to practice building up the language within yourself.
In any case, you will eventually have to immerse yourself in listening eventually, it's more of a matter of when and how much?
Well, but in the case I was talking about you don’t really “immerse” yourself in listening because we’re doing other activities at the same time. So the energy spent by the brain to use more energy to pay attention to the language would be a cost not spent on other activities during the day or week. Like for example stay focus for more time.
If you fill the gaps you don’t really pay attention to the language itself but to what you’re listening. But in this case you might learn something from the content but it has nothing to do about learning something from the language itself (which is what I’m trying to figure out here).
As far as I know, from the conversations until now, the only benefit I see would be the one to reinforce the language on words or structures that we already know, maybe just learnt, and catch them during the listening. (if we are lucky to be engaged in the moment that this happens).
Probably, familiarizing with the sound of the language could be another but once it’s done it doesn’t really add more to it.
I think the attempt to gain 100% efficiency from that (or any) sort of listening is misguided. Listening is sometimes passive, sometimes active, wavering between the two. For most of our lives we only hear part of many things we listen to, even when watching a film in our native languages. You learn your own language only partially hearing what is being said and gaps are filled-in as you go along. You need to basically know what is going on, what a fair number of things mean, standard expressions used in everyday conversation. Recognising repeated patterns saves you a lot of effort in processing when listening.
I would say a very literary audiobook is perhaps not the best because it is a piece of art using language personal to the writer's style. A less literary book is better, and straightforward non-fiction. In any case I usually listen to such audio in pieces (if it is long) and then read through the transcript/book to confirm my listening and catch words/expressions I've missed. Then listen again. If I think I've managed to catch most of the meaning just listening then I'll move on to new material. I can always come back if I want to.
Recognising repeated patterns sound interesting as well and it is still in the category of reinforcing what we generally already know. Sometimes might be something new if we can hear it many times and then read it somewhere.
But you see, here you do a more effective job as you read afterwards then eventually listening again. That’s another story and it adds complexity. But in my case there is the “without text” condition, which it could be a lot less productive.
I read many non-fiction stuff and I get the meaning without any problem but I don’t feel that my “learning” has improved at all either. I could go on reading other 50 books and my English, for example, would stay at the same level. I will understand and focus on the meaning but if I want to focus on the language itself, I have the feeling there’s another strategy to be used and passive listening doesn’t move much. More effective might be the way we do with LingQ.
The other strategy is probably talking. Also listening to dialogue rather than prose. Sometimes I listen to the audio versions of articles from Le Monde Diplomatique. There is a lot I have to look up afterwards and it's useful, yet I don't know how much it contributes to active command of the language. Perhaps more than I think, because I can't get everything I need from 1 or even 20 articles. The process is not ideal, it takes time and exposure and then active use to develop a skill. I'm not in a great rush.
Like I said, I think it's useful to listen when you can comprehend it, at least to a partial extent. But if everything sounds like gibberish to you, you should lower the difficulty of the material, it's not going to help you other than to familiarize you with the sounds and rhythms.
The thing is most new learning is not comprehensible, that is why it is being used. I know the idea is 'comprehensible input', but there's a fairly natural barrier at some point.
Right, I agree with you. Which makes reading more favorable in my eyes. It's much, much easier to handle the mental load when you're not fumbling to keep up with a native's rapid-fire speech. When the text is in front of you, you can take as much time as you need to process the words. Reading truly is a godsend especially for beginners and intermediates.
Eventually you do have to immerse yourself in audio inputs, but I personally wouldn't concentrate on it early on, though newer learners should definitely at least familiarize themselves with the sounds and rhythms of the language.
I agree. Reading and reading along with associated audio is best for the early-intermediate stages. The biggest mistake made by learners (of anything) is trying to memorise and work out input they can't even conceptualise or recognise yet.
One thing I will say about the general view (which is a major hype now) of 'learning like you learned your native language', is that as an adult you simply won't learn a second language like you learned your native language. Your experience is different, you are no longer a child with no filters. The best we can do is rely on the enjoyment factor to gain some benefit from passive learning. However, some work needs to be done and it will mostly be reading at the beginning. And matching this up with listening.
It's no more effective than any other activity you would do, but also no less effective. You can walk or sit and listen intently, but that would be a totally different activity. I think the most important part is picking something that you want to hear because it's interesting, not something that you're listening to in order to improve your language skills. If you really like music for example, I think you'd be better off listening to music in your target language because you'll pay more attention to it. Certain people just love audiobooks! Audiobooks alone can be great, but as you and others have said, of course your attention is divided. I always played lots of computer games through high school, and I always had music on during it. I can definitely tell you that my attention is on the game, but every time it flickers to something else, it's just nice to already have on something that your brain enjoys. So if you don't like the story that you're hearing from the audiobook, I believe it's effectiveness will be very low.
One other thing! I think people get too caught up in individual words. Don't worry about getting every word perfectly. Do you really look up every word you're unsure about when reading in your native language? I know that I don't. It ruins the fun and breaks the flow. Let it be a little ambiguous if it's just a word here and there. On the other hand, if you have no image in your head of the story, change the book. It's probably not interesting, or too difficult, which would make it less interesting.
Thanks for sharing your insight but I don’t think every activity is equal in productivity and energy spent.
For example, if I listen and read and LingQ at the same time, I know that this is very effective in learning the language for many different levels.
Same thing is if I watch a video, read the transcript and LingQ the words.
I’m just curious to understand in what listening audiobooks (without text and doing other activities) is really effective in language learning.
Because even if we are doing another activity + listening to audiobooks, we spend more brain energy that won’t be used for other activities later on or during the week. If the focus of listening audiobooks is learning a language, our brain needs to focus on it and this will be an added stress compared to only enjoy and doing the other activity we are doing. But this is just nitty-picking.
You’re right, in my native language I don’t look up every word I don’t know but I have a huge vocabulary and it’s not so easy to find words I don’t know the meaning in the context I’m using them. And if they are essential for the comprehension I look them up. There’s no comparison with the languages I’m learning.
I see what you're getting at now. It's interesting, but definitely difficult to pin down. My thoughts above are mostly about making use of your "dead time." Listening to whatever you have read is always fun for me, but I could understand how that may bore some people.
I think that audiobooks build up some unique skills, but this may be language dependent. Certain uses of grammar and speech from written text rarely appear, or never appear in spoken language. Books also bring up more uncommon words on a regular basis because they have to describe surroundings, and people just don't tend to do that in normal conversations because the vast majority of people use visuals as a means to supplement communication. I actually think that watching tv shows with audio description is a good way to bridge the gap from the more intermediate level content to full on novels and books. Generally, the descriptions give a more simple description of the characters and the scenes, but they don't normally have the same level of complexity as a full text.
All these connections and differences are very interesting indeed. It might be that in the progress of our language learning, from beginners to advanced, we should change tools shifting from one to the other to better benefit of each stage.
We generally do it already but it’s more random, at least in my case.
I came across this tweet today:
ha ha, funny analogy.
Funny quote. I tend to agree, *but* I have to say for myself, with seemingly very little time left for reading books themselves, audiobooks are a godsend. I can do my "reading" on my commute or anywhere I drive. It's also allowed me to get through massive 1000+ real page books, which I would most likely put down through page 300 and never pick up again. Hello...Game of Thrones series (he needs an editor to trim down). I've also simply listened to a huge volume of books compared to what I would be able to do reading.
I do love the feel and smell of a new book though and certain books obviously don't lend themselves to being a good audiobook (or ebook).
It depends on the activity for me. Driving, I can follow along quite well. It's where I do most of my listening. Certainly there are times I get distracted here and have to rewind a bit. Cleaning/Organizing, on the other hand, I can't for the life of me concentrate on any audiobook, including in my native language. I get instantly distracted.
Also, as t_harangi points out, the difficulty of the material (how much you understand) plays a big factor. If I only understand a certain amount, the effort to really concentrate and grab the bits of information you recognize is very strenuous and I can only do that for so long before the mind aches, or it wanders. When doing other activities it's even more difficult.
I think, beyond all this, you can still listen even while distracted, or missing large chunks due to the lack of comprehension or multitasking the brain....You may not be getting enough to understand what's going on all or even most of the time, but those times you are able to concentrate and hear and understand words you know is still valuable I think.
As you point out it may not be all that efficient, so that has to be weighed, but every little bit of exposure does help to some degree I would think.
The activity part is an interesting factor -- it's best to have something to do while you're listening, but not something that requires too much thinking. Driving is really an ideal time because driving uses a different side of your brain, I think. Another good one is walking with a dog -- my dog is actually responsible for most of my language learning. Grocery shopping is also good if you go the same supermarket and have a routine list -- some activity, little thinking. Cleaning, cooking and other routine chores can work as well.
What doesn't work at all is sitting there in a chair and just listening. I simply can't do that, if I'm sitting and my eyes are free, I wanna read along.
I really listen to a lot of audiobooks and I'm also a person that analyse quite a lot on how our brain works and on the results of some of our actions.
That's why I was wondering if this time spent (without text and doing other tasks at the same time) is really effective for learning, on what it's actually effective and how to make it more productive.
Our brain doesn't really multitask, it splits its capacity on more tasks. Even more, we always wander, it's rooted on how our brain works, we just don't realize it.
The only moments where I'm sure that I'm "learning" is the reinforcing situation. When I've learnt a word previously and then suddenly I hear and pay attention to that word. So my brain quickly recall the meaning and that's reinforced now into a context that I was able to understand.
But this doesn't happen really often and the main problem is probably what t_harangi was talking about, the level of interest and engaging we have with what we are listening. Probably I have to work harder on finding things that are really really interesting to listen to.
BUT in this case, there is a need of way more attention which means that sharing the listening with another task could be complecated.
There is different between focusing on the story (so enjoy the story and skipping everything we don't understand) and focusing on the language and learning or get something from the story that is helpful for learning the language.
I can only share my experience. I found listening to audiobooks while doing multi-tasking activities kind of counterproductive as I am not concentrating 100% on the listening so I pick up things here and there and miss out on a lot of details. However, for my time and efforts when I am listening to an audiobook, I just want to get lost with the voice and shut down all external noise/distractions. In a nutshell, for me, active listening is very important this is where I get more value for my time even if the content is very difficult and beyond my current language level. That being said, your subconscious mind has the ability to decode a lot of noise/difficult language content given if you're concentrating 100%. This is based on my personal experience.
yep, multitasking doesn't exist. Our brain just split its capacity of focus on more tasks.
From the subconscious level it might be different as the brain would perceive the "need" of learning that language and push the rationality in a different way when we put ourselves to study.
But 1 hour of active listening and reading is way more productive than just listening on the go. Imho.
Yes, listening to audiobooks without reading along can be hugely effective. It's very good at building up listening comprehension by reinforcing stuff you know, along with teaching you new words from context. And it allows you to engage with your target language in an entertaining way and keep you improving indefinitely.
Of course it's VERY important that you pick material that will engage on you the story level -- this is more important than with a book that you're reading along to, because your mind will wonder more with audio if the story is not engaging enough. This is why I only listen to mystery / adventure stories, since I'm more likely just to enjoy the "movie" they create in my head, than with a classic or literary novel.
Another criteria is that you have to build up enough comprehension to understand a significant enough portion of the narration for it to hold your interest. I don't know what the percentage is but at the beginning, even if there are passages that are "foggy" to you, you have to be able to get enough just to follow the story. This is of course subjective -- I myself am comfortable with a fair amount of fog at the beginning. But in the beginning, you have the excitement factor of being able to understand just enough, and that will fuel you to keep going even though you might get lost at times.
You can make this listening more part of structured study, by re-listening to stuff you already read, or by listening first and then reading later. But I think that once you're past the comprehension threshold mentioned above, it's best to just use listening time for books that you're only listening to forcing yourself to make due without assistance.
Also, you can drop bookmarks into the audible app when you come across a word that stumps you and look it up later. This is super easy when the app is in "car mode."
I typically have 4-5 different books that I'm in the middle of, rotating between languages, and combining listening only time with another book that I'm also reading along to when I have reading time.
Another neat feature to play with is Whispersync on between Kindle and Audible, which is available on a lot of English and German titles. It allows you switch between audio and reading and on iOS apps it can read along to you while visually following along the text with a highlight. You can incorporate that into your routine in various ways.
Thanks for your sharing experience but whisper sync doesn't count here and it would be definitely effective than just listening.
Bookmarks in car mode might be interesting unfortunately in many occasions doesn't work as you can't or shoudn't pick up the phone all the time (car, running, etc.)
I think it could be important, as you said at the beginning, for reinforcing the stuff you know. And you're absolutely right about the engaging content. And even more with audiobooks. This is a very difficult part as for me, it's not so easy to find content very engaging to really want to pay attention to "every page".