Learning Languages by Listening: Why Passive Listening Helps When Speaking

As a child it was easy to learn to speak - suddenly you could just do it.

But learning to speak is not as simple as that makes it sound. While listening, complex processes take place in the brain, new nerve paths are created and old ones are reconnected. A child learns a language through simple, passive listening.

Are you now thinking to yourself, "That's all very well, but as an adult it's much more difficult to learn a new language - it doesn't just happen practically all by itself anymore"? Then you're wrong!

You too can get your brain to learn automatically and benefit from the innate processes of language learning when you learn a foreign language.

In the following article, we show you how you can put your brain into learning mode by simply listening and thus create the ideal conditions for learning a new language.

How children learn to speak

Children learn to speak from the moment they are born. Some scientists even believe that children begin to understand speech in their mothers' belly.

Learning to speak is inseparable from listening. By listening to their environment, babies learn how words sound and sentences are constructed. Children learn a completely new language without vocabulary books and tests.

Just as well, in fact, as it is spoken in their environment. The more acoustic input a child has, the better they learns their mother tongue.

This is the only way to address the necessary nerve pathways and thus isolate them from the existing ones in order to make new connections. Unfortunately, these links are not retained if they are no longer used.

As an adult you can no longer directly benefit from them. Fortunately, however, they can be reactivated.  This natural, innate learning process can therefore also be adopted by adults to learn foreign languages - simply by listening.

Passive listening - just like being abroad

Language stays are very popular with pupils, students and adults.

For one, of course, you have a wonderful excuse to visit a foreign country and meet new people. Additionally, these stays are really a good instrument for learning a language, as you are forced to use the language.

Above all, however, you are constantly surrounded by the foreign language. Subconsciously, you listen all the time. You will learn how to pronounce words correctly, how to emphasize them and probably also some completely new words. This works through the same learning processes as in a small child.

Creating a sound atmosphere

To achieve this effect, however, you do not need to travel to a foreign country. The motivation trainer and author Vera F. Birkenbihl has developed a method with which you can create a sound atmosphere at home that has a similar effect to a language vacation.

All you need is a text from a sound source and you can play short sections of it over and over again. The advantages of this method: You don't need to listen actively - that is, consciously.

The text runs in the background and can be so quiet that you can just hear the sound. It doesn't matter what else you do while the audio is on.

You can do routine work like cleaning the house or even other intellectually demanding work, like learning something or just reading or watching a movie. So you can also explicitly do things that make noises themselves.

Subconscious learning

Even if you don't notice it, you absorb the text anyway. Your subconscious gets used to the pronunciation of the words they are constantly exposed to.

Just as you learned a language as a child and just as you improve your pronunciation during a language stay abroad, in this way you prepare your brain to produce the sounds you heard yourself.
If you are skeptical that you can improve your pronunciation just by listening, remember how children learn dialects. They imitate their parents' pronunciation.

Therefore, it is best to listen to a text with a very clear mode of expression. This may be even better than a language course in London, where you probably would adopt Cockney slang rather than speak pure Oxford English.

The purpose of passive listening is to prepare your brain for speaking a foreign language. Therefore, you should not yet try to speak along in this step, but rather only let your subconscious work. Consider how long babies and toddlers listen before they speak!

The right preparation

The best results can be achieved if you are familiar with the text in advance and know the meaning of the words.

This saves you some time in learning the language, as you reactivate the buried nerve connections in advance. Although you use the same neurological mechanism as a small child, you benefit from the fact that you can also actively learn.

The Birkenbihl method recommends so-called decoded texts. In order to understand the meaning of individual words, a word-for-word translation should be carried out. For this purpose, translations are entered directly under the corresponding word.

If you read these texts, you will learn the content of the lessons in your native language before you get down to something else.

Decoded texts as tools

Linguajet's lessons will do the hard work of decoding texts yourself.

If you watch one of the jetMovies, there is a line in the lower part of the screen in which the spoken text is translated literally. You can also set the speed to read the text while you listen to it.

Birkenbihl calls this step "active listening" and can prepare the step of passive listening.
The foreign text runs at the same time at the top of the screen. When the words are spoken, the foreign language word and the word in the mother tongue light up simultaneously. This enables the brain to automatically recognize the grammar rules of language.

However, do not yet try to memorize the spelling of the foreign words. Since short-term memory works acoustically, Birkenbihl says it would be an unnecessary distraction.

From active to passive listening

Repeat active listening in ten-minute units. If you understand a word, you can hide the translation. If you think you have understood the whole text, that means that the ideal time to move on to passive listening has arrived.

You can easily export the audio files from Linguajet's language courses to your computer or other playback device in MP3 format. This way you can easily create the desired sound backdrop in your home with the repeat function.

Once you know the meaning of the words of a lesson and the sound of the words is familiar to you, you have then acquired a good feeling for the language through active and passive listening.

Now it's time to speak and read the language. Please also familiarize yourself with the spelling of the words in the videos. Since you already know the pronunciation and meaning, this step should no longer pose a problem for you.

Learn languages quickly and easily - and have fun doing it

Linguajet combines Vera F. Birkenbihl's proven method with modern media that make the learning process very convenient.

With the videos you can learn a language in small units, the length of which you determine yourself, by supporting the natural, innate approach of your brain.

If you have learned a foreign language as a result, you no longer need a language stay. You can now communicate well abroad and simply enjoy your holiday.



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