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0C: Passive Listening

As noted in the last article, active immersion is the most important activity in language acquisition. Unfortunately, busy people can't always fit a lot of active immersion into their daily lives. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities in your day to passively listen to your target language (TL) during mindless tasks like cooking, cleaning, commuting, or exercising.

We call this "passive listening" because you are not 100% focused on the content. Your attention is split between multiple activities.

You might currently use music or podcasts as entertainment during these mindless tasks, but we advise you to reclaim this time for language learning.

The key to passive listening is to make it a habit. Every time you reach for audio to listen to, your first choice should be your TL. We advise at least 30 minutes per day of passive listening. 30 minutes per day quickly adds up to a lot of extra immersion hours that accelerates your comprehension.

Choosing Listening Content

We recommend re-listening to content you have actively immersed with. Your brain benefits from repetition because it gets another opportunity to parse sounds and words. Unfortunately, repetition is boring and boredom is the enemy of learning. Passive listening is an easy way to give your brain a second chance to listen to the same content you've already actively immersed with.

You won't understand much in the beginning so it is important to learn how to tolerate ambiguity and keep listening anyway. Listening to content you've already watched can help keep you interested because you will remember the story even if you can't understand the words.

In the beginning, you should focus on hearing the sounds of your target language. You may not feel anything happening, but your brain is subconsciously learning how to parse the foreign sounds.

As your vocabulary and listening ability improve, you will understand more of your passive listening content. Eventually, you will be able to listen to fresh content like podcasts, audiobooks, and talkshows.

Remember, boredom is the enemy of learning. If you get bored with your passive listening content then trade it in for something more fun!