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1A: Create a Passive Listening Habit

As mentioned in Stage 0: Passive Listening, you can accelerate your listening comprehension by listening to your target language (TL) while doing mindless tasks like cooking, cleaning, or commuting.

Your brain needs a lot of audio input to learn how to parse the sounds of your TL, and when first starting out, you may need to hear the same thing several times before the brain is able to pick out and distinguish the sounds. Passive listening is a way to provide that quantity and repetition.

Passive listening is a core activity throughout the language acquisition process, so it’s important to set up a good workflow in the beginning.

There are two habits necessary for effective passive listening:

Listen During Mindless Tasks

Take a moment right now to think about when you can fit passive listening into your day. Some common opportunities are:

  • While commuting or traveling.
  • While walking or exercising.
  • While cooking, cleaning or doing household chores.
  • During your morning routines, such as while walking the dog or eating breakfast.
  • During your bedtime routine, such as while brushing your teeth, or falling asleep.

Make a plan for when you will reach for passive listening and what tools you’ll need (for example, an audio playlist on your phone and a set of headphones). One simple setup is to open YouTube or Netflix on your phone and listen to something you’ve already watched.

Make Listening Easy

In order to make the habit as effortless as possible, it’s important to have a passive listening playlist ready at all times.

Although it’s easy to passively listen to Netflix or YouTube videos, both apps require the phone to be unlocked. Instead, we advise you to create a local playlist on your phone that is always on repeat.

Passive listening content can get boring, so it’s important to frequently add new content and remove old content from your rotation. Every week or two, set aside time to extract audio and put it on to your phone for easy access.

How to Make a Playlist

Download Content

You may not always have an internet connection so it's important to download the content you want to passively listen to.

Youtube:
  • JDownloader: a program that easily downloads audio and video.
  • YouTube DL: a command-line tool for downloads.
  • Y2 Mate: a website for downloading YT. There are many of these websites.
  • NewPipe: An Android app that replaces the YouTube app and allows you to download videos
Netflix:
  • FlixGrab: A program to download Netflix shows (Windows Only)

Extract Audio

Extracting audio from video is key to creating a passive listening playlist.

For those that aren’t confident with technology, there are easy-to-use online audio extractors. If you are comfortable with technology, then here are a few programs you can use to extract audio:

Online
Mac
PC
  • VLC: A media player that can extract audio

Load Audio onto your Phone

Guides provided below:

Optimizations

Once you have a good habit of listening to TL audio, there are a few optional optimizations you can make:

  • Upgrade your headphones to be more convenient (e.g. wireless, noise-canceling, bone conducting)
  • Condense audio for higher dialogue density.

  • Use a separate MP3 play for the ideal passive listening setup.

Content Recommendations

The primary goal when choosing passive listening content is to find something that will hold your interest. Listening to audio from TV shows you’ve already watched helps because you already know the story.

Another option is to listen to a TL audiobook of your favorite novel. If you already know the story by heart, it’s relatively easy to follow along with an audiobook even if you only understand a few words.

Music is not a good passive listening choice. Though entertaining, its learning value isn’t very high. The lyrics often don't make sense and are easily confused. Think about how often you mishear lyrics in your NL.

If you love listening to music, then TL music is better than nothing, but we encourage you to branch out into dialogue or narrative audio instead.

If you get bored with what you are listening to, then switch to something else. Follow your interests.

Boredom is the enemy of language acquisition.

How to Stay Interested in Gibberish

When you first start passive listening, you won’t understand anything. Your mind will wander and that’s OK! It’s a natural response. Your brain filters out “unimportant” sounds, so you’re likely to get bored and jump to another train of thought.

To keep your brain engaged, try the following exercises:

  • Focus on hearing the sounds instead of the words.
  • Try to hear where one word ends and another word begins. Don’t worry about meaning yet.
  • As you learn new vocabulary, scan the audio to try to hear that new vocabulary being used.
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