Language-learning is a multi-sensory experience. To truly acquire a language you will need far more than a textbook and some play-acted recordings of artificial conversations like you used at school. When you learned your native language as a child, you learned through every lived experience that was filtered through your language. And before you ever learned to read or write or speak, you were hearing it being spoken all around you.
Listening is the vital skill through which you learn to understand the spoken form of the language, and improve your accent. So it makes perfect sense to learn a language through an audio course.
I have found that the fastest and easiest method for me to learn a language is through audio courses. I am not a purely auditory learner, and of course I use other materials for practising reading and writing, but regularly hearing a language spoken gives you a much better instinct for its rhythms and intonations than reading ever can.
Benefits of using audio courses
1. Learn anywhere, any time
The great thing about audio courses is that you can listen to them any where, any time. On your commute, doing the dishes, taking a walk, working out at the gym, in the shower… Down time can be transformed, and as you’ll be able to multi-task, you’ll find yourself learning without having to take out big chunks of your day. It’s the easiest most efficient way to squeeze language learning into your lifestyle, however busy.
Audio courses are also versatile across devices, so you can download them onto an MP3 player, your phone, or listen from your laptop or tablet. This way you really can learn any time and anywhere, as long as you have a pair of earphones.
2. Energy-efficient learning
Language-learning takes effort, no two ways about it, but the most passive, energy-efficient way of learning is through listening. You don’t even need to have the lights on, be sitting upright, or have your eyes open! Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to concentrate – you do. But lying down and listening to an audio course beats trying to sit still in a classroom!
Also the ability to learn while doing other activities (as mentioned in the previous point) means you can kills two birds with one stone and save energy as well as time.
3. Improving your ear
Listening comprehension is a tough skill to master in a foreign language, as it often requires a much faster speed of comprehension and being put on the spot in a way that we are not with reading. This is why talking on the phone is so daunting for most people in a foreign language – with nothing but audio input, people often have a lot of trouble.
However, if you’ve become accustomed to hearing the language all the time through an audio course, naturally your ear will be well-trained and you’ll be well-placed to understand the spoken form. Frequent listening is one of the major cornerstones of immersing [link[ yourself in a language, which as we all know is a popular way to progress, fast.
4. Perfect your accent
The only way to improve your accent in any language is to hear it being spoken – a lot. Only then can you practise imitating it with any degree of accuracy. An audio course will naturally have you listening to the language every day, training your ear, and therefore your accent. Audio courses’ listen-and-repeat quality are a great way for your to practise your pronunciation.
5. The fastest route to speaking
Some people say that the only way to learn a language is to speak it but at the beginning stages, this is basically impossible. However, the sooner you can start speaking the better for your progress, and the fastest way to get there is to hear the language a lot, and repeat what you hear. This will attune your ear and your tongue to the language.
There’ll be no dull grammar tables or endless lists of vocab that you spend hours memorising but still don’t help you toward being conversational. If you’re listening to an audio course, you’ll be rapidly equipped with the aspects of the language needed to start speaking asap.
6. It can help your spelling
Naturally this point is only relevant to languages which have an alphabet system, particularly the more phonetic ones. The more familiar you are with the sounds of a language, the easier it will be to master the written system as you will be able to match it up with your knowledge of the sounds.
7. It will develop your versatility as a learner
If you learn via audio, you will become accustomed to retaining information via hearing, and this will be a very useful skill when you are out there using the language and people are throwing words at you that you don’t know. You will be much less dependent on writing things down to learn them, and your highly trained ear will serve you well in speaking situations where your listening comprehension is paramount and you must think on your feet.
8. It sets the groundwork for advanced language skills
Just as you can’t learn to write before you learn to read, you cannot learn to speak fluently before you learn to listen. Once you have laid the audio groundwork, becoming accustomed to a language’s sounds and rhythms, this sets you up to build on and develop the more impressive communication skills in the future. Aside from easy and fluent conversation, you create the foundations for skills such as storytelling, debating, and presenting, which will come much more naturally.
Convinced of the usefulness of audio courses? Find out how to get two free language learning audiobooks from hundreds of options including the popular Pimsleur and Michel Thomas courses.
Teresa is a writer, polyglot, traveller, language teacher and dancer from London. She blogs at theeurofiles.com where she shares her love for the languages and cultures of Europe.