Welcome back to the Rules of Language Learning…
Rule number 7, ladies and gentlemen, will quite literally blow your head off.
Without exaggeration, this rule is one of those big shifts you can make in your study practices that will completely change your experience of learning languages.
Rule number 7 is something that I became aware of a number of years ago when I started watching videos from my friend Steve Kaufmann, who is a prolific language learner. And also very good at explaining the mechanics of language learning in a way that people can understand.
How I Made A Seismic Shift In My Listening Skills
If you watch Steve's channel, you'll notice that he'll cover lots of different topics in his videos. But in the end – in the end – everything circles back to the same basic piece of advice: Listen and Read.
And the reason that Steve's advice often ends up coming back to listening and reading is that, in his opinion, there is no better activity to learn languages.
To be honest, you should just listen to Steve.
Anyway, at the time, I was learning some pretty hard languages. And listening was a big struggle for me.
It was almost like however much time I spent listening, it would never seem to get any easier.
And, if you're looking for a guaranteed way to make yourself feel really, really dumb… then try listening to something really hard in another language — it’s a great way to make yourself feel totally inadequate!
So, in an effort to make things a little easier for myself, I started to follow Steve's advice and began hunting for listening material that came with a transcript, so that I could read along at the same time as listening.
And sure enough, over the next few weeks of reading and listening – I began to notice a pretty seismic shift in my listening comprehension…
- I understood more of what I listened to, which was immensely satisfying.
- My conversations with people became more fun, because I could actually understand more of what the other person was saying…
Which really helps! Because, you know, when you're talking to someone, understanding what they’re saying is … kinda useful! (Pro language tip there!)
Anyway, I was pretty stoked, as my Aussie friends would say, life was good, the birds were singing…
I was pretty happy with my progress and my new “listen and read” technique!
Why Is Listening With A Transcript Such A Game Changer?
But what makes this technique so effective?
Well, as soon as I started listening with the transcript, there was one thing above all that I noticed immediately:
I knew a lot more than I thought I did!
When I would listen to something with the audio only, there would be lots of stuff that I didn't understand…
And I assumed that I just didn't know that vocabulary, or grammar, or whatever.
But when I went back and followed the transcript, and saw the actual words on the page, I would say to myself:
“Oh that's what she's saying! I understand that! I know those words! Why didn't I realise that's what she was saying???”
And the reason, of course, ladies and gentlemen, is…
Listening is really bloody hard!
Everything's happening really fast.
But when you can use the transcript to “see what’s being said”, right there on the page in front of you, you can take your time and “close the gap” between what you can understand by listening with no support, and what you are actually capable of understanding with that support added.
Well, it’s really motivating!
And that's precisely why having the transcript is so magical.
- You’ll find that you get better at dealing with the spoken language in general. So over time you're less and less phased by people speaking quickly. And you get good at identifying the way words change.
- You'll also find that you expand your vocabulary a lot faster, because you're far more likely to remember a word that you've heard and seen… because you're getting another part of your brain involved, which strengthens your memory
Why Wouldn't You Listen With A Transcript
Anyway, you get the point.
Studying with audio material plus the transcript really is a wonder drug, ladies and gentlemen, and whatever you're listening to, there's no excuse for not reading along with the transcript.
There is one excuse.
And that is if you don't have a transcript.
And, to be fair, that is a very good excuse, and one that has scuppered my own studies more often than I'd care to remember.
But, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater…
There is plenty of material out there, more so for some languages than others…
You might have to spend a bit longer looking for it, but that's half the fun after all.
Alternatively, you could just save yourself a bunch of time and pick up a copy of my Conversations programme which I created specifically to help you get better at understanding native speakers when they’re speaking fast…
Which they have a really annoying habit of doing… So inconsiderate! 🙂
Also, if you've got any recommendations for good material with transcripts, please… do everyone a massive favour… and leave them in the comments below…
And until next time, just remember…
Always Listen with the Transcript