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An underestimated language learning skill

Posted on March 10, 2019 · Posted in Pura Buena Onda Blog

Hola queridos alumnos y alumnas:

Today I’d like to talk about a very important underestimated language learning skill.

Drum roll please…can you guess? It is L I S T E N I N G!

In my experience, people who like to talk a lot, but don’t listen, need to spend more time improving their listening skills when learning a language. When someone listens to other students, they learn new vocabulary and new expressions. If they don’t listen, they just hear words, but don’t stop for a second and think: “I didn’t know that word!” or “That expression is very useful!” You need to take that moment to input that new information in your brain. Also, write it down if possible. Learning to speak is incredibly important, but remember that conversations go two ways, not one.

There is another issue that comes up with students who don’t see the tremendous value in listening.  When corrected by the teacher, some students just nod and say: “Yes, right”, and then keep talking without focusing on the correction. What happens when we do that is that we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. If you want to sound better/more polished when speaking Spanish, remember to stop and take the time to repeat the correction; then you can move on with the conversation. You can study grammar until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t learn to use it when you’re speaking, you will not improve. Listening, the most underestimated language learning skill, will help you improve your grammar more than you know.

Personal tips:

  • When someone says a word or uses a grammar structure that I don’t know, something I do is to try to use it immediately after. For example, if we are talking about things we did last night, and someone says: “justo después de llegar a casa me fui a dormir” (Just after getting home I went to sleep), and I didn’t know the expression “justo después de”, I would wait until the person has finished talking and then say: “Yo llamé a mi esposo justo después de salir del trabajo” (I called my husband just after leaving from work). It’s good to use the expression we learned at that moment, for practice. If you’re not listening to others, you may never learn these expressions.
  • We can also practice the underestimated language learning skill of listening, by watching TV shows in Spanish, by listening to a podcast, or listening to other students when we are in Spanish class. That is very helpful, but you have to remember one thing: don’t get frustrated and give up when you can’t understand everything. You will not understand everything, especially if you’re watching a TV show with fast dialogues full of slang, or listening to a podcast for native speakers about complicated subjects. Still now, after learning English since I was 8 years old, there are parts of TV shows and movies in English that I don’t understand, and it’s ok. If I hadn’t practiced listening for years, my comprehension skills would not be as developed as they are, and I would understand much less than I do.
  • If you have less opportunity to speak during class one day, maybe you’re learning a lot from others that day.
  • Don’t listen to things that are way beyond your level. That’s not going to help!

 

Alright, everyone; I hope this blog will help you. Have a great week, and maybe try listening extra hard this week!

Octavi