Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Audio Books for Language Learning

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Audio Books are a great learning tool for languages. You get to hear and read at the same time, as well as gaining a lot of exposure to the language you’re learning. They also make extensive reading much easier.

In language learning, extensive reading offers the learner an adventure into the language but is, in my opinion, overlooked.

There are two types of reading; intensive and extensive.

• Intensive reading is reading for detail and this usually means aiming for 100% understanding. In language learning this usually requires a bilingual dictionary, with every unknown word being looked up for its meaning.
• Extensive reading is reading for the general meaning or overall meaning of the text. In language learning this means reading as much as possible and not worrying about the details. You read and you don’t stop if you don’t know the meaning of a word or even a paragraph. The dictionary is used little or not at all.

In teaching languages the emphasis seems to be on intensive reading but extensive reading is just as helpful (if not more helpful to the learner).

I read Doviende’s experience of using extensive reading to learn German. At first, he used intensive reading to read a novel but gave up because he felt it was too difficult. Nine years later, after reading advice from Steve Kaufmann and AJATT, Doviende picked up the novel again and just read. He didn’t use a dictionary, he just kept his eyes moving over the words. He found that he could follow the story, which he wasn’t able to get with intensive reading.

Doviende found that he was able to work out the meaning of words that occurred often and even though he wasn’t sure why, the more he extensively read, the more he could understand of the story.

He also recommended audio books as a great way to read extensively.

My experience

I joined the Dutch Library and got the audio CDs and book of Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny the World Champion’.

I was also very surprised at how much I could follow the story. The story revealed itself to me and even some of the details come out. It was a very enjoyable experience to listening to a book in a foreign language.

Great things about Audio books

• They force you to go along with the story.
• You quickly get a sense of what words come up often.
• Words that you don’t know but come up often can be guessed at. The guessing gets easier the more you see the word.
• You can hear the words, so you don’t have to try and pronounce them (or mispronounce them).
• On a second listening to a chapter, you usually understand more. This is very rewarding.

LingQ offers a lot of audio and text material. They have also got sections of ‘novels’ that are audio, though I don’t know to what extent. They offer this material in about 10 different languages.

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