Listening practice is vital if you want to communicate with other speakers of whatever language you’re trying to learn. What good is being able to talk to someone if you can’t understand what they’re saying in return? However, getting in good listening practice can be difficult. Not everyone can take language classes. And what if you don’t live in an area with a population that speaks your target language? Never fear! Today, I’ll go over a few ways you can get some listening practice in.
1. Guided/instructed listening practice
I’ll call guided/instructed listening practice anything that comes from a structured book or web source. In terms of Korean, there are increasingly more sources out there that aim to teach Korean to non-native speakers. Most of those textbooks and sites include audio files for listening practice as you advance through their curriculum. For example, both of the books that I usually recommend to beginning Korean learners, “McGill Korean 1″ and “Korean Made Simple” include audio files that you can download and listen to as you start your learning journey. The “Korean Grammar in Use” series, which I also recommend, also includes audio CDs. Concerning Mandarin and Japanese, all of the textbooks that I have bought for both of those languages have included audio files on a CD or available for download online also.
Aside from textbooks, there are a few good apps for language learning as well. The language learning phone application LingoDeer has quality audio files that you can listen to and do spaced repetition practice with. LingoDeer has courses in Mandarin and Japanese as well as Korean, so you’re covered for those languages! Additionally, I’ve found a few Chinese-for-foreigners Youtube channels that are pretty good, especially Mandarin Corner. The benefit to using textbooks and language apps is, provided you followed all the previous lessons well, you will always have listening material at a level that you will be able to understand.
2. Native input (TV shows, podcasts, etc.)
If you have confidence in your listening skills, you can jump on in to listening to material made for native speakers, including things like TV shows, movies, and more. If you’re at a lower level, you might be able to listen and pick up a few words here and there and get a better feel for the language’s intonation and become more skilled at picking up word and phrase boundaries, even if you can’t quite catch the whole meaning. For Korean learners, variety shows might be the easiest because they tend to have a lot of subtitles already on-screen in Korean so you can check your comprehension with those also.
For things like podcasts, you could use an app/site like Naver’s AudioClip and find something that suits your tastes, or you can watch dramas, movies, Youtube channels (I hardly even do makeup, but one of my favorites is 씬님)… If you’re looking to beef up your advanced vocab, the major Korean news channels stream on Youtube, though I’m not sure if those streams are region locked or not. The options are really only limited by how good you are at looking up what you want to listen to (and in the case of some TV streaming sites, whether or not you have a good VPN to get around region blocks).
3. Language exchange partners
If you want to mix in some speaking practice with your listening, you can try to find a language exchange partner. There are a lot of websites and apps that you can use to find language exchange partners, and perhaps you’ll find someone that would be willing to do voice chat with you. Of course, if you’ve ever tried to use one of the many language exchange sites or apps out there, you’ll know that they can be super hit-or-miss, and ladies especially have to be wary of creepy guys coming on to them. Still, I have met a lot of decent people over language exchanges apps, so I’ll never say that they’re useless. Just… be careful. The apps I mainly use are Hellotalk and Tandem, which I talked about in an app review not too long ago!
4. 받아쓰기 (Dictation)
This one isn’t so much a source of listening practice as much as a method that I have found works fairly well for me. You can use any audio source as long as there is an accompanying transcript. For Korean, I tend to use short news videos that I find through portal sites, because they often have a full transcript below the video. I watch the video and listen once so I can hear (and see) the context and the speech in full and then listen again, pausing as needed to write down what I heard. Even with a short news video of three minutes or so, it can take a really long time. If you want to try to do dictations, it’s best to find something not too long or decide on a shorter segment to work with.
After I do the dictation, I compare what I wrote against the given transcript, making sure to mark and take note of my errors. It’s time-consuming and a bit tedious, but if you do it regularly enough you can notice patterns in your errors—maybe you consistently write one sound in place of a similar sound, maybe you make a lot of errors when vocab related to a certain topic comes up, and so on. There are, of course, other ways to test your listening, including trying to summarize what you heard, taking a quiz on it if you’re using a textbook or language learning site that provides those kinds of comprehension questions, and trying to listen and repeat exactly what you heard. If you have any cool methods that you use to help train and test your listening skills, let me know!
Happy studying, and happy 추석 🙂