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Listening To Native Speakers Converse Is The Easiest Way To Learn a New Language


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Over the past few months I've had to spend most of my time with a number of people [I've had to work with] who don't speak English that well and for that reason had to use their native tongue.

And as we worked, they'd always be conversing in their language and was surprised to find out a week later that without even trying to learn the language I was beginning to understand some of the things they said.

So if you want to learn a language fast, find youtube videos made by native speakers and watch them even if you initially don't understand a thing. After a while you'll get to know what some words mean and as you also learn the language.

If you are also learning the language chances are that you'll learn it faster than someone who is relying solely on the lessons they get.

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I agree with this. As long as you are happy to not be able to understand the majority of what is said, you will make progress. The key is just to listen in general and not force your understanding. A few words will stand out and after time, these words will become phrases and full sentences. Eventually, you'll be able to understand the entire conversation.

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This is so true, actually. -and that's how I started my 'lessons' in Italian. I'd just sit there listening to people talking, and taking it all in. I'd also watch some TV, even though I didn't understand a word of it. -and you'll be surprised at the amount you actually pick up without even realising it. I see the same thing happening with my husband, who isn't taking any lessons in my language but will pick up bits and pieces here and there through listening into conversations. Then he'll surprise me by dropping a word or phrase here and there out of the blue LOL!

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When you watch the youtube videos or TV shows, I assume you don't have subtitles? If there are subtitles I would tend to just focus on those and not really listen to the words. I'm interested in trying this out. Do you have an idea of roughly how many videos you would need to watch to start picking stuff up?

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I remember I had Korean and Chinese classmates in college. Hearing them converse in there native languages, it has helped me pick up some words as well. It also helps that I do watch Korean and Chinese series back then. That might also account for the ease of picking up the words that they say or phrases that they converse to. The downside is that you won't really know the true meaning of that word or phrase they say unless you search for it online or pick up a dictionary. The upside is, you can get acquainted to the language, you'd know the intonation, the pronunciation and lots more things. So I don't think listening to them converse in their language is a bad idea at all.

I suppose that from shows you can also pick up words. That's what happened to me while watching Korean and Chinese series. As time passed by, I learned how to say "thank you," "goodbye" and "I love you" in those languages. It helps that most of them are romance series, lol. So over time, I was able to pick up a few words that are essential to learn in that language. Pretty cool, right?

If you can find someone to help you, one that speaks that language naturally, that's great as well. If you're friends with someone who speaks the language natively, that's great too. 

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I honestly think that if you really want to be completely proficient in a language you have to hear it spoken by people that use it as their native language. It's all good and well listening to the language in audio books or looking at movies in that language but these two things have been scripted. When people speak nothing is scripted so it sounds more natural.

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Indeed. Is the best way to become functionally fluent in no time, since you learn by mimicking the way a native speaker expresses him/herself. Reading is good, interesting and will provide you a lot of vocabulary, but without a putting some time spent speaking and listening to natives you will have a lot of trouble trying to express yourself.

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That's quite true, because my dad learned a few a those local dialect words just by mingling with his office mates that spoke this certain local dialect, so he was able to learn from that method. Immersion is quite effective when learning a new language.

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I agree with this a hundred percent. I grew up addicted to American sitcoms, so without really meaning to, I just picked the language up easily. I think it was the combination of enjoyment, interest, and repetition. I watched A LOT of TV shows when I was a kid. I used to even look forward to holy week, because there'd be Seventh Heaven marathons on our local TV station (this was before we had internet access, and before the scandal with Papa Camden, obviously). As with anything, the easiest way to learn is to enjoy it while doing it over and over again.

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I agree with that approach. It's the only way to get close to sounding almost like a native speaker. It's not about the accent only. It's also about vocabulary. All those textbooks are great in terms of grammar but you can't deny that they contain sort of robotic language. Natives just don't talk like that.

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For me it's still easier to have lessons where I can learn in a more concrete way and also I need a bit of routine and discipline to learn but I agree that listening to conversations certainly does help a lot. I think many English speakers probably learned most of what they know of the language just by watching American movies and tv shows. 

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@prettylittleliar, you'll have to watch a lot of videos. It took me 10 hours, 5 days a week to start picking up words and accurately guessing what they meant. If I didn't understand a new word I would ask the native speakers to tell me what the word meant. Same way you could hear words and look up their meaning in the right dictionary. As with everything else though, it can take time to learn but as I said, this coupled with regular lessons give you an edge . . .

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I agree with this because I have experienced this firsthand. I learned English by watching English movies and listening to English radio programs. You get to pick up not just the words but alsp the rhythm of their language even without trying. I think this a very good alternative in learning a language because it is enjoyable. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've begun watching this one YouTuber who speaks German, and I don't really understand anything at all. Because of this post, though, I will continue to listen! Though, I have found that I can understand words a lot easier, especially when I listen to music. I'll definitely continue to try and listen. I also hear that submersing yourself in a language like that really helps, though I don't really know why.

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Yes I think that you will learn more from listening to native speakers speak compared to listen to scripted dialogue on lesson DVDs or in lesson videos. I feel like they slow down or don't speak at a natural pace in those videos. You learn so much more when being with a person and trying to speak their language with them. 

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I would tend to agree that listening to people speak the language you are trying to learn is the best way to learn it. Or among the very best ways at the very least. It's just a completely different and realer experience than looking at words on a page, or watching a reenactment video or demonstration. Listening to a real conversation is a lot more expressive and gives you a more genuine representation of how expressive and emotional people can be when speaking a certain language. Conversations aren't typically as dry or boring as they are in most learning videos. A real conversation gives you an idea of how people actually talk. It's much more valuable. 

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I only want to add that there's a difference between "hearing" and "listening", which is avoided by tons of people surprisingly.
If you hear a language, you just hear it.
If you listen to a language, you're actually converting this information into something that's meaningful to you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I mean, yeah sure...but this is such a slow way of doing things. You'll make so much faster progress by actually studying the language at the same time.

Not to mention the true meaning of the words will probably elude you, you'll know when to use them really well, and based on that you will probably get a decent idea of what the word means....but a few years later you might find out that you've completely misunderstood.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but I definitely "mislearned" a lot of words this way. Thinking they mean one thing but in reality they mean something else. Maybe you were close, but not quite. Which is something that could cause problems later if you'll get serious with the language.

It's relatively easy to learn something right, but it's much harder to unlearn a mistake/error and relearn the correct thing.

Not to mention you might pick up some really rude things without realizing it, and should you use it with other natives....ouch

I don't know maybe I'm dumb and the only one in the world who experienced this...

Either way, as a supplementary thing to help you progress - awesome! Much recommended!

As the main/only studying method? Eeeeeeeeeh, no thanks.

To each his own I guess

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  • 3 weeks later...

I rely both on lessons and on listening to native speakers converse for my language studies, and I do find that the latter is more practical. Even before I took formal lessons, I often watch videos of Koreans speaking and was able to pick a lot up, eventually impressing my teacher and other native speakers with how much I knew. But if you are someone like me, you might also want to know why exactly their grammar or sentences are structured the way they are, and that's something that just listening to natives can't teach you. I think if are able to take formal lessons, totally go for it because it will enlighten the way you speak a certain language.

Even in American school systems, English isn't taught in a formal manner. As a former ESL student, I just sort of absorbed it and picked it up as I went along. I didn't learn the rules and conventions of it until I was in high school. High school. When I was preparing for the SAT's. And it's not just me, I've heard the same stories and testimonies from my peers. After learning the mechanics of English, a language that is now my first, I think my writing has improved a lot.

This is just a long way of saying that yes, listening to natives speak in a natural setting is great but it doesn't offer you the same insight as you would get in an academic setting. Of course, not everyone cares about insight, so to that I guess it's a case of to each their own.

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I think that this works better when you are with native speakers in person, rather than with videos. At least, for me personally, it does. I take more interest in a conversation happening near me than a video, which I am already somewhat distanced from. When learning in a classroom, sometimes we had to listen to tapes, and I found that I was actually getting frustrated at not being able to see these people, or ask them what they meant. At least with real people, face to face, you can ask for clarification.

Still, videos are probably better in some ways than reading. I would probably benefit from checking some out, and probably will, so thank you for the suggestion. :)

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This is very true. If you learn a language only from books and classes, you will have a hard time conversing in that language with a native speaker. There is so much more to a language than just conjugations, and knowing basic words. You have to know how to communicate, tell jokes, and use lingo/slang every now and then. Even if you don't use lingo/slang yourself, you have to at least understand it, in order to avoid misunderstandings and feeling left out of the conversation. This is not something you will learn from your language teachers (on most occasions) or from books/programs. I learn by example, and if I see how native people communicate, it is easier for me to master those language skills myself. 

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If you're just listening to the native speakers and not studying the language on the side, then you really won't make as much progress as you otherwise might have made. I think the best way to learn it fast and easily is to expose yourself to the native speakers while you are studying the language at the same time.

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