Languages are challenging– there are multiple components involved. Oftentimes, people use translation apps or websites to figure out how to say a specific phrase and use that as a foundation before building a mental library of vocabulary and eventually forming sentences on their own. However, one of the most important aspects needed to achieve fluency is audio comprehension. Phrases can be strung together and even if the sentences are not grammatically correct, the message can usually be understood by others. Speech is not the problem- listening is. Learners struggle to use the language to respond to someone, especially a native speaker, as they cannot comprehend what they are saying in the first place. For example, as I was learning Spanish in school, I struggled to respond to questions from audio prompts due to the heavy accent and the fast conversational pace of native speakers. While I was proficient in forming sentences with a strong range of vocabulary, my audio comprehension skills were lacking severely, therefore, making my ability to verbalize the language completely useless. What’s the point of knowing a language if you can’t use it to communicate?
To solve this problem, I turned to entertainment platforms- Youtube, Netflix, etc. and these are the steps that I took.
- Identify a Youtuber who speaks the language you are learning very clearly and often takes breaks while speaking. Start off with the Youtuber’s shorter videos (5 to 10-minutes). Watch WITH subtitles and it is best if you continue watching the same Youtuber for a while, so that you can get used to their style of speaking the language.
- When you are a little comfortable with hearing the language after watching a few videos, remove subtitles for a few minutes and see how much you can understand. Over time, reduce the use of subtitles, until they are no longer needed.
- Transition to longer videos, shows, and movies in which the pace of the language is much quicker. Use the same method of gradually removing subtitles.
- Be patient- the process of developing a good ear for an unfamiliar language is quite slow and tedious!
For those learning Spanish, here are a few shows and Youtube channels that I used to get accustomed to the pace of the Spanish language and the various accents. They also helped me improve my Spanish accent as well.
- whatthechic + Katy Travels
- whatthechic (fashion, beauty, lifestyle) is the perfect channel to use to improve audio comprehension. Not only is Katy (the Youtuber) extremely energetic and entertaining, she enunciates her words well, so you can definitely follow along without subtitles quickly. Check out her travel channel called Katy Travels as well!
- Silvia Muñoz de Morales
- Her voice is extremely calming, and like Katy, she also speaks at a moderate pace. Great for beginner to intermediate learners!
- Juanpa Zuritas
- I found it a little difficult to understand many of his videos, so I started watching his videos later into my studies.
- Money Heist
- This Netflix sensation was definitely sensational! While I enjoyed the plot and characters itself, I also used this as a learning opportunity. Instead of watching the whole show with subtitles, I gradually transitioned into removing subtitles and learned to understand the gist of different scenes in an episode even if I didn’t comprehend all of what was being said. If you have already seen the show, try watching it again purely to learn the language, and this applies to all shows in any language. Shows and movies are tricky as each character speaks at a different pace and in a distinct accent, so focus on Youtube videos first!
- Gran Hotel
- I just started watching this show!
If you haven’t watched any of the channels or shows I listed and don’t care about learning the language, I still highly recommend them!