Learning grammar is so important for any student of the Spanish language. In fact, it’s a vital part of building up your listening skill.
However, there comes a time when the grammar needs to be put to one side and the real work of listening to a genuine conversation in Spanish needs to happen.
The Right and the Wrong way to listen to a Spanish podcast.
Yes, that’s right! There is a right and a wrong way to listen to Spanish being spoken. Over the years we have come across many people who do not know how to listen and have had to learn it as a skill.
You may say: Well, all you need do is listen. What can be so difficult about that?
The truth of the matter, however, is that it isn’t as simple as you might have imagined. Let us tell you about some of the ways NOT to listen first:
The Wrong Way
Rabbit in the Headlights.
This is probably the most common. Many students when faced with a Spanish speaker talking to them quite literally PANIC. They start a running dialogue in their head that normally goes like this:
Oh my God! They’re talking to me in Spanish! What if I don’t understand! What will they think of me! I’m not good enough to have them talking to me! They think I’m fluent! I don’t understand! etc. etc. etc.
Finally, the person puts them out of their misery by finishing what they were saying and the poor listener realises that they HAVEN’T HEARD A WORD THEY SAID.
I’m sure I know that word.
This is another common listening mistake. As someone speaks to you in Spanish, you hear a word that’s familiar but you can’t quite recall what it means. You start to search your memory asking yourself where you heard it before, whilst all the time telling yourself that you should know it.
Finally, the speaker comes to a close and you realise that YOU HAVEN?T HEARD A WORD THEY HAVE SAID.
The Right Way
The Shower Technique.
This is fairly self explanatory. When you listen to someone what you should do is to imagine that their words are like drops of water from a shower. You let them wash over you without any attempt to focus on one particular drop. The idea of this is to capture the idea of the sentence and not the individual details of what is being said. If you hear an unfamiliar word, you just let it go by and trust that your mind will fill in the gaps for you. This works very well.
Pay attention to when you listen in your own language. If someone asked you to repeat word for word what someone has told you, you would find it very difficult. Our minds focus on the message rather than the details.
The Vacant Stare.
This combines nicely with the Shower technique in as much as when someone is talking to you in Spanish, you let the words wash over you whilst you adopt a blank kind of mentality. It’s almost like a state of meditation or trance. Let your breathing slow down, soften the focus of your eyes. Relax your mind. When the person has finished, wait for your mind to tell you what they just said. You’ll be amazed how often what your mind tells you they said is absolutely correct. (And now and again it get’s it absolutely wrong, too!)
The Power of Three.
When you are listening to something NEVER assume that if you cannot understand it the first time around you never will. This is simply not the case. To know if you can understand something you must first listen to it THREE times as a minimum.
The first time you are just getting a very basic idea of what is being said. The second time around your mind begins to help you fill in the details. The third time, you begin to focus on the words you missed beforehand.
There is no shame in listening to something TEN or TWENTY times. How many times must children hear a word before they can use it?
Be brave Enough to Ask for Clarity.
If you are in a live conversation, then the most valuable phrases you can learn are:
¿Qué significa eso? = What does that mean?
¿Cómo se dice? = How do you say?
¿Puedes repetir eso, por favor? = Can you repeat that, please?
Listen if you want to Speak.
Listening is the key to being able to speak. Many students try to talk all the time and never really move beyond the level they are at. This is because, to improve your Spanish you must listen well.
Remember: We have ONE MOUTH and TWO EARS and we should use them in that ratio when learning Spanish.
Gracias de Gordon y Cynthia. 🙂