Want to get past the language barrier? Do this!


Have you ever found yourself in a language lesson thinking :”I’ve been doing this for a while now and I still can’t understand a word!”

Many language learners, especially at the beginning, fall into the trap of concentrating too much on the written rather than the spoken word. However, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, training your listening skills from day one is essential to get past the language barrier.

How do you develop you ability to “hear” the language you love? Well, I have something that can help you get started.

First, the internet is your friend if you are self studying a language. There are lots of resources online that can help you train your ear . Here are some I’ve used with my students:

I love these websites because they not only provide an example of language in use, that is current and authentic, but they also use a type of language that is simple to understand.

Once you’re on the website, choose the record you want to listen to and follow this step by step process to go to from “no idea about what they say” to “I get it now!”

Step #1 – Listen first

Listen to the recording for the first time, without looking a the typescript. If you’re a beginner, you may find it difficult to understand it the first time. Maybe, you’ll just recognize a few words. If you’re a more advanced learner you may get the gist but miss out some words. Please, don’t beat yourself up, if you don’t understand as much as you’d like, you’re still learning! Just let the words and thei sound wash over you and once the record is over get ready for step 2.

Step # 2 – Listen and follow the script

listen to the recording again and this time follow the script. Let your brain fill the gaps and make the association between the words and the sounds. Maybe, you’ll find out that you already knew some words and  you just didn’t recognize their pronunciation earlier. This is good news!At this stage you’ll become increasingly aware of  the words’ sound and their pronunciation and you’ll “educate” your ear to hear them.

Step #3 – Get the meaning

Now that you have associated the sound with the words, you’ll be looking for their meaning. Scan the text and see which key words you know and which ones you don’t. Key words are normally high frequency words (e.i they consistently show up in a spoken or writtten text) which are essential to understand the gist. The cool feature of the “Slow news” website (in Italian, Spanish and French) is that you can just click on certain words to see their meaning in English straightway. Cool, right? If that option is not available, remember that you can always use wordreference.com.

Step #4 – Shadowing

Now that you are clear about the meaning and the pronunciation of your recorded text, you can try to listen to it once again and read along! Your aim is to get your pronunciation as close as possible to the original one. This technique is called shadowing and I’ve previously talked about it in my other article about how to improve pronunciation. With this technique, you’ll fix the sound of those words into your brain and you’ll also improve your pronunciation, at the same time. It’s two for one deal!

If you consistently train your ear in this way, you will eventually understand the spoken language better and get past the language barrier. Do your think you can schedule five minutes a day to do this? The earlier you start the sooner you’ll get result.

And remember:  if you need help in becoming fluent in the language you love and want even more resources to learn Italian, Spanish, French or English, I’ll be more than happy to have you over at the Language Rose Learning Club to get special learning tips and resources every week (for free!)! 🙂

Come on over and join the club!

See you soon,



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