November 29, 2017
Podcast: How To Improve Your Vocabulary And Speaking
Teacher Prix here with another podcast for you!
Today, I would like to answer a very common question I believe many of you have. How many times should you repeat an audio lesson? That means, how many times do you need to listen to the same audio?
I understand you. It is sometimes boring and tiring to repeat the same audio over and over again. Consequently, by the time we are listening to an audio lesson for the third time, we get bored to death and can no longer retain information.
That’s why it is so important to understand not only why you need to repeat an audio many times, but also the importance of having clear goals for each time you decide to repeat an audio lesson. When a person has clear goals, it is easier to complete a task. The same happens to English. Whenever you have solid goals, and you deeply understand them, it is easier to accomplish the mission! Ok, I just wrote like an official officer here, but I believe you got the idea, didn’t you?
I’m a firm believer that repetition is the key to learning anything in life. However, countless repetitions without a meaningful purpose will get you nowhere. The first thing you need to realize is that there is a huge difference between passive and active listening. Do you know the difference between them?
Passive listening is when you turn on the radio while you are driving to work. You can also tune into your favorite English podcast as you happily drive to work. Well, maybe not so happily, especially on a rainy Monday morning.
Anyways, as you are driving, all your focus is on the road. You pay attention to the traffic ahead of you, the cars around you, what street you should turn next and so on. You may also get distracted by social media, phone calls, Whatsapp audio messages and so many other things. In the meantime, while you are completely immersed in driving and other distractions, the English podcast is playing. Do you really think you are improving your listening that way?
This is a common misguided belief many students have. They are passively listening to English audios, without realizing that is not really productive work. I believe that at the right time, passive listening can be a wonderful exercise. Nevertheless, if you are trying to improve your listening skills, passive listening is not the best exercise.
Conversely, active listening is the kind of exercise you should dedicate your time and energy to. Active listening basically means you won’t be doing anything else but the exercise. You will dedicate all your attention to this exercise. That’s when you are really working on your listening and this is the moment when I can tell you how many times you should listen to the same audio because this is the time when the number of times you listen to the same audio lesson will really make a difference.
Once you pick the audio lesson you are going to listen to, decide what you want to improve with it. The first time you listen to an audio lesson will always help you have a general idea of what the subject is. Once you have listened to the audio lesson for the first time, it is time to assess how much you were able to understand and what you want to achieve with this audio. What kind of exercise are you doing? Is there an exercise or is it just an audio file in English you found on the internet?
Let’s suppose it is just an English audio file and now that you have listened to it once, you want to think of what to do next. That’s why determining your goal is so important.
What are you trying to improve? Understanding detail? Are you trying to improve vocabulary? Do you want to identify the structures used in the listening? Are you trying to improve your understanding, which basically means that you want to understand more words? These questions will help you understand how many times you need to repeat that same audio lesson.
In my ideal world, where students do everything I recommend, the number of times you should listen to the same audio lesson is, well, a million times. Is that doable for you? I know, I know, 1 million seems like an exaggeration, but what I am trying to show you here is that the number of times you need to repeat an audio lesson is very personal, and highly depends on your level and goals. You should repeat the same audio lesson until you are able to understand 90% to a 100% of what it says.
Now, the catch is, most websites and teachers will just tell you to keep listening, a hundred or million times. I will tell you something else! Keep changing your strategy every time you listen to the same audio until you reach a maximum understanding. Be productive! Change the kind of exercise you do with that audio lesson. Sometimes, all it takes to understand something is to change the way you look at it, the way you approach it.
I do that all the time with audio materials. Changing how I take notes, by listening to the audio with my eyes closed while trying to imagine what I am listening to. I go for a run and play the same audio and check what I get from it. Dictation exercises where you write down important sentences, not everything, but key sentences can also help. I keep trying new things until I master that audio lesson. Only then, I move on to something else. Well, not quite move on, I always get back to the audios I really like, because if they are valuable, they will always teach you something new.
You know, I was reading this book in English and there was a quote from a very famous guy. In the book, the author suggests that the readers memorize this quote and repeat it every day. I decided to accept the challenge and do as suggested. To my surprise, for the first few days doing the exercise, I didn’t really understand the quote. Although I understood the words, I did not understand its lesson. It took me nearly a month to fully grasp the idea of the deep lesson in that quote. How many times did I repeat that quote to myself? Like 10 to 20 times and only after a month I really understood it. Imagine how much you can truly learn if you dedicate yourself to an audio lesson in English, but really dedicate yourself.
I hope you enjoyed this long podcast. I would love to read your comments.
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