14. November 2012

Swedish in Sweden - Learning to Listen

What use is it to ask someone in Swedish and then not to understand the answer? How to get the pronunciation right without being able to listen to Swedish? These two thoughts made listening a top priority for me when I started a new foreign language.

What are the challenges in listening? Listening can be quite hard, especially when it is not possible to detect word boundaries. Actively learning isolated words and identifying frequent phrases turned out to be very helpful for me (see the “follow-up article”: ). In my opinion, most of the meaning in a sentence is conveyed by bringing isolated words in the right order. The words between the keywords seem to be far less important, although they might transfer emotional content and should not be dismissed when switching from listening (= consumption) to speaking (= production).

First, a small detour: the language courses I took so far were structured to cover a certain topic (e.g. describing a room, counting, specifying date and time) or a certain aspect of grammar (passive, progressive form). However, regarding the listening, it would be convenient if the content was ordered by frequency such that the most frequent words and phrases in everyday language are taught first (ChinesePod offers online courses for Chinese that take frequency as a guideline and provides the grammar in small chunks).

In order to learn according to frequency, I decided to watch movies and listen to audiobooks. Both deliver highly frequent phrases and put actively learned isolated words into context. The movies provide enough context such that looking up words in the dictionary is not necessary. With audiobooks, it is more difficult because there are no visual cues. However, here knowing the content of the audiobook beforehand is useful. Movies and audiobooks have the advantage that they are completely risk-free — there is no problem associated with skipping a few sentences that seem to complicated at the moment, unlike in real life.

All articles in this series:

  1. Swedish in Sweden
  2. Swedish in Sweden – Translation Tools
  3. Swedish in Sweden – Gathering New Input
  4. Swedish in Sweden – Learning to Listen
  5. Swedish in Sweden – Practice and Rehearsal
  6. Swedish in Sweden – Musings about Motivation