Listening for Latin Learning

So, I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post that, while reading is the secret, it’s not the full story… there’s also listening.

Listening is a useful and important addition to learning any language, because it engages the aural sense, which reading doesn’t, and because it forces you not to get bogged down on any particular word, phrase, or even sentence. Remember I said you need a ‘devil may care’ attitude in learning a language? Well, listening is a great way to achieve that.

Okay, so how do you go about listening?

Well, the way I go about listening is different from the way I go about reading. When I read, I read lots, and I almost never repeat, placing more value on reading extensively than on understanding everything.

But listening is different.

With listening, I recommend listening to the same thing over and over. This reinforces the reading nicely. What you do is listen to something you’ve already read (no more than 4-5 minutes, but I usually prefer 2-3 minutes), and you listen to it on repeat.

As you hear the same piece over and over, your brain starts to familiarise itself with the language, and it stops sounding like gibberish. As this develops, you start picking up random words, then phrases, and then eventually whole sentences. And I don’t just mean making them out as words, phrases, or sentences: I mean actually understanding them.

Trust me, it feels awesome.

Once you’ve reached this point, if there’s still some of the recording you don’t understand, you have a few options. The first is to go back and read the text again to understand it all, then read it once more while listening, then go back to listening until you’re understanding everything. The second option is just to decide you’ve understood enough and move on to listening to a new segment on repeat.

Now, why do I say an absolute maximum of 4-5 minutes? Because any longer and the audio doesn’t repeat enough. For this method to work, for your brain to become familiar with the sounds and structure of the language, it needs to hear the same thing over and over again - I often find at the beginning that it really only starts to make sense around the 60-70 times mark. If it’s too long, that’s not easy to get to.

Also, by repeating quickly, you know that if you miss something it’ll come around again pretty soon, so no need to worry. And, of course, this helps develop that ‘devil may care’ that I talked about before.

You might also be wondering where to get Latin audio from. You can find some online, and I’ll talk about those options in another post, but for now, the easiest way is simply to record it yourself. This has the advantage of being pretty easy, and it also means that at the beginning the recording will be slow, but as you get better and faster, so too does the Latin! So sit down for 3 minutes and record yourself reading out loud; then stop, and as you go about your day, whenever you have a spare minute (and you’re not reading, of course!), listen to the recording on repeat.

If you do that, your Latin will improve in leaps and bounds!

Happy listening!