03/09 2018 Keep listening, don’t give up!

One of the biggest challenges for anyone who decides to start learning Portuguese is to develop receptive skills, aka building Listening skills. Frankly speaking, during initial learning stages, this is difficult for any language, but as anything difficult, hard work always pays off in the long run.

Personally, when I first started studying Portuguese I found it very difficult to listen to a radio station, a podcast or to watch a TV show, because I could hardly figure out how to distinguish between the words. It always seemed like I was facing a continuous string of sounds. I then tried concentrating more, to identify each word, but for the most part I noticed that the only measurable result was a drop in energy levels.

Afterwards, I decided to turn listening into a daily exercise. I thought that if I listened long enough I would be able to work things out, which is not to say that spending hours listening to Portuguese, I would one day wake up speaking the language. In the end, it did help and here’s why:

1. Slowly, but surely, you get to identify the constituents in a stream of connected speech – which is the most difficult part in the beginning, when concentration levels drop quite fast.

2. You get to see language in context – let’s imagine that you’ve decided to learn words related to gardening. A podcast on gardening will allow you to identify the vocabulary you are interested in, in an appropriate context.

3. Pragmatics tend to simplify everything – context, especially in the case of TV shows, plays an important part, as it helps to simplify the decoding process of the message. The way the Speakers interact, their gestures, the tone of voice – these are all important factors which help you identify the topic of the discussion, without feeling at a loss.

4. You enrich our vocabulary – it has happened to me, more than once, to stumble upon a new word, whose meaning I managed to identify in context, based on the words I already knew. It is even more interesting when you get to hear the same word used in different contexts during the podcast and thus check if the meaning you attributed to it was correct. Also, you get to recycle old vocabulary, which is always a plus.

5. Full control and freedom at the same time – because technology works in such wonderful ways, you can always get to choose to go back and forth. You can choose to listen to one sequence more than once, you can choose to skip the part you’re not interested in, you can change the speed, you name it.

By the way, listening exercises are always done in two steps. The first step is about having a top-down approach – that is your main aim is to identify the theme. Having identified the theme, it will be much easier for you to anticipate the vocabulary which will be used and even the information that the podcast provides in detail. This is where the second listening comes in handy – the bottom-up step of the listening exercise allows you to identify details, to interpret the meaning of certain sentences so on and so forth. So make sure you push the play button at least twice.

The above-listed suggestions are there to help you explore more with authentic materials. It is important not to give up and to give listening, the dreaded listening exercise a chance. Slowly but surely, you will be astounded to notice just how much you understand after two weeks of practice in comparison with the beginning. After all, before we get to speak, it is really important to listen, and we all know just how difficult that can be sometimes.

If you’re looking for podcasts to start practicing your Listening skills in Portuguese, take a look at this article about what’s available.

Até breve and should you have any suggestions, do send us a hint at contact@falaportugues.ro.