Everywhere on the internet and in magazines you find people advocating the benefits of passive language learning. They promise you'll be able to speak the language of your choice if you buy their programs and "listen" to them whilst asleep.

Sometimes, we language teachers, recommend that our students listen to programs, songs and YouTube videos in their target language. Some even recommend them as a background sound in order to mimic immersion.

My question is: Do all this work?

I'm sorry to disappoint you, the answer is a big fat NO.

If you look up in the dictionary the word "Learning" is defined as " the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught".

There is no other way.

You will never be able to pick up a language passively, while on your sleep. Passive exposure, even over a long period, won't allow you to start communicating in your target language. As the definition reveals, learning a language requires a certain amount of effort from you.

Yes, I am so sorry, but you need to learn these new words you encounter and revise them periodically to be able to recall and use them when necessary.

You must get familiar with grammar structures and expressions, and the only way is through constant verbal and written repetitions of these patterns. It is The unique way they will be engraved in your memory.

Listening to the radio, watching films, or YouTube videos in your target language are indeed a useful aid towards improving your listening skills and consequently your speaking skills. They should be used as tools towards EFFECTIVE ACTIVE LISTENING. You listen to the Audio, you repeat the process paying attention to unfamiliar words and expressions which you'll write down for revision later. You shadow part or all the audio especially if you have a transcript, paying attention to pronunciation. You try to use your new learnt words and expressions in conversations and in your writings.

As you can see, you've been taking action steps throughout all the process. These were not just background sounds whilst performing some other unrelated activity.

It is profitable to be frequently exposed to sounds and patterns of your second language. Your brain gets used to the musicality and particularities of it. Hence the advantage of including the language in your daily life. One way to do so is to incorporate your target language in your hobbies. It's an effective way for learning specialised vocabulary.

Five or ten minutes of active learning can help you rip more benefits than countless hours of passive listening.

We all have to change the mindset setting that we can get something out of nothing.Languages are learnt with intentional hard work. It is a decision we take for whatever reason, and we have to keep motivated, persevere, be consistent, persistent and relentless.

It is a waste of your time and money to invest in all these programs offering an easy way out to fluency.

Have you ever tried passive language learning? Has it worked for you? Let us know in the comments.


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DOWNLOAD PDF Effective Active Learning. It gives you a step by step approach to listening exercise.