Key Babel Language Learning Methods: Ears

25.07.21 12:16 AM

My grandmother always says, “You have two ears and just one mouth.”

So, shouldn't we spend double the time listening to the foreign languages we are learning?

Two Ears to Hear

Every language has its own intonation, its own rhythm, its own style of being spoken. In order to learn effectively we have to train our ears to hear what's being said. Per D. Renukadevi’s research, “Listening awakens awareness of the language as it is a receptive skill that first develops in a human being.” 

As an example, the Mandarin Chinese language is known for being a tonal language. It technically has five tones, while Cantonese Chinese dialect has nine! The falling 4th tone sounds harsh to most American Chinese language learners. You should see how some of the children react to being corrected on the fourth tone initially. We always send parents messages to remind their child that our teachers aren’t angry or criticizing them. It is also not as easy to understand Chinese linguistic art forms, such as song lyrics, children's chants, etc.,  due to the inability to decipher rhyme and rhythm in Chinese poetry. Adult students may take more time than children to get used to it.

The Foreign Language Listening Journey

Most of the research done on this topic of the role of listening in language acquisition agrees that we gain 45% of our language competency from listening alone. So in Key Babel classes,  we start with listening right from the first lesson. We do not expect for students to understand every word (or any word if they are brand new to the target language) as we embark on your language listening journey. While the listening focused media used in classes will vary in speed and accent, you should not feel any pressure to understand what is being said initially.  The teacher will also not interrupt often so as not to distract student ears from acclimating to what is being heard.

As we work on increasing vocabulary, Key Babel students are excited and more confident when they realize that they hear much more than then they previously could. Our teachers also love to hear the reactions of students reacting to themselves understanding the listening portion of our classes.

Besides your nose, the ears are one part of your body that cannot be closed. Focusing on that fact alone, you can see how making sure that we are listening correctly is taken seriously even outside of foreign language classes. Being able to hear the tone of someone's voice; the specific style or pronunciation they use on certain words are all part of the process that builds our understanding. This is one of the main reasons many arguments are started when it comes to text messaging or email.

So, while you get ready for Chinese classes at Key Babel Institute, keep in mind the reason we put so much emphasis on having "two ears to hear".

“The wise will hear and increase their learning.” - Proverbs 1:5

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