Key Babel Language Learning Methods: Ears

24.07.21 11:16 PM

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

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

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 Chinese Mandarin language is known for being a tonal language. It technically has five tones, while Cantonese 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 due to the inability to hear rhyme and rhythm in their poetry. Adult students need a bit more time to get used to it.

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 begin our language listening journey. Because the listening media used in classes will vary in speed and accent, students should not feel any pressure to understand what is being said initially.  The teacher will also not interrupt so as not to distract the student's 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 specific 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 listening skills.



“The wise will hear and increase their learning.”

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