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.” This highlights one of the main reasons we perceive listening exercises to be a critical language learning method at Key Babel.

As an example, the Mandarin Chinese language is known for being a tonal language. It technically has five tones, while the 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 in our children's classes. 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.

Language learners of tonal languages such as Chinese are usually quick to feel intimidated by the fact that they do not hear any differences in vocabulary, or struggle to differentiate inquiries from commands. It definitely takes some getting used to, but lessons that uphold traditional teaching methods such as dictation and audio repetition are quite useful in building your ability to process what you are hearing. Teachers may also exaggerate their pitches to try to help get the point across. However, even in "tone-less" languages like Spanish or Russian, learning to hear what is actually being said will be crucial to your fluency success.

Poster of communication styles for listening ears classroom procedure at Key Babel.

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. In Key Babel classes, we start with listening activities right from the first lesson. Of course we do not expect for students to understand every word (or any word if they are completely 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 through various methods, 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 each lesson.

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 learning 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.

Banner of communication styles for listening ears classroom procedure at Key Babel.

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

More Blogs