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I’d like to ask if I have to give up my meagre listening practice and listening understanding. I put up a goal to understand what the actors in a radio drama, the Archers of BBC, talk. But I mainly use my time, a couple of hours, for reading, so I can’t spare much for listening. The latter is less than a half hour mostly. So for intensive practice for only a short time, I write down listening a sentence from an Aussie news a day.
But now I begin to be skeptical if I could understand the program someday. For even a linguist, Stephen Krashen, who emphasizes reading very much, also doesn’t miss to mention listening. In his words,

“We think that you acquire language in one way, not by studying grammar, not by doing flash cards, not by memorizing vocabulary, you get it by listening and understating, reading and understanding. And be interested in meaning.” (fnn.co.kr)

Is my expectation that reading and understanding process, even though without listening much when the sounds between English and my language is quite different, would finally get me into the listening and understanding phase, reasonable? (FYI: Except for the reading and less than a half hour listening, there’s none input or output of English but for asking and getting replies on learning websites.)

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    Why not combine them? Listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks and read along on paper :-)
    – user230
    Sep 30, 2014 at 1:43
  • Personally, I think there's a lot you can get out of doing both. Reading is generally easier - you can proceed at your own pace, and since everything is written down it is simple to take a word or phrase you don't quite understand and put it into google. However, hearing a language spoken gives you access to tone and inflection, which can help you infer the meaning of words and idioms that would otherwise escape you. It's also great for learning proper pronunciation - nothing beats having a native speaker say a word.
    – Damien H
    Sep 30, 2014 at 1:46
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    I guess it also depends on what you plan to be doing with your grasp of English. If it's just comprehending text, then keep things as they are. But if you intend on being involved in verbal conversations, then there's never too much audio you can listen to.
    – Damien H
    Sep 30, 2014 at 1:50
  • This is not primarily opinion based. There is research quoted in one of the answers below that addresses the question quite objectively.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:21

3 Answers 3

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I wrote this as a comment, but decided to turn it into an answer.

Because I'm quite sure that I was once in your shoes myself.

I predict that two things will happen to you if you keep continuing practicing mainly reading, based on a few things: that Korean sounds are quite different from English, that you said (implied) you can't understand the program, and that I'd been through the same thing, for a long while. I believe that your English will become better, reading skill in particular, but not as fast as you could if you focus more on listening. I also believe that your listening skill will also improve gradually, but it could take over a decade to get to the point that you don't have to try so hard to understand.

This might sound too assertive, but it took me a long while to realize that, and I don't want you to have to take such a long time I took.

Having said that, I believe that the most important thing of language learning is being happy learning it and being able to communicate. Whichever way you choose, you have all my best wishes and support. Good luck on your learning!

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As a native English speaker who is learning Korean, I would agree with Damkerng T that listening quite helpful. I would say especially so with English because it is so difficult to pronounce a new word correctly having only read it. And also because the difference between the sounds of the languages are quite extreme.

It's hard not to be subjective in my answer, since learning a language is such a personal process. However, I've had good improvement taking a dialogue exchange, and breaking up the recording into smaller pieces (with software) and studying it that way.

열심히 겅부합니다! (Study hard!)

-John

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Reading can help your listening comprehension in several ways:

  • Vocabulary acquisition. There is usually more vocabulary in written text than in oral speech. If you read a lot, it is going to be easier for you to recognize new words in oral speech.

  • Grammar. Usually more complex grammatical structures are used in written text than in oral speech.

Backing research:

Quote from a paper titled "Can Second Language Acquirers Reach High Levels of Proficiency Through Self-Selected Reading? An Attempt to Confirm Nation's (2014) Results" by Stephen Krashen and Beniko Mason:

Hours spent reading was shown to be an excellent predictor of gains on the TOEIC

Note: TOEIC==Test of English for International Communication

Later in the same paper:

Surprisingly, hours spent reading was more highly correlated with the listening subtest (r = .93) than with the reading subtest (r= .75),

Link to the full paper: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/2015_krashen_mason_can_second_language_acquirers__..._.pdf

Practical advice:

  • Read easy texts: You should choose reading material that's easy to understand. As a rule of thumb you should understand at least 98% of the words in any given page. Comic books are OK.

  • The reading material should be interesting, even compelling. Ideally you should forget you are reading in a foreign language. If it's to complex or to boring, choose another book. No shame in doing that.

  • Carry a book wherever you are. Read while communting, standing in line, etc

  • Don't look up the dictionary for new words. Just guess the meaning of the word and continue reading.

  • Reading and listening should be complemented. Listening is hands-free, whereas reading is not. Listen to the radio or something else when walking and start reading when you can. My rule: If you can read, read. If not, listen. Reading should be the priority.

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    This answer would be better if you would summarize the conclusions of the academic paper in language that someone that may not be fluent in English could more easily understand.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 20, 2016 at 16:53
  • @ColleenV I have summarize the conclusions in plain English. I have also added practical advice Apr 21, 2016 at 6:48

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