Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Learning to comprehend a foreign language.

  1. Nov 23, 2009 #1
    I would like to obtain course on learning a foreign language based solely on listening comprehension. I have no need to learn how to speak, read, or write the language. I only need to be able to understand other people when they speak. Does anyone here know of such a learning program on cd? In particular, I would like to learn Spanish this way.

    The cd's I know of for learning Spanish present a word in Spanish spoken slowly and enunciated perfectly. The word is repeated and then there is a pause while the cd waits for me to repeat the word. Then the meaning of the word is given in English and the next word starts. This is excruciatingly slow and teaches me nothing like what I am interested in. I want to hear a very small lesson, in English, on grammar and vocabulary followed by native speakers speaking in natural speaking style and speed using the lesson just learned as well as previously learned.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2009 #2
    fastest way to learn a language is to speak it as often as possible.
  4. Nov 23, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I don't know of any course like that. The biggies like Berlitz and RosettaStone have CD based courses, but they are pricey.

    Routledge has tapes or CDs, and there is a "Teach Yourself" series, which I believe has tapes and maybe CDs.

    Perhaps one can visit a local bookstore, like Barnes & Noble, and browse the options. Or check with the foreign language department at a local university. One local place offers a weekend, or week during summers, immersion course.
  5. Nov 23, 2009 #4
    Let me emphasize that learning to speak Spanish is not on my agenda. Also, the medium of CD is essential since I would be listening while travelling.
  6. Nov 23, 2009 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Pay a Hispanic family to let you move in with them and learn the same way their kids did.

    Watching x hours of Univision each day might help, especially if watching children's shows.
  7. Nov 23, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Maybe one could buy a Spanish version of books on tape or CD.

    I think all language courses assume the student is planning to learn to speak as well as comprehend the spoken language. Speaking does help with listening comprehension.

    Along the lines of BobG's recommendations, there is Spanish language radio.
  8. Nov 23, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I don't know about anything you could use while traveling. If you just need to learn to understand it and not speak it (not sure it's that different, since most of either is learning the vocabulary), maybe renting movies in Spanish with subtitles would help? Or sit in a cafe in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood?
  9. Nov 23, 2009 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I think the hearing comprehension part is the hardest part, since it requires you to think in the language in order to keep up with what the person is saying.

    It also bothers me that you only need to hear; not read or speak. Isn't that a little like needing to learn how to fly a plane, but don't require learning how to take off or land?

    Unless you're learning Navaho, of course, in which case I could see not needing to know how to read it.
  10. Nov 23, 2009 #9
    In terms of a language, if you learn to comprehend it, then you obviously know how to speak it.

    Basically you need to memorize all of the individual words in the spanish language, then learn how they're put together to form a sentence. In which case, you might as well learn to speak it. They kinda go hand-in-hand. Really it's impossible to be able to understand what someone is saying in another language without actually knowing how to speak the language. Good luck finding a way to do that though.

    Your best bet is RosettaStone IMO. Like it says in the commercials, it isn't just memorization like what you were talking about with the tapes/CD's. They teach you common phrases and attribute it to a picture or video. So if you're learning to comprehend it without being able to speak it, that's probably your best bet.
  11. Nov 23, 2009 #10
    Except, Bobg, that even if I don't learn to speak, no one dies. I don't doubt that if I gained listening comprehension, then speaking ability would most likely follow. However, I don't want there to be any blank time on the CD while the equipment waits to hear me repeat after the announcer. That's a waste of precious CD real estate and of my time. I want something like this:

    Lesson 1: A sentence in Spanish can be formed from a noun and a verb. Common nouns are A which means A', B which means B', C ..., D ..., and E ... Common verbs are a which means a', b ..., c ..., d ..., and e ... Therefore a typical sentence would be A a.

    A a. A b. C e. D b. A d, etc.

    Lesson 2: ...

    Where A, B, ..., a, b, ... are actual Spanish words. Example sentences are not spoken slowly with perfect enuntication, but rapidly as they would be in conversation.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  12. Nov 23, 2009 #11
    Well, I think the fastest way to learn any language is to emerse yourself in it. Instead of learning it as your travel learn it once you arrive... don't be afraid to ask questions about how to say this or what does that mean and you'll pick up most of the basics very quickly.

    This is how I have learnt a bit of an African language called Twi, my girlfriends mother always spoke it to me even though I didn't understand but now I understand what she is saying most of the time, I wouldn't however ever try to speak it, lol.
  13. Nov 23, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Because of all the tenses and conjugations, it still might be tedious, and then there is context, where the subject (third person) might not be mentioned.

    In third person singular, el (he), ella (she), Usted (you, formal) use the same conjugation.

    Perhaps one could find a Spanish-speaking person who wants to learn English, and one can teach the other.
  14. Nov 23, 2009 #13
    This is turning out harder than I expected. I don't want to learn Spanish the fastest way. I don't want to listen to Spanish language radio where if I'm lucky I'll understand 1 word in 20. I just want to know if there are some cds similar to what I described.
  15. Nov 23, 2009 #14
    Most fo the good cds to learn other languages are pretty pricey. I know there are computer programs that are similar to what you want and you can just skip the parts where it wants you to speak. As well other languages are not like english if you learn a noun or a verb on it's own when you hear it in a sentence odds are you won't recognize it. Conjugation takes a pretty important role in a lot of foreign languages, especially spanish.
  16. Nov 23, 2009 #15
    Do you know the names of these computer programs. As is, they would not be suitable, but if they are similar enough to what I am looking for, I might be able to burn some cds from them. Of course, the lessons can't simply be word lists. They have to teach the grammar too. But the lessons, although complete, should be a small percentage of the cd. What I really want is practice listening to the spoken language with a limited, but constantly growing vocabulary list and set of grammatical constructions.
  17. Nov 23, 2009 #16
    Well here is a website that does it for free:
    not sure if it's any use to you

    Here is a list of programs you could ... look for(at a store of course):
    You can just pick which one would suit your needs best. My sister used the instant immersion ones I believe for french, they are more suited for children though. (Maybe it was just the one she had bought not sure...)
  18. Nov 23, 2009 #17
    By the way, even if no such cds exist, the concept is not entirely new. I have a book that teaches you to read Chinese and is constructed in pretty much the same fashion. Each lesson is a list of vocabulary along with reading material using the vocabulary of that lesson along with the vocabulary of previous lessons. I think that style of book is called a graded reader. It doesn't teach you to write, speak, or listening comprehension, but no one complains. It does what it does and it does it well.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2009
  19. Nov 24, 2009 #18
    I still don't understand a work even thought Ive been watching movies in foreign language for more than 3 years. Now, I am so used to reading subtitles that I feel like they are talking in English ...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook