Power Listening: Background

1.1.3      Background

Before starting GigaFrench’s Power Listening, consider a fundamental point of language learning: Listening is harder than reading. The reason is speed. When you listen to a native French speaker, you’ll hear three or more words per second. If there is only one key word you don’t know, the sentence will remain opaque and unintelligible forever. All you’ll see are the backlights of the ‘sentence-train’, without time for a second guess and nobody giving you additional clues. You’ll never catch that train again.

On the contrary, when you read your first French articles you can stop the train at any time and linger on single words until you control, guess or remember their meaning (one second, five seconds, 10 seconds – at your speed). Furthermore, after studying a text a few times, you’ll also dispose of some subtle clues to understanding, for example the number of letters in a word, the position on the page, the vicinity of other words, etc. The consequence: while an approximate knowledge of French words is sufficient for reading, it is not sufficient for listening. Listening requires a 100% knowledge of all words.

You’ll soon learn that perfect comprehension of speech requires more than just a few listening rounds. Don’t be surprised if you need to listen to an article 10, 20 or even 50 times – today, tomorrow, next week – until you can distinguish every single word! This intense repetition is perfectly normal for anyone who wants to get the best results. If you are curious to know more, find details on page 159.