How Listening to Audiobooks Can Improve Language Learning
In this digital age, language learners have a variety of opportunities for language learning aided by modern technologies. These include smartphone apps and websites that teach basic and complex foreign language concepts, translation apps, and virtual classes. Despite all the digital tools and resources, however, a recent survey by online language learning platform Lingoda revealed that language learners still value human interaction in the language learning process. The survey of over 2,000 adults in the US showed that 85% of respondents indicated they believe human interaction is “very important” or “somewhat important” in new language learning experiences.
While technology certainly offers ample support and can enhance language learning, human teachers bring empathy, cultural insights, and interpersonal connections that AI has yet to replicate fully. As such, a hybrid of both digital and human touch comes in the form of audiobooks.
Fortunately, audiobooks have become a more accessible means of reading and learning today. Digital library Everand is home to millions of audiobooks in various languages — from French and Polish to Hindi and Korean — and a wide array of categories and genres. Learners can find unique, personalized, and engaging ways to learn a foreign language, including audiobooks like Learn Spanish While Sleeping or Learn Korean With Music. Below, we’ll take a look at how listening to audiobooks can be effective for improving language learning:
Pronunciation and fluency
While reading or listening to translated materials can help one learn a new language, listening to how a foreign language is spoken in various contexts can help develop fluency and practice pronunciation. Learners can practice pronunciation by repeating words and phrases they hear from human narrations, and most audiobook platforms allow for speed control to help break pronunciation and intonation down.
With so many audiobooks available, learners of different levels can choose to learn from a variety of materials, from straightforward audiobooks meant for language learning to foreign language translations of classic novels. By listening to narrations and explanations in a foreign language, learners can practice pronunciation and intonation while learning the context in which words and phrases are used.
Another benefit of learning by listening to audiobooks is the opportunity to improve your listening skills. Some languages, for example, have distinct nuances that second-language learners may not have the ear for. In a previous post, we highlighted key differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese, such as noticeable differences in consonant pronunciation and accent.
By taking the time to listen to audiobooks in translation, learners can try to listen for distinguishing factors between languages that may sound similar. As explained in our post, these can be nuances as distinct as European Portuguese, which has softer consonant sounds with more closed vowels. In contrast, Brazilian Portuguese has a smoother and more open pronunciation with a tendency to reduce consonants in some words.
Emotion and engagement
Finally, audiobooks differ from digital apps and AI by offering narration in human voices. This brings out a valuable factor in language learning — emotions. For those learning new words and phrases, hearing emotions and intonation can help provide much-needed context. Some audiobook narrations also help listeners become more immersed by changing voices depending on dialogue and character.
Of course, digital technology will do what it can to catch up. After all, automated and AI-narrated audiobooks are not new or uncommon. Recently, researchers from Microsoft, MIT, and Project Gutenberg announced an initiative to bring natural-sounding AI-generated speech to books. If you’d still prefer human audiobook narrators, however, they aren’t going obsolete anytime soon.
At the end of the day, audiobooks are a great middle ground between digital technology and human connection for language learners. They are also an excellent alternative for language learners who prefer learning at their own pace or may not have access to more formal means of learning languages. More advanced learners also always have the option of listening to more complex narratives via audiobooks, providing flexibility for learners of varying levels.
For more insights on professional translation and language learning or our multilingual translation services, you can check out QuickSilver Translate‘s official website.