Passive listening | Why it achieves virtually nothing

Unlike reading and writing, you can do other things whilst listening. However, just because you can, that doesn’t mean that you should. Passive listening can be useful, particularly for beginners, but not necessarily for the reasons that you might think.

While it may have some benefits, passive listening is nowhere near as beneficial as active listening. There’s a big difference between actively listening to someone and simply hearing them speak, especially when it comes to understanding what you’re being told.

While active listening involves concentrating on some Polish language audio, passive listening is playing Polish audio whilst concentrating on something else. There are some limited benefits to doing this, namely:

  1. you’re more likely to actively listen to something if you can hear it already than if you can’t
  2. you get used to the sounds of the language
  3. it helps to simulate a Polish immersion environment

Passive listening? It’s not listening if you’re not paying attention

Let me make this really simple. Which will be more useful? Actively listening to some Polish audio or just playing some Polish audio in the background?

As far as I’m concerned, passive listening isn’t even possible, although passive hearing is. You might be able to hear people talking in a crowd, but unless you focus on one conversation in particular, you’ll never know what anyone is actually saying.

There is only one major benefit of having Polish audio on for you to passively listen to. It makes it more likely that you’ll actively listen to it. After all, if it’s not on in the first place, there’s absolutely no chance that you can hear it.

You get used to the sounds of Polish

Can I hold my hand up as a proud member of the “‘getting used to the sounds of a language’ sounds like utter bunkum that won’t help me learn to speak it” group? I too agree – getting used to the sounds of Polish will not help you to speak it. That, however, doesn’t mean that it’s not useful.

By hearing enough Polish, you’ll be able to instantly recognise when people are talking it, even if you can’t understand what they’re saying at first. Always handy if you want some extra listening practice.

Knowing how things are pronounced can also improve your pronunciation. You’ll know when you’ve pronounced something wrong when it doesn’t sound anything like how you’ve heard natives saying the same thing.

The biggest benefit that I’ve found when it comes to “getting used to the sounds of the language” is that Polish no longer sounds alien. Polish don’t seem quite as foreign after listening to hours and hours of it. For me, at least, a language which initially sounded like Jaws crunching on a set of marbles has become music-like.

It keeps you immersed

Probably more useful further down your language learning study, just having Polish around you will keep you immersed. By having Polish audio on, it helps to simulate an immersion environment, similar to that you would have if you were living in Poland.

TL;DR

Playing Polish audio in the background makes you more likely to listen to it, teaches you the rhythm of the language and helps simulate the immersion environment that you would experience living in Poland.

What do you like to listen to?

I listen to Polish radio and Polish music all the time. Depending on whether I want to listen to mostly music or mostly speech, I listen to (in descending order of music content) my YouTube playlist, Radio Eska, RMF Maxx, Radio Kraków and Tok FM. What do you like to listen to? Give me your suggestions in the comments below.

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