In this second part of a two-part series, you will learn how to improve your listening comprehension by extracting specifics. Also referred to as a bottom-up approach, interpreting specific information in a Spanish dialogue is a key stepping stone to fully understanding the sounds of a second language.
If you haven’t already, you should first go back and read part 1 to get your head around the first technique for improving listening comprehension which is understanding context or the top-down approach.
The path to obtaining fluent listening skills progresses in three steps:
1. Interpreting information through context
2. Extracting specific information for clues to unravel the idea
3. Understanding everything
Once you have a good understanding of the first two steps, you can build those skills until eventually you can listen and understand everything you hear.
But be warned, it does take time and if you expect results too quickly you will get frustrated.
Often when students are first trying to improve their listening comprehension there is a huge desire to understand everything.
When listening to a dialogue you might find yourself trying to understand it all. Instead what happens is you find yourself trying to understand one sentence behind the conversation and then completing losing what is being said in the moment.
This is okay and perfectly normal.
Unless you are having a conversation with a real person, in which case you should politely tell them you don’t understand, keep focusing on what you heard previously and don’t worry about the moment. You can always listen to practice audio again and next time you listen do so with confidence that you have already interpreted that first idea, then confidently move onto the next idea and repeat.
How to leverage specifics to improve your listening comprehension
Listening for specifics is similar to listening for context in that you are looking for clues to what the speaker may be talking about without understanding every word.
You can’t just jump from understanding nothing to understanding everything. Instead, you should take it one step at a time.
Once you identify some possible information from context, you can then start to listen to the sounds of the speaker for more information.
This is best done by looking for specific words to give you clues for what the conversation is about.
Here is a recording from the Fluent Spanish Listening course:
I will give you the context of the conversation, a guy gets home and is speaking with his wife. He is looking for something. Can you figure out what that something is?
Don’t worry about understanding everything, just try to work out what he is looking for?
Once you have got that, see if you can work out where he has looked.
And then for bonus points, where was the item he was looking for?
In this exercise, you weren’t asked to understanding everything you were asked to look for a specific piece of information.
When you are next looking to watch a movie in Spanish, see if you can pull just one thing from the conversation. Then go back and try to get another. Let it be one word first. Then when you listen again to get one more word.
Try not to get frustrated and don’t expect too much from yourself. Target small wins and then celebrate when you get something you never understood before.
You are building a skill. You are building a muscle. And for a hint on motivation – the more you enjoy the process the easier it will be to keep practising.
Over time you can leverage both the context (top-down) and specific (bottom-up) approaches as a bridge the gap between understanding nothing and understanding everything.