“Narrow listening, I propose, will be most valuable to second language acquirers who find uncontrolled casual conversation too difficult to understand.”
Linguist and educational researcher
If you’re one of the many language learners, especially an intermediate-level learner, who struggles with understanding native speakers then this may be your golden ticket to finally overcoming that bothersome issue.
In this article, I’ll cover how the app works, whether or not it’s an effective means of improving one’s listening comprehension skills and finally, my thoughts on making Lingophil a part of your daily language learning routine.
LINGO WHAT? THE RUNDOWN OF THE BASICS
What exactly is Lingophil?
It’s a web application that runs in your browser, not a native app, like you would traditionally download on your device. All that it requires is a stable internet connection. Once a person has logged in, the user can listen to native and natural dialogue in either Spanish, French or German (for the time being).
The app has a very straightforward process that’s focused primarily on improving your listening comprehension. It’s unique in its approach, because it’s like listening to a TV series made for language learners.
It’s like a TV series for your ears.
There’s no video component, but the audio is professionally produced. Therefore, it makes the user feel as if they’re taking part in a conversation with a cinematic flair.
If you’re familiar with Duolingo’s language podcasts, it has a similar production style but Lingophil is catered towards intermediate-level learners.
However, Lingophil’s dialogue is more intensive (affiliate), as it’s completely native-like (with colloquialisms and all) without ever being slowed down to make things easier on the listener.
That may seem harsh, but it’s purposefully done to train and challenge one’s ears. In fact, I’d argue that it is against their core values to slow down the audio. More on that later.
The dialogue shines because it has been professionally recorded by voice actors and features multiple, intertwined stories about characters “struggling with bittersweet family relations and friendships, broken dreams, break ups, financial woes and much more as they try to find the path to their place in the world.”
Once you enter the app, the process is straightforward. You’re treated with a “quick start guide” to help you get familiarized with the process in a matter of seconds.
There's also a more detailed guide with some useful tips on how to get the most out of the app and the method employed, which is worth reading before you start out.
Past that point, you’re introduced to a slew of episodes within that season to choose from.
The story is linear, so it makes more sense to go through each one chronologically if it’s your first time starting out. After that, you can pick and choose and go back to any of the episodes that were especially challenging for you.
The process for each episode is very intuitive:
1. Listen to an entire scene for 1-4 minutes
2. Listen to each line individually and type out what your hear
3. Receive feedback (and corrections, if necessary)
4. Review with helpful exercises and move on!
This method has a name and it’s been dubbed by Lingophil as the ILCP.
Intensive Listening Comprehension Practice (ILCP) is specifically used to train your listening comprehension. You create your own transcript from audios by typing what you hear.
A correction tool instantly shows your errors which you can then compare with the master transcript that also offers additional annotations to the text.
The challenging part is trying to get every part of the sentence correct. Even I, an experienced Spanish speaker, forgot an accent on my first answer! And you know what? It didn’t let me off the hook.
This approach of “deep learning” tends to yield better results in the long term.
We’re all in a rush to become fluent and develop every aspect of our language skills, but Lingophil takes on you a thorough assessment of your own listening and writing skills.
Therefore, it’s worthwhile to listen to the sentences a ew times before transcribing them. If you’re unsure about something, what’s the rush?
Take the time you need in order to succeed.
Additionally, there’s a practicality factor involved with checking what you’ve written and comparing it to the audio before submitting your answer.
By analyzing the corrections and reflecting upon your errors, you’re actively learning from your mistakes.
Once you’re done with an episode, there are follow up exercises to bolster your spelling and translation skills.
Sometimes the sentences are tied into the topic of the episode and sometimes they’re not, so that’s one thing that must be improved with future updates.
It would help to have a centralized theme to tie all of the practice sentences together.
It would take someone plenty of time to go through an entire season, because there’s so much material to work with.
Not to mention, there’s a lot of value in going back and relistening to material you’ve become familiar with, because you pick up something new each time.
IS IT EFFECTIVE?
The short answer is yes, very effective!
The long answer lies in the simplicity and potency of Lingophil (affiliate). It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but what it does, it does extremely well.
Think of a restaurant with only two or three items on the menu. You know it’s going to be well done, because they’ve prepped and cooked those select few dishes thousands and thousands of times.
In a sense, it’s a form of immersion and in the long run, it’ll allow you to express yourself like a native.
How so? It’s all about input, what you take in eventually turns into what you’ll put out.
Lingophil provides you with compelling input and the more time you invest into the storyline, the more you become familiar with the characters, their situations and their choice of vocabulary.
It’s a charming experience that’s different from most of the language learning apps out there.
Krashen himself toyed around with something similar, but he dubbed it “narrow listening.” Basically, he would go around recording native speakers in Spanish and then re-listen to the most interesting material to improve his listening comprehension skills.
This app provides the means to do what Krashen did, without having to go outside with your tape recorder (or smartphone) and trying to hunt down speakers of your target language.
Additionally, the emphasis may be on listening, but you also get the added bonus of improving your writing skills.
You have to create your own transcript of what you hear and this is crucial for developing your output skills.
To me, this part of language learning is criminally underrated and although I prefer writing in a notebook rather than typing on the computer, this is a great substitute.
MAKE IT A PART OF MY DAILY LANGUAGE LEARNING ROUTINE?
I wholeheartedly believe that Lingophil can benefit any language learner (affiliate).
It’s easy to adapt to your schedule, because the episodes are just the right length and you can consume as much, or as little, as you’d like.
They’re ideal for listening practice, because they don’t allow you to slow anything down.
As always, I suggest starting small (~10 minutes) and then scaling up with time.
Remember, a little each day will take you all the way!
As the old saying goes, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
Many of us want the easy way, or we want a learning hack, but at the end of the day, language learning is hard work. You have to invest your time and energy to get something meaningful in return!
You get content that’s completely original, charming and honestly, fun to work with!
IS IT COST EFFECTIVE?
Unlike most traditional apps, Lingophil does not come with a subscription, but instead, you pay a one time fee per season of the show.
Currently, they offer 3 seasons (affiliate) for each of their languages: French, German and Spanish.
The latest season of Spanish even offers audio in Latin American Spanish by featuring characters from Mexico and Argentina.
This is a nice touch, because many languages have varying dialects and it’s beneficial to develop your listening comprehension for all forms of the language.
To be honest, I’m a native Italian but even I have to use subtitles for some shows based in Napoli.
Lingophil, if you’re reading this, when it comes time to add Italian to your catalogue, include a Napolitano character per favore!
THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN?
If you’re a complete beginner, Lingophil is not the product for you.
It’s too advanced and the native level dialogue would frustrate any newbie beyond belief.
On the flip side, if you’re an intermediate level learner or high beginner, and you want to bolster your listening skills - two thumbs way up!
The app doesn’t come with the bells and whistles of Babbel or Busuu, but that’s not what it was built for.
Instead, it’s a hyper focused app that specifically trains your listening comprehension and
improves your spelling by way of transcribing audio and translating written sentences.
If you’ve always had trouble understanding movies, TV shows and podcasts in your target language, then Lingophil (affiliate) will provide you with the medicine you need to bring your listening skills up to speed.
Take it seriously and take your time, because Lingophil will make a difference in a matter of days.
Lingophil is for those who are wanting to learn how to listen. And guess what? Learning how to listen may not seem sexy or impressive, but it’ll make the biggest difference in your path to fluency. So why not learn how to listen…on steroids?