4 REASONS why Listening Comprehension is the HARDEST skill to learn

conversational russian metro club

1. When you listen, you have to RELY only on your EARS.

But only 10-12% of people on the planet are audials, i.e. they perceive information mostly through hearing. The vast majority of us (80-85 people) are visuals.

2. It requires you to stay FOCUSED for a long time.

Even a short distraction can break your comprehension.

3. You CAN'T CONTROL the speed of the speech and natives often speak quickly.

They rarely slow down for foreigners unless asked. It is on you to catch up with them.

4. It requires you to stay FOCUSED for a long time.

Even a short distraction can break your comprehension.

4 BARRIERS that you can DO WRONG when listening that makes it even harder for you to understand.

1. You are constantly TRANSLATING in your head everything you hear into your native language.

Why is it a barrier?

Because it puts a double load on your brain.

Translation is a separate skill.

It takes less brain resources to understand what you hear without looking for an exact equivalent in your language.

2. You don’t know Russian PRONUNCIATION rules.

Do you think pronunciation is important only for speaking?

It is not. It affects your listening comprehension abilities too.

The rule for thumb is “you can hear (and your brain can recognize) only those sounds (words, intonation patterns) that you can pronounce”.

So, why is poor pronunciation is a barrier for understanding spoken speech?

If you can’t properly pronounce Russian words and sentences, you won’t be able to recognize them in a fast authentic speech – while easily recognizing them in written texts.

So, you need to know the rules for pronouncing Russian vowels and consonants in different positions and be trained to recognize forms in different positions and intonation patterns.

3. You don’t have a broad enough VOCAB and solid GRAMMAR.

When you face an unfamiliar word, form or grammar structure, you often STOP LISTENING and start thinking about the meaning of that word for a while and miss the next part of the speech.

4. You lack SOCIOCULTURAL competence.

When you don’t have enough background knowledge of the culture and country, you may understand the words but they don’t make much sense because you can’t read “BETWEEN THE LINES”.

Now. If listening comprehension is so hard skill to learn, you'd assume that its development has to be under a special attention in teaching, right?

But in reality, how is it usually being TAUGHT?

Actually, LC skill is VERY RARELY being specially trained.

Even colleges and schools usually don’t teach LC skills and strategies to their students.

The reason for that is that foreign language teaching in general (not just in teaching Russian) started to pay attention to developing this skill only recently.

So, it is still a relatively NEW FOCUS in teaching and learning, and methods and ideas on how to do it in general and especially in the most effective ways are still WORK IN PROGRESS.

Well, but how about so called “IMMERSION”? Can living in the county be a solution for that?

Just go to Russia, spend a good amount of time living there, and you’ll start understanding natives, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

So don’t be disappointed or upset if you're unable to find time for or to fund your expensive immersion trip to Russia.

Difficulties with understanding spoken speech persist for many expats AFTER YEARS of living in a country.


Because the immersion environment is NOT A MAGIC PILL

It is a powerful tool though, if used properly and at the right level of study.

Unless you’re at a solid Intermediate level, you can hear language around you but you don’t have enough tools to process it, so you will start perceiving native speech as a WHITE NOISE and ignore it.

So if you think that you don’t understand natives because you didn’t have a chance to live in Russia, think again because it is not true.

As I said,

  • On one hand, there are people who live in Russia for years and still hardly understand spoken speech they hear every day,
  • And on the other hand, there are people who have never been to Russia but learned to understand spoken Russian within a couple years because they took special programs with focus on developing listening comprehension skills and strategies.

So, how can listening comprehension skills BE TRAINED?

Good LC training usually focuses on 3 areas:

1. Working on your PRONUNCIATION so you can catch all familiar words

2. Expanding your vocab and grammar in SPECIFIC AREAS: either daily conversations, or news and politics, or history, etc.

3. Teaching you main listening comprehension STRATEGIES:

  • Getting accustomed to STAYING FOCUSED while listening for some time without shutting down,
  • STOP TRANSLATING each word as you listen but going with the flow of speech and allowing your brain to process it,
  • Recognizing all FAMILIAR words, even when DETERIORATED by speed or pronunciation rules,
  • Developing your GUESSING skills for unknown words and grammar: use your real-life knowledge and understanding of culture and country to fill in the gaps and read “between the lines”.

Now, if you think that your ability to understand fast Russian speech needs some improvement, then I invite you to my flagship program “Conversational Russian METRO Club”.

It will help you to bring all your Russian skills to the advanced level - with the special focus on developing your LISTENING and speaking skills.

Right now I have a special offer for this program:

  • Sign up and try it free for one week.

You’ll be able to go through the first two lessons, and use my unique proven “7-Step Comprehension Boosting System” for the best results.

So, decide fast to get the most out of this special offer.

Click on the button below to read more about this program and enroll.

Now it's your turn 🙂

What is your experience with developing your listening comprehension skills?

Did something that I said resonate with you?

Do you have something that you'd like to add? I'd love to hear that!

  • P.S. Pictures are from the lesson #1 pf the Conversational Russian METRO Club program.