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In 5 solid ways to improve your listening comprehension in French, Ash comments:

What I have a particular problem with is that I am totally not at a level where I can begin to understand most of what is being spoken on the TV shows or radio. I understand a few words here and there but for the most part, my A1-A2 level french lands me perfectly in a deluge of sounds that I can never seem to wrap my head around.

I would love to be able to follow all the pieces of advice on this post, but if anything, I see myself frustrated and mentally exhausted, through entire segments of french audio, whether through TV shows or radio, and completely just listening to what seems like a wall of incomprehensible noise. I am currently trudging through french-subtitled versions of french-dubbed American TV shows in hopes of reaching that level of critical mass at which I can perhaps begin to understand some of the stuff spoken without relying on subtitles exclusively.

Ash, the first thing I want to say is good for you. If you’re listening to lots of French, you’re doing things right. You don’t understand everything you hear right now. That’s completely normal. Every single learner will tell you that they went through the same thing.

What’s the difference between a learner who manages to make sense of the noise and one who doesn’t? The one who manages to make sense of it just kept going. Ash, keep going.

The next thing I want to say is: relax. If you’re frustrated and mentally exhausted, you’re pushing yourself way too hard. You’re forcing yourself to understand things that you’re just not ready for yet.

This doesn’t mean you should stop listening to French. What it means is stop worrying that you understand next to nothing right now. It’s OK.

Don’t try to understand everything right now. Just let all that French wash over you without getting caught up in details. Watch a show. What you understand, you understand. What you don’t understand, just let it go.

You’re not going to learn French better if you force yourself to try to understand things. It doesn’t work that way. You’ll need lots of exposure to French so that your brain can start making sense of it without you having to force it.

This takes time, not struggle. It may help at this stage to scale things back a little, though. If listening to two hours straight of French is mentally exhausting, do frequent but shorter doses. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Increase the time as you go along.

Expose yourself to lots of French that you don’t understand. Don’t limit yourself to just the easy stuff that you know you get. Listen to lots of French that doesn’t make sense, but avoid dissecting it and getting stuck. Just let it go and relax.

If you can stop worrying that you don’t understand, you’ll probably find that you can listen to much longer segments without becoming exhausted at all. This is exactly what’s needed.

There’s a lot of stuff that you’re not going to understand the first time. Maybe you’ll understand it on the twentieth time, though. But to get to the twentieth time, you need to listen to enough French so that the twentieth time has a chance to come around.

If you stop after the first time forcing yourself to understand something, you’ll get stuck at that point.

Keep listening to French.

Relax and let things go.

Trust that French is revealing itself to you exactly as it should be.

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