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Hearing vs listening: what are the differences?

hearing vs listening what are the differences in learning french

What do you think is the difference between the two: hearing vs listening? How can you use this in studying the French language?

Hearing vs listening

hearing vs listening in learning french

An Ohio University survey found that the typical adult spends more than 70% of their waking hours engaging in social activity. 16% of that time is spent reading, speaking, and listening. Because we spend 45% of our communication time listening, we must develop practical listening skills to benefit from communication fully.

Unlike the learned skills of reading, writing, and speaking, the consensus is that listening is a natural action that anyone without a physical handicap can perform without conscious effort. However, it is not that simple because listening necessitates a complex set of emotional and physical abilities.


Hearing is an automatic sensory system that allows humans to hear sounds. It is a physiological reaction to how we perceive sound. It does not necessitate concentration. For example, while watching television, you can hear your neighbor’s dog barking, traffic outside, and people laughing.


Understanding what you hear requires focused, intentional listening, which requires your undivided attention. As a result, when you hear something, you may feel something. Active listening is defined as hearing to comprehend.

For instance, if someone is talking about having a bad day, you might be listening closely to them. You will be able to understand their position better as they speak. This will allow you to make insightful remarks and ask pertinent questions to understand their point of view better.

To summarize:


  • No effort is required;
  • Involuntary;
  • On a physiological level, sound perception.


  • Necessitates effort;
  • Voluntary;
  • Deliberate sound amplification

According to clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland, hearing and listening are like night and day. Hearing is a simple process. Contrarily, listening is a three-dimensional process. Gilliland asserts that those with successful careers, marriages, or friendships have developed their listening abilities.

Active and passive listeners: what are the differences?

active and passive listeners what are the differences in learning french

We could go even further in our definition of listening. Experts in communication frequently use the terms active and passive listening. An engaged listener may be summed up in one word: active. The United States Institute of Peace states that active listening is “a strategy of listening and responding to another person that enhances mutual understanding.”

In other words, if you’re trying to understand someone else or looking for a solution, this is the type of listening you want to engage in. The other extreme is passive listening. A passive listener, according to Gilliland, does not attempt to participate in the conversation at work or in the classroom. It is ineffective as a tool for interpersonal communication.

Why is listening so crucial while learning a language?

Speaking is a skill that many language students value highly. They don’t make as much of an attempt to listen. However, many beginning speakers are surprised to discover that listening to a foreign language is difficult. If you’ve ever taken a test in a foreign language, you know that the listening section is usually the most difficult.

The ability to listen is critical for language development. As previously stated, we listen for roughly half of the time. Do you devote 50% of your learning time to listening activities? The solution is to listen more often.

However, you must improve your listening skills. Learn how to improve our ability to listen to foreign languages. Learn more about language learning and how to learn a language quickly.

Listening is an active process

If you’ve ever sat among people speaking a foreign language, you’ll be familiar with the uneasy feeling that you should be participating. If you remain silent, you may feel like you are not genuinely contributing to the conversation.

However, by doing so, you are mistaking a silent process for a passive process. To effectively listen, we must overcome the belief that we are “doing nothing.” Active listening strategies can help you and others remember that you are still engaged in good communication even when you are not speaking.

Such as:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Lean slightly forward to show interest;

When you agree, make nodding and decide on noises. Avoid looking distracted by fidgeting, using your phone, or staring off into space.

The silent phase is golden

When learning French language, children frequently experience a “silent period” in which they are deafeningly silent. Adults often do not have a period of silence.

On the other hand, some quiet listening time can be highly beneficial. The act of speaking can be intimidating. As a novice speaker, you are too preoccupied with what to say next to acknowledge what the other person has truly said. You can listen more effectively if you allow yourself to be silent. If you can, try to speak, but don’t force it.

The brain acts as a foreign language goldfish

Would you be surprised to learn that speaking a foreign language significantly decreases your short-term memory? After some consideration, it makes logical. How often do you misinterpret words delivered by a natural speaker?

Listening is a key first step toward overcoming this problem. But why is this taking place? When we hear someone talk, our brain starts processing the information by breaking it down into digestible bits that will retain in our short-term memory.

When we speak a foreign language, we find it difficult to adapt to the “segmentation rules.” All of the words must be stored independently in our short-term memory. Hearing helps us become accustomed to segmentation rules, which is why it is critical when learning a foreign language.

It will improve not only your comprehension but also your ability to communicate in the target language. Because segmentation principles are normally learned subconsciously, the easiest method to learn them is to exercise good listening habits daily.

Our listening strategies are inverted

our listening strategies are inverted in learning french

How did you learn to listen if you studied a language in school? I recall taking a listening test that required us to listen to a recording and translate what we heard. Details determined whether or not an assignment was successful. For example, if you misspelled a word, you would lose points.

Language experts describe this technique as “bottom-up listening.” Bottom-up listening is a proper teaching technique. Unfortunately, it is not a comprehensive listening technique that can be used in everyday situations.

You cannot devote all your listening efforts to precise grammar because people communicate in the real world. They’ll keep talking, and you’ll have no idea what they’re saying. Top-down listening, on the other hand, is a valuable technique for increasing comprehension of what is being said.

Top-down listening techniques employ concepts. It indicates that you have conducted preliminary research on the speech topic. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re going to a foreign language play or movie, read the script;
  • Before giving a speech, do some research on the subject.
  • Before listening to an audio passage, try reading about it or making predictions about it.

As a result, your brain will learn to focus on ideas rather than specific words.

The general idea is only half the story

Finally, we frequently fail to assess our comprehension when listening in a foreign language. We frequently “get the gist” of what was said. But we don’t always understand things as well as we think. Try these quick and simple exercises to demonstrate that you understood what was said:

  • Make something;
  • Try to answer the questions you’ve been asking yourself.
  • Provide a synopsis;
  • Indicate what might happen next in the “narrative.”
  • Press the “talkback” button to have a fictitious conversation with the narrator.

The takeaway

As you can see, active listening is a talent that you can use for the rest of your life. Are you ready to increase your listening abilities in your target language? Remember to use active listening techniques; you’ll be amazed at the difference once you’ve completed the exercises and can assess how much you’ve learned!

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