Passive Skills You Should Develop When Learning a Foreign Language

It’s mind-boggling to see how many people are afraid of learning a new language. Recent studies have shown that not even 1% of American adults are proficient in at least one foreign language. It seems like people only think about grammar and syntax rules while studying languages.

However, most of them don’t really know that language studies rely heavily on passive learning. Namely, the receptive skills such as listening and reading should work together with active ones. Passive learning can be quite amusing and makes the language acquisition more complete and effective. In this article, we will analyze how to make passive learning the cornerstone of successful language studies.

What makes passive learning so beneficial?

It’s almost impossible to learn a language using only passive skills, so it should work in conjunction with active learning, speaking and writing. However, both of these methods have their own advantages and here’s what makes passive learning so beneficial:

  • It immerses learners into natural language, teaching them to listen carefully to native speakers.
  • It boosts recurrence of active vocabulary and language structures. Passive learning eases your remembering.
  • When you listen to native speakers, you get acquainted with the smallest details of their pronunciation – accents, dialects, and intonation.
  • Passive learning can help you train your noticing skills. Once you start learning, you’ll realize that you are able to notice more and more details each day.

Passive learning activities

You can start learning foreign languages through reading and listening, whereas each one of these skills can be executed through a number of different activities. Reading makes a convenient beginners’ activity since it allows you to pause and repeat any time you want.

Mike Tailor, a professional language tutor at writing service, shares his experience in that regard: “I find it extremely practical to combine reading and writing because it improves both of these skills simultaneously. Students ought to read a certain novel or article and then write a short summary of their key conclusions. It’s a great way to increase their passive knowledge and then use it to boost active skills as well.”


You can separate reading activities into several types:

  1. Bilingual parallel reading: It’s an easier version of the previous method. Besides the foreign language text, you get a native language version to make comparisons. Quite some number of mobile apps can help you with this activity.
  2. Fiction books: The best way to begin is to read a nice book. There are many online tools to help you find an appropriate novel and Kindle is definitely the most popular. Be aware that you should start with easier materials and choose simple titles like “The Little Prince” or similar.
  3. Professional literature: In case you need to improve professional communication skills, you should try reading articles in specialized magazines or websites.
  4. Blogs: Bloggers usually write using a more common language and jargon, so you can read blogs if you feel like learning more informal ways of speech.
  5. Magazines and Newspapers: Journalistic style is always clear and precise, so don’t be afraid to read such materials. Many pages can help you in this case and one of the best is Breaking News English.

Besides reading, listening constitutes another part of passive language learning. Here are some of the most fruitful listening activities.

  1. Music: People just love music and it’s great to have the opportunity to enjoy your favorite tunes and learn languages at the same time. You can find an enormous amount of music channels available online.
  2. Audio books: If you feel like closing your eyes and learning in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, audio books are the right choice for you.
  3. Podcasts: This is one of the most popular language learning forms. Podcasts such as Culips or All Ears English offer you a large base of audio lessons on various topics.
  4. Films: Movies provide you with a rounded audio-visual experience, which makes them a great learning solution. You can find a lot of movie scripts to catch up with the conversational language.
  5. Radio: Radio stations like fm or BBC Radio give you a free access to superb online audio learning tools.

Though it may seem terrifying at first, learning foreign languages is not that difficult at all. If you plan it carefully and prepare yourself for a full combination of active and passive learning, you’ll find that the studying process is much easier and entertaining than you expected.

Rachel Bartee is a language tutor and a freelance writer who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Get in touch with her on Twitter.

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