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  • Writer's pictureAdam Gammons

Listen to news in your L2

So far we've talked a lot about getting you access to some form of comprehensible input, and for today's topic, that's not going to change. Because, say it with me now, language acquisition cannot and will not happen without large amounts of meaning-bearing, attended-to, comprehensible input.

But one thing we haven't yet addressed is how to get rolling into the cultural aspect of language learning. To start you on that path, I have a recommendation, and it's a trick that I used to use when my French proficiency wasn't what it is today. But it's also just something I still like to do. Because no comprehensible input is bad input and my French can always be better.

This recommendation centers around free news apps. There are tons, and like I said in the video, you may have others that you prefer over the ones I'll mention here, and that's just fine! Now, unfortunately, all my specific recommendations today will be about French because that's where my experience is, but the methods I describe below could easily be adapted.

So let's say that you're an intermediate/advanced proficiency level learner and you want to learn more about what's happening in France right now and grow your language skills while you're at it. You could go to France 24 or Franceinfo and watch their live ("en direct") channels, which to my knowledge run 24/7. If you're already watching American news, you'll likely be seeing some of the same or similar coverage on the more global topics, which may help give you the context that you need to boost the comprehensibility of the input you hear. Either way, it helps to listen to a bit, and then go write a quick summary of what you heard in French or English. Knowing that you're holding yourself to writing a summary afterwards might help you attend more closely to the input.

But what do you do if you're a beginner learner and you still want to watch French news in such a way as to make it work toward your language acquisition?

Well, this is what I used to do:

I downloaded the RFI (Radio France Internationale) and the NPR apps. Both of these news stations offer national/international updates on the hour, every hour. I would go first to NPR, listen to the five minute update and get some idea of what was happening in the world that day, then go immediately to RFI and listen to their short hourly update in French. This would do for me in terms of listening to the news what reading a translated book did for me in terms of literature. It contextualized things for me just enough that I could listen to the news in a relatively unstructured way and understand most of what was said.

The best part about RFI is that they post hourly updates in what they refer to as français facile or easy French. It's not dumbed down. It's barely slower than the regular hourly update. Really, the major difference is in the vocabulary. The reporters here tend to use vocabulary that is a little bit more common and thus more likely that learners (even low level ones!) have come across already. It's the same coverage, only just a bit more accessible.

You may not understand everything, but grab onto the words that you do understand and see if you can piece together a few sentences of summary in English or French about what you heard. It doesn't have to be right or even good. No one is grading you. Just do your best and as long as you're trying, you're getting yourself access to some good French input. And that's never a bad thing.

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