As a self-proclaimed “language nerd,” I’m always seeking out new ways to continue my linguistic adventures. I took the typical high school Spanish classes, minored in French in college, and even tried picking up Italian on a study abroad trip (just enough to bumble through ordering gelato). But between work and family life getting busier, I struggled to find time to actively flex my language muscles.
That was, until I discovered the joy of foreign language audiobooks during my morning commute!
Now before you picture someone blasting through grammar textbooks on tape, that’s not quite what I’m talking about. I’m talking about losing yourself in an immersive story, where the mesmerizing cadence of the narrator’s voice transports you to another place and time. Much more enjoyable than drone recordings going through verb conjugation tables, no?
I’ll never forget my first language audiobook experience: Le Petit Prince narrated in French. As I inched along the highway, stuck behind a seemingly endless line of cars, the musical intonations of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale surprisingly calmed my road rage. The familiar story came to life through the evocative expressions of the narrator, allowing my rusty French comprehension skills to follow along through context cues. Was my understanding perfect? Non, but that wasn’t really the point. I was letting the rhythms of the French language wash over me, catching a phrase here, a snippet there.
After finishing Le Petit Prince, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to start another. I tried tackling Borges in Spanish next, hoping some of my high school lessons would kick in. Let’s just say I got a bit lost in the lyrical labyrinths of his literary worlds. But practice makes perfect, right? Or at least slightly less confused.
Here’s what I’ve discovered after embedding audiobook linguist adventures into my routine for nearly a year now:
Start Easy, Then Challenge Yourself
Don’t try diving right into dense literary tomes from the gate if you’re looking to flex underutilized language skills. Build comprehension stamina with easier short stories or young adult books first. Then inch your way up to more complex narratives and avant-garde affairs. Baby steps!
Alternate Listening and Reading Following along with the written text as you listen helps reinforcement. But don’t be afraid to close your eyes every once in awhile, letting the cadences of the language paint verbal imagery in your mind.
Pause and Replay to Appreciate Beautiful Prose Don’t just passively listen on double speed while zoning out. Actively listen by rewinding and replaying especially unique or compelling sections of prose. Savor the creatively constructed clauses like a fine wine, allowing them to stir your senses.
Look Things Up…But Not Too Much By all means, peek at the translation for a really befuddling phrase every once in awhile. But don’t get overly dependent on pausing to constantly look things up. Let some flow over you, embracing the mystery.
Find Originals, Not Just Translations While there’s nothing wrong with snagging an audiobook version of a translation, try seeking out books originally written in your target language for full linguistic immersion. You’ll catch more innate quirks that way.
Recite and Repeat Got a particularly beautiful quote or passage stuck in your head on repeat? Say it out loud throughout your day, engraving the phrases into both speech and memory. Soon they may even creep into your dreams!
While I’m still far from fluent in anything besides my native English, my morning literary commutes have rescued those long dormant language parts of my brain. I may not comprehend or retain everything perfectly. But through audiobook linguistic journeys, I’m flexing neural pathways and exercising verbal dexterity—all while being transported to remarkable worlds dreamed up by literary masters.
So what language audiobook will you queue up today for your own linguistic adventure? Grab your headphones and press play to find out! The captivating journey awaits. Bonne chance!