Getting the most out of the short podcasts


What’s the most effective way to raise listening comprehension from the short podcasts? I’ve studied Portuguese for a while, but still have difficulty understanding conversations. Any recommendations?


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Hi Antone, good question!

Ask yourself which part is most difficult when trying to understand a conversation. Are you understanding most of the words you hear, but just need a lot more time to process it to get the meaning? Are you hearing a lot of words you’ve never heard before? Are you getting the main idea from the words you hear, but the construction of the sentences is confusing? Is it all just a blur? (If you can pinpoint which aspects are most difficult, I may be able to give more specific advice.)

Here are some suggestions that may be helpful. The main idea is that you want to find ways to explore and “play around with” the dialogues:

  • Review the description, tags, and the vocabulary & expressions tabs before you begin. This will help establish the context.
  • Listen a few times with Translate turned on, then listen with it turned off. Try to visualize the scene as you follow along. This is really important and helps connect the language more to the meaning, and not just to the words.
  • Pick a few vocabulary words / expressions and listen for them in the dialogue. Think about when you might hear those words/phrases in your own life.
  • Listen with Translate off. Follow along with the Portuguese text, noticing the flow of the language and how the sounds map to the words.
  • Go back to sections of the Shorty that were most difficult. Replay just a few sentences at a time with Translate on to try to figure out what you didn’t understand.
  • Try to notice which parts are most challenging. Is it particular verb conjugations? How prepositions are used? Etc… If you notice patterns, it can help you decide what to spend more time studying in the Units, or reviewing with Smart Review.
  • Use the Quiz to check your understanding.
  • Write your own Shorty, as if you are writing a sequel to what you just heard, or as if you’re trying to re-write the same Shorty without looking. Even though this is more of a production task, rather than comprehension, it can help because you’re challenging yourself to use the words /sentence constructions you’ve learned, showing that you understand them more deeply.
  • Listen more often to give yourself more exposure to the language.
  • Before you go to a particular place / setting, try to prep by looking up Shorties that are related. By having that vocabulary primed in your brain, and maybe having a few useful phrases ready to go, you may find it just a little bit easier to engage in a conversation there. You can search by topic here or browse the Site Index under Vocab & Special Topics

Hi Molly,

You provided lots of good suggestions. Thank you. Here’s a brief description of my problem: I recognize many words individually, but I’m unable to follow the word flow to understand the text as a whole. For example, in the shortie “Na Festa da Laura,” I understand the couple is meeting for the first time and I get that he asks her out for coffee after the party, Unfortunately, I don’t pick up much beyond that even though I can read the text in Portuguese without too much trouble. Is there a type of practice using the site’s wealth of audio that will help me break through this logjam?

Best regards,

That makes sense! So it sounds like you’re doing really well with picking up vocabulary. And you know enough about grammar to understand it when you read it. So the problem is mainly “getting up to speed”.

This is a common problem. Often we know a lot about the language, but it takes a lot more time to be able to use it in real time within the back and forth of a conversation. To get to that point, comprehension has to become more automatic, which does take a very long time.

So I think many of the suggestions above, especially visualizing the scene as you listen, going back to the difficult sections and replaying a few sentences at a time, switching between listening with Translate on and off, should be helpful.

Maybe skip the suggestion about reading the Portuguese text as you listen. Only use this as needed when you have NO idea what’s being said. But then replay again without looking until you feel you don’t need it. Try to spend more time listening without looking, to make sure you’re mapping the sounds to the meaning, not only to the written word.

When it sounds like just a blur, of course you’ll need to use the words at first, but then start to shift your attention to focus more on visualizing the scene / what it means, rather than on the specific words being said.

Same thing if you work on any Units. Try to look away from the screen when the audio is playing, to give yourself an opportunity to understand it without relying on the written word.

Also watching the Videos could be helpful, because it gives you visual context. You could play about 30 seconds at a time, then review the translation as needed. Then play the same section again. Keep playing over and over until it feels like you don’t need the transcript and can tie what you hear to the meaning.

How is your spoken communication? Are you able to form sentences pretty quickly to express yourself or respond to a question in real time? If not, I would recommend spending time with Smart Review, using these 2 modes: Flash Cards and Listen & Speak (audio review). Even though this seems more related to production, rather than comprehension, it often helps make the connection between words and meaning more automatic, which influences comprehension as well. (Plus, it frees up some mental energy when you’re in a conversation!)

And even though it’s really nerve-racking to put yourself in situations where you might not understand, continuing to practice out in the real world, when you have the opportunity, is important too. :slightly_smiling_face:


Great suggestions, Molly! I plan to put them into practice immediately. I’ll report on my progress in a few weeks. Thank you very much. I can’t tell you how helpful you’ve been. Tell Rui and Joel that Antone Gonsalves in San Francisco says you deserve a raise. Best regards, Antone

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@joelrendall You have no choice, Antone says so. :money_mouth_face::money_mouth_face::money_mouth_face:

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