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Hello there Leo Listeners! It’s Cara here from Leo Listening, where I help advanced English learners fall back in love with their favourite films and series by helping them break free from the subtitles.
So summer’s here if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you live somewhere sunny so you don’t feel deprived because it’s wintertime where you are.
I wanted to talk about a listening tool that is perfect for these long summer days that are coming up or are already here.
Obviously when it’s sunny and warm outside, you don’t want to be working. You want to be out, enjoying the sun, sitting by a pool somewhere, and certainly not worrying about English or stuck inside with a grammar book doing work. Of course not!
And you don’t need to be. If you use the right tools, you can get out in the sun, lie by the pool, do whatever it is that you want to do, and keep in touch with your English and your listening.
So, the tool that I feel is the ideal one for this summer period is audio books.
I’ve already talked about audio books on the blog before. I’ve experimented with them more recently. And I’m going to tell you about that.
Why I’m in love with audio books
What’s brilliant about audio books is that you’ve got hours of listening time. You could go out on a 3-hour hike or bike ride or something, and you still wouldn’t have finished your audio book.
Also, the audio is a bit slower than what you hear in conversations, films, or TV shows, which is nice – because sometimes you just need a break from listening to fast, spontaneous speech that’s difficult to understand.
You have permission to listen to something slower when you need to.
There are both free and paid options for audio books, which is great. So no matter your budget, you can find something.
As you know, or maybe you don’t, I live in France. That makes it a little bit trickier to find certain books in English compared to when I was living in the UK. That’s probably your situation as well if you’re not living in an English-speaking country.
Sometimes it’s difficult or expensive to find books, especially paper books in English. Audio books can be a good solution to that problem of finding paper books in your country in English.
This is something that I love in this digital age, and in the age of decluttering – I have got rid of so much stuff from my house. I hate accumulating things and objects. I want to be free of clutter.
Obviously because audio books are digital, they don’t take up any space. Well, they take up space on your phone or computer, but they don’t take up physical space, which is fantastic.
The app that’s making my listening life better
So if you remember, or even if you don’t, a few months ago I did an interview with the wonderful Kevin from Feel Good English. We talked a lot about books and audio books because he teaches people through personal development resources, and generally that’s books.
So we had a little chat about audio books and about Audible, which is an Amazon company that has a system where you pay a subscription and get an audio book every month.
For some reason I thought that Audible was more expensive. I thought it was 30 Euros a month and actually it’s 9.95 €.
So after talking to Kevin and realising the actual price, I decided to experiment with it and listen to some audio books, especially because I’m interested in non-fiction and current or recent books. It’s very easy to get them on Audible.
It’s been a brilliant solution for me because with things like business books or personal development books I can sometimes find the translation in French and buy a paper book, but it’s expensive. Often they don’t have the books that I want.
For example in the local library they have a really terrible selection. In English they only have fiction novels, which is not great. In the non-fiction that I’m interested in, so to do with personal development, business, things like this, they don’t really have many books, even translated into French.
So I really like audio books as a solution for people like me living in a non-English-speaking country who want to get hold of books in English. That’s made it a lot easier for me.
For me I find that the Audible subscription is affordable because I wanted to give myself a 10 Euro a month book budget. Essentially, that’s what I’ve done with a subscription which is 9.95€.
If you are interested in paying for audio books, usually you’ll find that they are more expensive than the paperback or the Kindle version of the book because there are a lot of costs associated with producing an audio book.
You have to go into the studio, record, get it edited. For me, having a subscription is a good deal, because when you look at the price of individual books, they can be quite expensive.
I’ve even had some free audio books thanks to the Audible subscription because they do special offers and things like this.
I’ve mentioned the storage. I’m just going to mention it again because it’s so brilliant! You just need to have space on your phone.
Obviously you can listen anywhere once you’ve got the app on your smartphone. The main places that I listen are when I’m cooking, because it’s a real hassle. I’ve tried it before. I’ve tried standing in the kitchen with a paper book, stirring the food at the same time. It doesn’t really work. It’s a bit too difficult.
Commuting is another great way to listen to audio books.
Cool features to try out
You have some really great features if you’re using the Audible app. You can do some cool stuff.
For example, usually when I’m reading non-fiction I have my highlighter pen, bookmarks and stuff. I love to underline things as well. You can kind of do the equivalent of that in Audible.
There’s a little feature called Snippets. So if you hear something interesting, you can make a cut and create a snippet that you can come back and listen to that insight again later.
You can also bookmark – so if you stop at a certain point, or you want to come back to a section, you can do that.
You can jump between the different chapters. So if you don’t want to listen to the whole book, you can jump ahead. That’s not so relevant if you’re listening to fiction, but if you’re listening to non-fiction, that could be interesting.
What’s really cool is if you’re the kind of person who likes to go to sleep listening to the radio or listening to something, there’s a setting in the app For Audible that lets you choose to stop the book after a certain time.
So instead of listening to the book all night and waking up in the morning with the book still playing in your ears, you can set it to switch off after a certain period of time. So you can get into bed, put on the sleep mode, and set it to switch off after half an hour, or 45 minutes or something. Then in that way, it’s not playing in your ears all night.
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Go beyond just listening with audio books
Here’s some practical stuff that you can do for the listening side with audio books.
You can obviously download them onto your phone or whatever device is convenient for you.
I mentioned the convenience of not having paper and not having things to store, but it’s true that from a listening point of view as I have said everywhere, and I continue to say, and I will always say – having a transcript of what you’re listening to is so crucial in listening.
It’s going to make your life so much easier. You’re going to learn and achieve so much more. So if you do have a paper copy of the book that you’re listening to, you can obviously listen along and read at the same time.
But also you can do dictations, which are really powerful for the reasons I have explained all over my blog and all over YouTube.
When I say paper, I mean it in speech marks, because you could also read it with a Kindle version of the book. You could borrow the paper book from the library or borrow it from somebody you know. You don’t actually have to buy the paper version just to do the dictation exercise or read along.
A cool feature in the Audible app that I still haven’t tried is if you have the book on your Audible app and on your Kindle, there is an option called Whispersync for voice, and it allows you to switch between the Audible version and the Kindle version.
So I think it saves your place in the book, so you can go from listening to reading on a Kindle. This sounds really handy and really cool if you need to switch between the two different ways of consuming the book.
What’s good as well when you’re in an app like Audible is that you can jump back and forward.
Often when I’m listening to an Audible book I get distracted. I try not to do it all the time, but sometimes I get distracted or I don’t hear for whatever reason.
You can jump back and forward really easily. That’s great. If you’re listening in another language, then you can easily go back if you need to hear something again.
You can also either challenge yourself and make your life easier by increasing or even decreasing the playback speed. So you have an option in the app to do that.
You could also listen to something that you have already read or listened to in your own language, to make your life a bit easier.
You can clip a section using snippets if you’re in the Audible app, come back to it and try transcribing it. Or ask for help with it if you didn’t understand it.
Another thing I really like about audio books, because we’re all cinema and TV show fans here.
I love fiction. When I read a book, I love how I can see everything that’s happening in my mind. But it’s true, especially for fiction books, that audio books can bridge the gap between cinema and reading.
You have that immersive experience of the book because somebody is reading it aloud to you. For me it’s almost like something between reading and watching TV or watching a film, which I think is kind of cool.
I’ve talked a lot about paid audio book options in the form of the Audible app. You can also find free options. Last year I wrote a post about that.
Usually on the free download sites for audio books, the books tend to be classic literature and sometimes the books are not recorded by professionals. So the quality might vary a bit, but have a look around. See what you can find. And certainly if you are big on classic 19th century books, then hey, why not? You can get them for free, so go for it.
Some libraries let you borrow audio books. I haven’t investigated this for my library, because like I said, they usually don’t have the books I want, and I certainly won’t be able to get them in English.
But I keep seeing this among friends or colleagues who are in America. So if you’re in the US, you might want to investigate what options you have at the library for downloading audio books.
I don’t exactly know how that works, but certainly if you have an app, you get all the other cool options that I mentioned like clipping and bookmarking, skipping back and forth, changing the speed and all that.
Try it out yourself
I’d love to hear from you and know – have you tried listening to audio books? What techniques did you find useful? What were you able to do with them? Let me know.
How are you going to spend your summer days? What books are you going to listen to in audio book format. I love hearing about what you’re listening to, so please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you next time.
If you’re interested in trying Audible for free, the click this link.
If you’re in the UK, click here.
Blog post and podcast on listening resources for literature lovers: https://www.leo-listening.com/listening-resources-literature-lovers/
Blog post on using dictations to improve your listening skills: https://www.leo-listening.com/dictations-in-english-how-using-tiny-recordings-can-make-a-big-difference-to-your-listening-skills/
Interview with Kevin from Feel Good English: https://www.leo-listening.com/feel-good-listening/
Amazing Audible tips to save both time and money: https://lifehacker.com/the-best-audible-tips-and-tricks-you-might-not-know-abo-1792389233