Are audiobooks helpful?
Lots of people start the endless search for the ideal audiobook when they start learning a language, but I’m not so amazed by them. It would not be fair to say they don’t have some advantages if you find the right one though, so I would give some recommendations at the end of this post.
Here is what I don’t like about audiobooks that try to teach language:
You cannot try them properly before purchasing them. Usually if there’s a sample is too short or out of context to help you form an idea.
They’re not cheap. If you compare them with lessons, having in mind they don’t offer extra help and there’s no homework involved, they’re not the smartest option.
There are not lengthy explanations. Some grammar points might be difficult to understand and need some time to sink in. With an audiobook, you have a short instruction, and if you don’t get it good luck rewinding.
Also regarding explanations. Your teacher can explain something in several different ways and give you different tips and clues until you finally get it. With an audiobook, there’s no possibility for extra requests or the flexibility to spend more time on that tricky point.
There’s a huge lack of human communication, eye contact and non- verbal language. Those things allow you to express your needs and doubts, and allow your teacher to notice how well you understand something and give you feedback in real time.
Most audiobooks have a list of contents and topics that include irrelevant information and that's not well structured or with clear links between the different points.
A lot of authors are not native speakers and with doubtful oral skills.
You have no control on what is the variety of Spanish you will be taught. I have seen many audiobooks teaching Latin American Spanish not specifying this anywhere in their website. If you have friends from Spain or want to move there, learning another type of Spanish is not going to help so much.
When you have a teacher, it is your option using whichever variety you want and you will be aware of the differences and false friends between them.
Some audiobooks are not properly updated and teach very old-fashioned vocabulary. This happens easily when the authors are English and have a very textbook based experience.
What I recommend instead:
Listening to another language helps familiarizing with the different sounds.
You can listen to "content". Good examples are: Stories for children, Spanish soap operas on the radio, audios of books written in Spanish, music in Spanish, etc.
Audible.com is just an example. It’s a website full of audiobooks, where you can choose Spanish in the language option. http://www.audible.co.uk/
You have lots of books here, some are completely free of charge, like the Steve Jobs biography!
If you are starting, look for books for children (Cuentos infantiles).
Maybe you prefer to watch something or you have little time and you want something short,in that case you should check my Spanish short films playlist on Youtube here
If you're specially interested in the South American variety, a great listening practice is the website Gritty Spanish where you can find informal dialogues for real life situations.
Last but not least, don’t obsess about getting every single word. You don’t need to, and listening is a skill that takes time to develop.
Even if you think you’re doing nothing, your brain is working and acquiring the language so that you’ll improve your listening and your speaking.
This is what you need to do:
Sit back, relax, open your ears, smile and enjoy :)