How to Learn Using Audio Books

To develop “an ear for the language”, you can use printed books with their corresponding audio books as learning material.

The fastest way to learn is with audio files or audio books from books you have already read in your mother tongue.

Even better are books that you love and have read several times.


Because you know the story already and because of your interest the contents have very well internalized. Therefore, save yourself a little effort to understand the action, and can focus a bit more on the target language.

And even better are books that have inspired you – your absolute favorite books – because they have (as already mentioned) made a strong impression on your subconscious mind.

How Does that Work?

An example – I wanted to improve my Spanish.

Step 1

After achieving basic comprehension with 17-Minute Languages, I began with a relatively short text: Mark Twain’s short story ” The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”.

1– After reading this story several times in English (my mother tongue)

  • I found the Spanish text of this short story and downloaded it for free.
  • Then I got Spanish audio files for the story. I found this on the Internet for free

There are several websites where you can find books in the “public domain” (in the community / license free) to download.

2– Then I played the audio file(s) and listened while

  • I read the text at the same time, and after some repetitions
  • I also read it aloud

This tripled the learning effect!

  • Reading (sight)
  • Listening
  • Speaking verbally

3– After that I wanted to work on my Spanish vocabulary.

I also looked up the words that I wanted to learn and created a kind of mini dictionary with it. Another learning channel (writing)!

Look at the tips in step 2 (below) on how to read foreign-language texts best.

Step 2 (Optional)

After reading the book “The Firework Maker’s Daughter” in English, I ordered the Spanish translation “Lila y el secreto de los fuegos” – a book for young people from Philip Pullman.

The book was funny, entertaining and improved my Spanish vocabulary.

Unfortunately, I could not find an audio book, so I had to do without listening. However, I was more focused on writing by creating my own dictionary with words from the book and its translations. Here I have the following tips.

TIP 1: Reading in a foreign language

When you start with a language, do not overwhelm yourself! In the beginning, read:

  • first a sentence several times until you have understood it, and as a next step,
  • then a paragraph,
  • then a page.

TIP 2: How to read a foreign book without spoiling the fun

  • DO NOT look up EVERY unknown word!
  • Only look at the words that are necessary for understanding the story!
  • Maintain a vocabulary list of those words with their translations: it serves as a reference.

After you have read a page, a chapter, or a whole book, you can read the texts again. You will then notice how much you understand now, and then you can look up more words with each repetition.

Step 3

I felt now that my knowledge of Spanish had advanced.

Since I had read (and enjoyed) the Harry Potter books in my mother tongue,

  • I ordered the first book of the series in Spanish, as well as
  • the audiobook

The ordering process with Amazon was very simple.

1– On Amazon I searched for “Harry Potter Spanish” in the category “Foreign-language books”.

Different Harry Potter books were listed (there are 7 books in the series), and I found the first book of the series.

2– Then I searched for “Harry Potter Spanish Audio Books” in the category “Foreign-language books”.

There I found an audio CD collection and ordered it.

With the Harry Potter book, I applied the same methodology as in step 1 (above):

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing it down

Audio Book Sources

Alternatively, you can order and download the audio book for PC AND Smartphone – on Audible.

Audible is an audio book supplier and belongs to Amazon.

You can subscribe to Audible. You can even test Audible with a free trial (Digital Subscription).

With the Trial Month, you get a book of your choice free of charge. If you remain a subscriber (for about 10 EUR per month), you get one free audiobook per month.

I have been an Audible subscriber since February 2015 and have collected about 20 credit points (usually 1 book 1 credit point).

But not all audiobooks are available at Audible.

There are several ways to play an audio book.

1– You can play CDs with a PC / notebook or other playback device (a DVD player can also be used).

2– You can also listen to the audio book on free of charge, if available.

If you have an Internet connection, you can also play the audio book with your smartphone. A lot of audio books are available on Youtube!

You can also download YouTube videos and convert them to MP3 or other formats using:

Free YouTube to MP3 Converter, for example at

3– You can also transfer the audio files from the CD to your computer or to your smartphone.

One possibility is to “rip” the audio files from the CD on a PC / laptop with a CD-Ripper and/or MP3 Encoder.

You can find providers of these on the Internet.

4– You can download some audio books and texts for free

For example, for Spanish, I entered these search terms on Google:

“free books spanish”

This search revealed many sources for downloading free books and audiobooks.

LibriVox is especially useful:

The main functions of this site – search by title, author, genre, language (language) – are relatively simple.

LibriVox offers free downloadable audio books. You can do this because these books are in the “public domain” (in the community / license-free).

You can also find many LibriVox books on YouTube.

Another source is:

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