Having both the book and the audio book of the same work, allows to work in different ways. Here are some ideas:
First listen to the audiobook several times (I think that 3 times is a good choice) and really try to understand all that you can understand (meaning, unknown words are hopeless but sometimes we don’t recognize words we actually knew, that’s what we want to work on). The best thing should be to limit yourself to a paragraph if they are short enough. Then check on the book.
At this point there are two options:
- If you really want to study this book and improve your vocabulary, search for unknown words and then, listen to the audiobook again, without reading, and try to understand everything.
- If your objective is just doing some listening practice, don’t bother searching for unknown words, and just check the words you knew but didn’t recognize. You can underline them if you don’t mind writing in your book. Then listen to the audiobook again, without reading, and try to understand those words. Also, try to understand why you didn’t recognize them the first time. Is it because of the narrator’s pronunciation, is it because you didn’t expect to see this word in this context, and so on.
I personally apply the second option and restrain myself to listening practice only.
We have now a perfect occasion to practice our pronunciation! This time, we will have to listen and read at the same time. First, listen to a phrase, then interrupt the audio book to repeat that same phrase aloud. Try not to look for kanji words you don’t know, but to repeat them as you heard them.
To be complete, this exercise should integrate the “recording” part. While you listen to the audiobook and repeat each sentence, record yourself. Do not only record your voice, but the whole session, so that you can hear both the native version and your version.
Another way to check your pronunciation is to record yourself reading a whole paragraph. Then, listen to your audio and the audiobook to check if your intonation is correct. It can help to get rid of one’s accent.
It can be hard to listen to one’s own voice speaking in a foreign language but it helps considerably!
Having an audiobook presents the big advantage that you can listen to it at any time and anywhere. Even if you don’t really pay attention to what you are listening to, because you are cooking at the same time for example, you still get used to the language’s intonations, words and so on.
But if you have the book, too, and have, let’s say, read the first chapter and know what it is talking about, then, listening repeatedly to this first chapter while doing something else, will be even more efficient. I realize that in many languages, structures or expressions I am very confident with, come from something that I studied and listened to many times, almost until I know it by heart. It usually is extract from textbooks, films I have watched many times or… audiobooks I have listened to while doing some boring housework.
Learning by heart
If you are convinced by the advantages a language learner can get by learning something by heart, having an audiobook can only help you in this direction. Not only will it help you memorize more easily, but you will be sure that your pronunciation and your intonation are correct. Moreover, by sometimes trying to remember from the book (what you read) and sometimes from the audiobook (what you heard), you develop both types of memory faculties and memorize more efficiently.
This is a very school-like exercise but it works! I know it, because I have seen students make huge progress by doing this kind of exercise seriously.
I recommend that you first define what you want to practice. For example, a paragraph. Then listen to the audiobook as much as you need and write down what you hear. Of course, if you can, write the kanji, too. But if you don’t know them or don’t remember them, writing in hiragana is still a good exercise.
It will first help you write in Japanese, something we rarely do, unless your practice writing separately. You can check how well you really know your kanji. The most important part of this exercise is that you will hear and write the same thing. That is to say, you will mobilize two languages skills at the same time, exactly as when one reads aloud. It helps remembering structures and getting more familiar with the language.
Audiobooks really have a great potential for us language learners. I wish I could find more audiobooks of novels, though.
I like the fact that there are some many different ways to exercise with an audiobook, I really feel that the money put in both the book and the audiobook was worth it.