I have been searching on Google Scholar to find a paper presenting research results on whether passive listening helps learning a language, but I could not find any. Is there any such work that shows passive listening helps to learn a new language?

  • 'passive listening' without active study is fairly useless.
    – Sam
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 15:18
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    This might be true but I am looking for proven results not just statements. Thank you either.
    – Nabla
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 19:17
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    Could you clarify what you mean by "passive listening"? Or perhaps just an example or two of activities you would consider "passive listening"?
    – user10134
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


I see that you searched Google Scholar. I searched several other citation databases for scholarly publications, including Scopus and PsycINFO. I found 94 articles in the databases in response to a search based on the query:

( passiv* AND listen* AND language AND learn* )

To clarify what that query means, it searches for documents that include, anywhere within the combination of title, keywords, and abstract, the following:

  • Words commencing with the letters passiv (such as passive, passively)

  • Words commencing with the letters listen (such as listen, listened, listening)

  • Words commencing with the letters learn (such as learned, learning, learns)

  • The word language.

Before doing the search, I had anticipated that I would find, for example, a controlled study in which the effect of passive listening was compared with that of active listening. I had also anticipated that I would discover that there were different interpretations of what was meant, exactly, by passive listening (for example, whether it might be important in improving phonological discrimination even in the absence of the listener understanding the words, whether passive included deliberately non-attentive periods, or even sleep, etc.).

As it turned out, my quest produced the same null result as you obtained on Google Scholar. Not one of the articles related to a study that examined whether passive listening (however that might have been construed) resulted in improved language learning as compared with some other conditions.

In the light of that null result, I think that your question is especially deserving of an upvote. I have read numerous comments on the web, and on various SE language forums, where people have asserted, variously, that

  • passive listening greatly improves word discrimination
  • passive listening without active study is worthless
  • passive listening is useful once one understands some minimum number of words ... and so forth.

Those comments, no matter how well argued their rational basis, now appear to be no more than that: opinion or good argument, without an empirical basis.

  • Thank you a lot for your answer. I am having exact problem as you stated. There are lots of rumors about this but there is no solid work to show whether it works or not. I am note sure If are there researchers studying this topic but there is nothing on databases.
    – Nabla
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 17:26

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