Strategies for Understanding Authentic Content

Use these strategies to get the most out of the links on this site.

Understanding Content

Plan to look at each item at least three times. You’ll understand a little more each time. Take some notes each time you look at the site.

With audio and video, keep in mind that while subtitles, closed captioning (CC), or transcripts may help you to recognize some words, they are often generated by an automated tool, and may not be accurate. They can also deprive you of an opportunity to practice your comprehension skills and to prove to yourself what you can do. When you are listening, remember that people use filler words, in the same way as we use terms such as “um” and “ah” when we speak English. These words don’t mean anything, but they help people gather their thoughts and formulate what they want to say. Listen for the filler words that native speakers use. You can use these words when you speak in the language.

The first time, look at the content in a general way, to get the overall meaning.

  • What is one idea you can take away?
  • If there are pictures, how do they help you to understand?
  • What words from your preparation do you recognize?

The second time, focus on identifying the purpose.

  • Is the resource descriptive (such as tourist guide or weather report) or informative (such as a movie trailer or an interview)?
  • What is the tone? Formal or informal?

Once you’ve done that, shift your focus to the language.

  • What words and phrases do you recognize? When watching a video, use the Pause button to give you time to note these words.
  • Are there any cognates?
  • What words don’t you understand? Can you guess their meaning by using context clues?
  • If you’re watching a video, can you infer meaning from body language, facial expressions, and gestures?
  • What details did you pick up? Can you relate any details to the main idea(s) you identified earlier?

When you have finished your third run-through, answer as many of these questions as you can:

  • Where is the action, event, or situation taking place?
  • Who are the people? What do you know about them?
  • Do you recognize any products from the region, such as food or clothing?
  • What did you learn about what people do or think?
  • How are the places, products, situations, or events similar to or different from those in your own community or region?