Is it possible to learn a language by reading?
It seems impossible for me to learn a language by listening. If someone says something that I don't know than I won't comprehend what's being spoken unless it's written down. I'm learning another language that doesn't have a lot of resources online but I have learned a lot of new vocabulary. I went to that country for a few months and I didn't learn anything new unless it was being written down. People say you can't learn a language unless you go to that country or learn from native speakers in your home country. I'm thinking of reading some children's books and making my way up and if there's books with audio I will use that. Do you think it's possible to learn a language or become fluent by reading books?
It seems impossible for me to learn a language by listening. If someone says something that I don't know than I won't comprehend what's being spoken unless it's written down.
That's normal, listening practice takes time. That's why I watch movies with subtitles (that counts as "learning from native speakers", right?), until I don't need them anymore. You can learn a lot of vocabulary by reading, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to hear it in the spoken language as well, and that's why I think it's important to also listen to the language a lot. That's also why movies, tv shows, audiobooks and podcasts are great for language learning.
I don't think that it is possible to practice by listening right away (babies do it, but they don't already have a language in their mind). I think starting with reading is the only way to really start. As you expand your vocabulary you can start listening to simple/slow audios to get familiar with the native pronunciation. Your brain will often treat a language that's quite different from your native one as just gibberish, so as with any other thing, you have to practice to start actually hearing anything. The more words you know the better the chance of hearing some familiar word in audios, and the more words you hear the better your brain will become at separating them when listening.
I suppose it is also possible to learn only the written form of a language, but that would be quite impractical if it is a spoken language.
When I started learning Romanian a few months ago I couldn't hear anything when I heard native speech. I learned a lot of words and listened to a lot of songs reading the lyrics as it goes. Now I still can't understand whenever somebody talks fast, but I understand a lot of what is said if people speak clearly and not too quickly. It just takes time, but learning primarily by reading sounds good to me :)
"Your brain will often treat a language that's quite different from your native one as just gibberish, so as with any other thing, you have to practice to start actually hearing anything." YES! THIS! I have traveled to many countries and have not always had a grasp of the language when I was here. I often had the experience of feeling like it is very quiet around me - and it is for this reason! If I haven't trained my ears to "listen" for the new language, my brain just filters it into the background noise. I am learning Danish and play lots of Danish music. I can't understand much of anything at this point, but when I do hear a word I know it is super exciting! MariaDreams - as others have said, learning the written language is great, but also try to expand to being able to listen and read. YouTube has some great children's videos with subtitles (Disney movies are great for being in many languages!), as well as using a music player (Spotify, Pandora, YouTube playlists) to just get used to hearing the new language. With time and practice, I am sure you can get there!
Reading is a good way to enlarge your vocabulary. I do it a lot. Nevertheless, you can't "read yourself to fluency", you have to practice all four basic skills to become fluent. But of course you can first develop a large reading vocabulary and you will have an easier time with listening.
And of course I totally recommend listening to audios with transcript, this is in my opinion the optimal way to develop a strong listening comprehension.
Fluent in speaking just from reading seems impossible for basically all languages. The written word doesn't line up perfectly with the spoken word in most languages that have a writing system (and many still don't.)
However, for languages with phonetic(ish) spelling, the written word is important to know for learning. It will allow you to talk with more native speakers, read books in the language, and to navigate in countries where the language is spoken.
My best tip for learning the spoken word from the written is to watch videos in the target language with subtitles in the target language. This will help your brain form a connection between the written and spoken word. And words you've never heard pronounced and words you've never seen written can come together and complete the puzzle.
Don't be hard on yourself that you can't understand speech right away. It can take months to understand native speakers talking casually. Words get blended, sounds get dropped, slang gets thrown in. It is going to take time. But you learned to do it once, and you can learn it again.