Trying to improve listening skills is a tedious process. Humans being naturally impatient skip over listening skills. Yes. Guilty as charged.
Over the last month, I have been reviewing my anki cards made from Growing Up With Chinese 成长汉语. （See my earlier blog post). It's also an exercise in tidying up the cards with timings of sounds and clarifying some of the translations cards.
I try to intensely concentrate on each sound and try to mentally note down each softer, harder and dropped sounds. Mentally, it's very tiring. I try to do at least a few cards each time I open anki and then over one day, I give it a go perhaps three times.
It's hard to give objective measures of development but definitely random listening seems much easier than before, mainly applied to standard Mandarin There's also serms to be a slightly better feel for the language 语感 which enables me to guess at the overall meaning of a sentence even without knowing all the individual words. All in all, it's very encouraging.
Do I actually know more vocabulary? I don't think so at least not on an active recall basis. I haven't been actively learning vocabulary. I just look up words in the card that I don't know but don't write them down nor store them.
Intermediate level spoken Mandarin is easier to understand (YouTube videos). Increasingly, range of vocabulary, is starting to feel like the rate limiting step.
Spoken drama is still out of my range. My eyes are irresistibly drawn to the subtitles similar to rocket locked on target.
Talking with people is very interesting. In practice, I speak very little to other people using Mandarin. I don't do weekly chats, my chats are on an ad hoc basis and less than once a week. Like really random. It's not an area that I am focussing on at present. However, with the better listening, I can follow the speed of speech much better and work out parts which I am unsure about much faster.
When it actually comes to myself speaking, my fluency seems to have improved. Words that I know are coming into my head faster and coming out better. I am not sure if my pronunciation has improved or whether the better flow and intonation is helping the other party understand me better. It's probably a greater proportion of the latter.
1) continue with 成长汉语 up to about episode 70
2) go through some Chinesepod lower intermediate with the same methodology. I.e. create flashcards and create listening practice cards. When do flashcards for listening stop being useful. Maybe at upper intermediate level? Someway to go for that.
3) I discovered I like instructional videos I.e. those that teach a skill, so cooking is a good one. At some point, I will need to sit down and fully concentrate on a five minute segment and learn all the sentences. That is, if the background music isn't too intrusive.
4) dramas - lots of learning materials but it looks like I am not at the level to make them appealing.
5) discipline myself to go through the lessons in my listening comprehension books of 发展汉语
6) sort of unrelated but maybe six months time really having a blast at pronunciation accuracy within spoken sentences. This will definitely need a tutor. I have my methodology but that is for another post.
Edit: forgot to mention, for the listening practice, I am trying to practically memorise each sentence. Good results have been reported by other forum members using this methodology.