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imron

Getting out of a listening rut

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tysond

Been away from the forums a Long time as have moved to Singapore.

 

But I am happy to report, continued listening and exposure will help enormously.  And it does stick with you.

 

Recently I have more and more Uber Drivers who cannot speak English.  Wonderful opportunity to practice Chinese.

 

The driver started talking about going back to Malaysia for 扫墓.  Tomb sweeping.  He mentioned 坟墓 as well - tombs.  And I was instantly transported to a funny video I had studied years ago about a Sichuan cop arresting a fujian guy with very funny Chinese.  And even though I forgot it was 清明  I was all over the conversation 

 

Learn in context.  Learn Chinese like you memorise the quotes from your favourite movies.  You will get there....!

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AdamD

@baihua: Listen to material within your range, avoiding material that bores you. Learn common words that keep coming up. And keep at it. It's a very long slog but it does pay off, and as @tysond said you won't lose your ability to understand speech as long as you maintain some sort of exposure.

 

Also, having a large vocabulary doesn't guarantee you'll know the key words in any given exchange. You might have 2,000 words under your belt, but when you're talking to someone who uses 12 new/slang/local words, it feels like a whole different language. Knowing that you don't know the words is in itself a separate skill which you'll also develop over time.

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Flickserve
19 hours ago, baihua said:

especially how difficult it is being perceived as being unable to communicate in what seems a rather reasonable range given my vocabulary and the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's the number one inhibitor stopping me from raising my speaking level in any significant way :conf

 

You can probably try to target more precisely what do you find difficult.

 

Do you know the words spoken but don't know the meaning? Then, you need a transcript plus translation. Listen many times.

 

 

Is the sentence just a blur? Maybe the speaker is not speaking clearly in the first place or their accent is something you are not used. You need to listen many times to different speakers saying the same sentence getting used to the different way of saying things. 

 

Are the ambient conditions interfering with your listening? Noisy environment, more than one person in the conversation. Difficult to replicate. 

 

In any case, listening lots of times to the same sentence is a key factor which I underappreciated.

 

 

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baihua

Someone is saying a very basic sentence and I'm not instantly twigging their meaning, even though I'm familiar with all the words and could on the spot reproduce the same sentence. I'm also having to listen to moderate to challenging material two or three times to clock its meaning, which seems to suggest my comprehension speed is really slow and possibly related to that, I need a more thorough understanding of the tones/vocabulary.

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Flickserve
22 minutes ago, baihua said:

Someone is saying a very basic sentence and I'm not instantly twigging their meaning, even though I'm familiar with all the words and could on the spot reproduce the same sentence

 

Well,  just how much time are you spending on specifically listening? 10 minutes a day? Active or passive listening practice?  Familiarity doesn't mean instant comprehension.

 

Sorry to ask this question but if you reproduce a sentence, can you reproduce it with largely correct tones immediately? You may be unwittingly off tune. 

 

What sort on environment are you living in? Exposure to Chinese everyday? Once in a week? 

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Flickserve

@baihua. Looked back and saw you live in China?

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AdamD

@baihua:

 

Quote

Someone is saying a very basic sentence and I'm not instantly twigging their meaning, even though I'm familiar with all the words and could on the spot reproduce the same sentence. I'm also having to listen to moderate to challenging material two or three times to clock its meaning, which seems to suggest my comprehension speed is really slow and possibly related to that, I need a more thorough understanding of the tones/vocabulary.

 

There's a huge difference between recognising a string of words and quickly deriving semantic meaning from a complete sentence. The former is possible with study, but I really think you can't force the latter.

 

Some of your difficulty is due to the time it takes for our brains to physically adapt to the new language. Here's an article on neuroplasticity that should give you plenty of hope.

 

The way to conquer your block is to keep going. Stick with material at your level, repeat material you can grasp, and stop when you're tired. Give your brain the chance to adapt physically. I endured your hell for years (hence the existence of this thread), and I can attest that it does get better.

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baihua
Quote

Looked back and saw you live in China?

Which really doesn't make it that much easier tbh. There was a previous comment on the thread about someone retreating into books and writing. I can totally relate. Im regularly reminded how awful my listening is and it really saps my motivation level and my desire to converse on any level.

 

There looks to be light at the end of the tunnel, Adam D put some points down that I'm regularly following through and Im noting small progress, but easy it ain't.

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AdamD

Yeah, it's a long road but persistence really does pay off.

 

About a year ago @eddyf mentioned in this thread how listening to ChinesePod improved his listening comprehension over the course of a year. I can attest to that: a year ago I was only just coping with the elementary audio, but loads of those lessons are now too easy for me. This is not to say that ChinesePod is the only way to get there, but for me it's made a gaugeable difference.

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AdamD

I'm forever hearing that watching TV is the best way to improve listening comprehension, so this week I've started doing that with 漂洋过海来看你 (no particular reason, it was just there).

 

After initially chucking a tantrum in the weekly updates thread, by the end of episode 1 dialogue started to jump out at me. Now I'm near the end of episode 2 and already I have a grip on what's happening in most of the subplots.

 

I'm watching it without any preparation or aids: no word lists, episode summaries or transcripts. I've even turned off all subtitles (Viki allows this). I'm also resisting the urge to replay dialogue unless I think I missed something.

 

Combined with ChinesePod, this already feels like it's working.

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xit

I've noticed something interesting that's been happening to me...I haven't been studying as much lately, mostly because I have other things to study too. But I would occasionally watch an episode of a drama, maybe a movie or some youtube vlogs. Overall I feel that my listening has improved, in a way that I can hear faster and understand quicker. Yes, I do use subtitles more often then not, and yes there are so many new words to learn, but the point is I can hear sounds relatively clearly. It felt comfortable.

 

Well, I went out to watch a Chinese movie, with subtitles of course. Was late. And then it hit me. My listening sucks. A lot of the parts I just couldn't understand without the subtitles. More complicated sentences, when the characters were worked up, or talking at the same time, I couldn't even make it out. Yes, the accents were different to what I'm used to, but still...It was bad. Came home, looked it up so I could watch the beginning online, didn't wear headphones, just regular computer playing sounds, it was never the best...And, baaam, I could understand it. I could make out the sounds, follow it much much easier,...It's the same movie!!! How?! This isn't the first time this has happened to me either. Once, when I was taking Chinese classes, teacher played something on the record player or whatever it was. It also felt much harder to hear and to concentrate then it normally does. With or without headphones.

 

How do I deal with this? I'm not talking about new words or grammar structures. Somehow it seems, when I'm in larger areas, my listening skills go back to when I had a hard time making out Chinese sounds, like when I first started. I don't know how to describe it better. Obviously, it's because my overall skills are lacking, but this just seems very specific, and I'm not sure how to address it or work on it. I'll be adding modern dramas and listening practice to my routine, but I need some guidance. Really looking forward to 欢乐颂2 which starts airing in a few days~

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AdamD
1 hour ago, xit said:

How do I deal with this?

 

In my experience, you just keep going.

 

I have exactly the same issue as you, in that a specific piece of audio/video will be impossible one moment and crystal clear the next. If I get nowhere, I stop and come back to it a few hours or days later. When I'm understanding speech, I persist as long as I can.

 

Over time the balance shifts and you have more moments of good comprehension, but it does take persistence and a lot of patience. The trick is to not believe you're failing when you have a bad day.

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imron
1 hour ago, AdamD said:

In my experience, you just keep going

This is exactly right.  Just keep listening, keep repeating, keep looking up unknown words and eventually your brain will start to figure it out.

 

3 hours ago, xit said:

And, baaam, I could understand it. I could make out the sounds, follow it much much easier,...It's the same movie!!! How?!

Consider that it is the second time you watched it, and now you have context from the rest of the movie to help you understand things that initially seemed strange on the first watch, but that you can now make sense of.

 

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xit

Thanks for the advice. But there is one thing...I wasn't watching the same parts of the movie. So, I wasn't repeating anything. But when I was at that big area, where the sound source was not near, I heard noise. Apart from the really really short words and expressions, I heard noise. Even with simple stuff that I would otherwise understand. When I was home, watching a different part of the movie, and the sound source was near, I heard sounds. Distinguished sounds. Even when I couldn't understand something, I could still hear it. So, how do you explain this? Could it be the echo, sound quality, lack of focus? Because I'm not even considering understanding it, just whether I can make out sounds or not, and the difference was huge for what should have been same difficulty.

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zander1

AdamD I'm glad you now think watching more TV is helping with your listening. I was super surprised by your first post as I would contribute the majority of the improvement in my listening to watching TV!

 

Agree with all the stuff above - just keep listening, keep going. It will come.

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imron
1 hour ago, xit said:

I wasn't watching the same parts of the movie. So, I wasn't repeating anything.

But maybe now you are more familiar with names of characters, accents of characters, maybe also some common vocabulary.

 

Or maybe when you were listening the second time you were concentrating more, or paying more attention.

 

There are really a large number of variables.

 

The reason it's important to keep plugging away at it, is that by doing the thing that you want to learn, you get very fast and very concrete feedback about deficiencies in your ability, and you can work on each piece of concrete feedback to make improvements.

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realmayo

Perhaps : you've practised a lot listening in a familiar, comfortable environment. So you're bound to be good at listening in that familiar, comfortable environment... 

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AdamD
On 05/05/2017 at 11:10 PM, zander1 said:

AdamD I'm glad you now think watching more TV is helping with your listening. I was super surprised by your first post as I would contribute the majority of the improvement in my listening to watching TV!

 

I was surprised myself, as it went against every piece of advice I've ever read about watching TV. So many people swear by it.

 

What's surprised me even more is that I've found myself wanting to get back home to watch another episode, which is incredible since the show itself isn't all that addictive. Maybe I'm just excited at the prospect of finally getting to a comfortable level of listening. Because I know all plateaus are false, I'm completely confident my skill is improving whether i can detect it or not.

 

Edit: I forgot to mention a big thing that helped me recently. This ChinesePod lesson (subscribers only?) explains how native speakers tend to run syllables together, e.g. 你好 can sound like 'niao'. I didn't even know that happened! Now I know to listen for it, I'm already picking it up in normal speech. Adding this to my list of Things I Wish Every Beginner Was Taught On Day One.

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Hua

Hi Adam,

 

Hope you have made progress in listening. I am sure you will feel more confident to speak in Chinese. I believe most of the people you meet are in fact patient with Chinese learners. There was one American student I met in the university where I studied. He sounded like he was a beginner but was willing to talk to me. Because of the wrong tones, I was not able to fully understand what he said and he felt frustrated, so I said to him "don't worry, let's do it one more time, until we understand each other."  Sometimes learning a new language is just about making mistakes and confusions at the first stage so that you will grasp the breadth and depth of the language you are learning.

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