Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

imron

Getting out of a listening rut

Recommended Posts

AdamD
On 17/01/2018 at 7:52 AM, Hua said:

I believe most of the people you meet are in fact patient with Chinese learners.

 

They definitely are. I'm aware that last weekend I was speaking to people who kept their speech clear and relatively simple, but even a year ago I couldn't understand speech under the same conditions. I'm a long way off full comprehension, but at least I can measure my progress against itself.

 

On 17/01/2018 at 7:52 AM, Hua said:

Because of the wrong tones, I was not able to fully understand what he said

 

Weirdly enough that frustrates me too. In fact I usually have a better time understanding native speech than that of learners who don't get the tones right.

 

Since I've not spoken Chinese in a while, I've noticed the tones in my speech have deteriorated a bit, even though they're correct in my head. I'll get this back soon enough by mirroring others' speech, and just paying better attention to what I'm saying.

 

On 17/01/2018 at 7:52 AM, Hua said:

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.

 

Yes, and a big recent change in my attitude is that I'm no longer scared to make mistakes, or apologetic when I make them. In fact I'm now far more likely to charge forth knowing what I'm saying is incorrect, just so I can scramble together the meaning and worry about the mistakes afterwards.

 

Thanks for your feedback!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

mungouk

This is such a great thread—thanks everyone.

I've been learning Mandarin for less than a year, but in the past have studied French, German, Spanish, Hindi and Japanese.  Never before in my language-learning have I experienced such a mis-match between my (low) listening ability versus reading, writing and speaking, and I was finding it very discouraging.  

It's so reassuring to know that many of you have also been battling with this, and have found ways to push through.

 

There are also some brilliant tips in here which I'll be acting upon.


My teacher just told me about 喜马拉雅FM last week... it looks like an incredible resource, but there is such a vast amount of stuff that it would be great to get some recommendations or curated lists from somewhere as to what to listen to (I'm studying for HSK 3 at present).  

 

Cheers!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

I’ve been in Taiwan for nearly two weeks and my listening is so horrible it’s pointless even trying. This is frankly devastating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron

You should have a read of this thread.  It's from someone who was in a very similar position to the one you're in now and how they went about fixing it!

 

In particular, this post might come in useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

Appreciate your help, but the fact that you’re quoting this thread back to me just underlines the fact that I’m going in circles. This is not a plateau. I’ve gone a long way backwards and am simply not good at the listening aspect. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
歐博思

I haven't read all your posts so I'm just conjecturing here, but how's your listening in English? I, for instance, couldn't repeat some long English audio segment verbatim, even as a native speaker.  On the other hand, if I was listening to a similarly long piece in Chinese, I would probably put more pressure on myself to repeat it well. Is that really being fair to oneself? Probably not.

 

Do you think it might be beneficial to focus more on communcation skills in general?

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
2 minutes ago, AdamD said:

just underlines the fact that I’m going in circles. This is not a plateau.

Your thinking is going in circles (cycling between negative then positive and now once again negative feedback loops), but I don't think your language is and I think this is likely another plateau.

 

I'll quote myself from the first page

 

That doesn't mean your Chinese has stagnated, in fact, quite the opposite.  It means your Chinese has improved away from that level of conversation but unfortunately it hasn't yet reached the next point you're aiming for.

 

In other words, you've leveled up, and no longer find the easier conversations and activities difficult/stimulating, but now the next things you are aiming for are still out of reach.

 

Even if it's the same sort of conversations and situations, many people in Taiwan have a strong accent and the flavour of Mandarin is also different (so you're encountering different standard responses to standard situations) and *that* is where the added difficulty comes from.

 

This makes the types of conversation and activities you are trying to use the language for this time significantly more difficult and advanced that what they were last time - even if it's just same situations but this time with accent and dialect.

 

You've also likely fallen in to a negative feedback loop where you are focusing on all the things you can't do rather than all the things you can do.

 

I wasn't referring you back to the first post to be glib.  Really go through and read the entire thread.  Pay attention in particular to how defeated you felt, and then how you overcame that and start to focus on the positive things you can do to try and break out of the negative feedback cycle you're stuck in.

 

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
歐博思

I'll second that Taiwanese Mandarin has got quite the different sound to it than accents you might find on say, 非诚勿扰, which you mentioned you have watched.

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
2 minutes ago, imron said:

This makes the types of conversation and activities you are trying to use the language for this time significantly more difficult and advanced that what they were last time

And just to underscore this point, I'll quote you from 2 1/2 months ago:

 

On 1/20/2018 at 8:20 AM, AdamD said:

I'm aware that last weekend I was speaking to people who kept their speech clear and relatively simple, but even a year ago I couldn't understand speech under the same conditions. I'm a long way off full comprehension, but at least I can measure my progress against itself.

 

A year ago you couldn't understand clear and simple speech.  2.5 months ago you had no trouble with it, it's no longer an obstacle.  Now you're in Taiwan and likely interacting with people not using clear speech, and even if the speech being used is simple, it's likely different responses and vocabulary to what you are used to.

 

You leveled up to clear and simple speech, and now the next target is accented speech with dialect and vocabulary influences.  You'll get this, just like you got the last goal.  You just need to keep working at it.

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

I just wrote a massive reply and lost the whole thing because of some crappy iPhone bug so I’ll summarise.

 

A woman in a shop just said ‘85’ to me several times and I couldn’t understand her. She had to point to ‘85’. This is where I’m at — I can’t understand ‘85’. Yes I thought I had made progress 2.5 months ago but it was clearly not sustained (and it’s possible he ignored all my misunderstandings/assumptions and just rolled with whatever the hell I was saying). I’ve spoken to a lot of people here this past two weeks, but the amount I’ve been able to understand is ridiculously low.

 

Dialect/accent: This comes up a lot, and it’s starting to feel like self-deception. Even in Beijing the speech isn’t completely ‘standard’ with all the erhua around the place. Accent is not an excuse for my ability being hopeless when plenty of foreigners can function in the language with the same obstacle.

 

Focusing on communication skills: I have done, for years. If I focus on speaking, I can’t understand speech, so there’s not any semblance of conversation. If I focus on listening, I lose the ability to construct sensible sentences (which is another issue I have — my grammar is rubbish now). Those are plates I can’t keep spinning.

 

Focusing on what I can’t do: I mean there’s not a lot I can do. I can read.

 

Regarding my sense of progress 2+ months ago: maybe I should have waited until I’d made actual progress before getting excited. Tiny steps over several years is rubbish. I know plenty of people who’ve made more progress in one year than I’ve made in six.

 

I appreciate you both trying to help, I really do, but it’s becoming clear that I’m simply not suited to this. I’ve been convincing myself that it’s a plateau but I’m still there. It’s not a plateau, it’s a limit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DanielG

Learning is usually a two steps forward, one step back procedure.  Don't be so hard on yourself!  Chinese listening is an extremely difficult skill due to relatively few sounds being used over and over again, and this is exacerbated when hearing a new dialect.  If 85 is not spoken as you have it stored in your mind, those sounds could mean all sorts of things.  To speak of a plateau or a limit when you are in a new sound environment doesn't sound appropriate. Give yourself more time to get used to it and your listening ability will surely improve.  Don't concern yourself with people who seem to learn faster - obviously you have improved more in other areas, such as reading  Learning a language isn't a race.  One idea to improve your understanding of Taiwanese speech would be to buy a Taiwanese textbook that you think is easy for your level, and listen repeatedly to the audio.  In any case, good luck!

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Flickserve
8 hours ago, AdamD said:

I’ve been in Taiwan for nearly two weeks and my listening is so horrible it’s pointless even trying. This is frankly devastating.

 

Where in Taiwan are you?

 

3 hours ago, AdamD said:

A woman in a shop just said ‘85’ to me several times and I couldn’t understand her. She had to point to ‘85’. This is where I’m at — I can’t understand ‘85’.

 

How did she pronounce it then? What was different? 

 

 

Frankly speaking, I would love to hear a sample of the speech you are having difficulty with. From your descriptions of practice before, you probably have had a lot of practice with material that is near standard Mandarin . Even those language exchanges you have had are a bit artificial and spoken a bit slower. 

 

I am guessing she spoke very fast and slurred her speech, or she she used the s/she mix up which you were not expecting, or that she has mixed in Hokkien/hakka type pronunciation in her Mandarin.

 

I visited a rural village today and they speak a type of Cantonese mixed with hakka. I could understand it but my daughter (can speak Cantonese/Mandarin  but no experience of hakka) couldn't understand. I am guessing that you are a bit like my kid. 

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
somethingfunny
2 hours ago, imron said:

If you're going to compare yourself, do it with your past, not to other people. 

Ah, Imron.  Can we be friends?

  • Good question! 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Flickserve

Oh, forgot to mention I had an interesting one a few days ago where the people I spoke to in Cantonese had a very heavy accent and difficult for me. It turned out they were shanghainese who have lived in HK for about thirty years. I know that shanghainese speakers have it particular hard speaking Cantonese even with living in an immersive environment. So, don't underestimate the influence of other languages on speech patterns that can throw you for a loop. 

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

This reply will be weird because I crashed the browser last time I wrote a detailed reply.

 

Just first need to make the point that ‘85’ was only one example of hundreds. I expected her to say ‘85’ (八五) and still missed it several times. I also know how ‘85’ sounds here because I’ve been here a few times and listened to a lot of Taiwan Mandarin over the years, and because the Eslite discount is 85% I was even waiting for her to say it.

 

Two years ago when I was here, I had nothing like the struggles I’ve had this time. That experience was reasonable, this one is not. It’s not just a lull, I’ve lost ability despite working at it solidly.

 

@DanielG: I agree it’s not a race against other people, but I do need to consider whether I’m wasting my time with this. I’ve thrown everything I have at it but am making tiny tiny steps.

 

@imron: My post that you linked turned out to be a fluke, and to be honest I’m not even sure I was understanding the other people correctly (now I’m guessing they were going with all my listening mistakes and just being courteous). I’ve had two weeks to capture even a glimpse of that again but nope. In the lead-up to this trip I lost the ability to understand speech again, but I’m fully immersed and have thrown everything I have at it, and I still can’t get it back. It’s not even a regional difference, it’s the same speech: Taiwanese people in Taiwan. I’m comparing apples with apples. Even watching TV, I can’t understand speech unless I read the subtitles, in which case I know what all the words are (the pronunciation is standard enough, I’m just not getting it).

 

@Flickserve: I’m in Taipei at the moment. I’ve been all over the country, and had put down my crap listening to regional differences and dialectical influence (e.g. Taitung), but I’ve been back in Taipei long enough to know it’s not about the accents at all.

 

For a sample of the speech I can’t understand, basically pick any TV or radio content from Taipei. I’ve been going back through 普通話 audio content and I can’t understand that either.

 

Perhaps this is not the best thread for this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Flickserve

Maybe you need to chill a bit and not let it get to you. 😊

 

Perhaps last time , you were at a lower level and the locals adjusted their speech accordingly to you. Your speaking ability and use of vocabulary must be better so they haven't simplified their speech this time around。 And then, this trip has coincided with a slight downward phase in your Chinese 狀態

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

Again, I appreciate your encouragement, but I’ll be dead before I get to a useful ability. This is the issue — not what I can achieve, but how long it will take. Also, I’ve been in a ‘can’ mindset for a really really long time. I can’t be ruthlessly optimistic forever.

 

Quote

Today you’re in the same place.

 

Only in that what I thought was progress wasn’t.

 

Quote

minor setback

 

I can’t understand speech, after the best part of a decade of charging at this like a bull at a gate. Sorry, this isn’t minor. (I know you’ve been there too, but after this much time? After this much effort?)

 

@Flickserve: What’s getting to me is the prospect of wasting another decade on this. Also, the locals are still definitely dumbing down their speech. They’re talking at me in single words and I can’t parse the single words.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy
1 hour ago, AdamD said:

They’re talking at me in single words and I can’t parse the single words.

That doesn't sound like a language issue to me, it sounds like a mental block. Maybe go back to some easier listenings, or go sit in a cafe and eavesdrop. Relax and see what you can pick out when you don't have the pressure of completing an interaction.

 

Chinese is hard and time-consuming and I wouldn't blame anyone who decided it wasn't for them. However I think there's possibly a less radical solution here. 

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...