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So many different approaches for improving listening skills - Which ones are most effective? (T.V. shows, podcasts, "binging"?)


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Hey guys,

Basically, I have three different ways in mind for improving my listening this summer.  The problem is, I have no idea which one is more effective (if any), and experimentation would probably take up the whole summer.  So, here's what I think:


1.  Originally, I planned on watching episodes from 愛情公寓 (iPartment).  I've watched this show before, and it's hard to understand (modern, colloquial, slang, based in Shanghai).  The approach I had in mind was to bookmark key words here and there on Pleco as I watched the episode (I use Chinese subtitles), and also focus attentively on what they were saying.  Then, I'd watch it a second time, and maybe more times after that, and, hopefully, after collecting and memorizing many key words, and hearing/reading the dialogue many times over, I would be able to understand significantly more than I had originally.  Here's my question: Apart from this specific episode, would this be an improvement on my listening overall, and help me understand other Chinese listening material?


2.  Another thing I had in mind was using the podcasts from Popup Chinese, and specifically hone in on the way native speakers sound, how they slur their words together, etc., and make sure I master each podcast (each podcast is pretty short, like under a minute or so).  Additionally, I would try to mimic them, and repeat the dialogue the way they said it.  This is to train my ears to look for certain sounds in native, colloquial speech and to adjust to them.  It's less content, but more quality listening and analysis on these snippets of content.


3.  And finally, I was thinking of "binging."  By binging, I mean listening to a massive s***load of Chinese listening material and keeping up the momentum.  If I don't understand a big chunk of one episode in 愛情公寓, then I would ignore it.  Then, tune in to random radio stations and just actively listen to it.  Basically, the premise here is that listening to a lot of fast-speaking native material will train my ears to adapt to listen and understand and that speed (I already have a huge vocabulary).


So there you go, that was a lot to write.  #2 and #3 are complete opposites, and I guess you call #1 a hybrid of the two.


What are your guys' opinions?  Which ones have you had more success with, or which one seems to make more sense?

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I think that the important thing here is to do some listening. It doesn't really matter which way you choose as long as you do it.


I think the listening to tv, radio, podcasts etc without necessarily understanding everything is good, as you say it gets your ear "in tune" and helps you familiarise yourself with the sounds of chinese.


I think you should also have some very structured listening, where comprehension is the important thing.


So I would say a combination of all 3 of your methods would probably work.


You don't say what level you are at but you could have a look at Hello Chinese, it has some structured listening exercises that may be of use. Have a look here http://www.hellochinese.cc/


There is also a topic here on the forum http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49944-hellochinese-%E2%80%93-new-chinese-mandarin-learning-app-learn-chinese-speak-chinese/


Welcome to the forums, you will find it a great place to help you learn chinese

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I would recommend finding or writing out a transcript of separate 2-3 min segments of 爱情公寓. Study the transcripts until you can recognize all the characters and understand everything yourself and read out loud. Then download the audio for those portions and listening to them over and over until you can understand without trying. 


This method is tedious and takes effort but extremely effective. 

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The most effective method, from my experience, is you do the transcribing yourself.

Here is a pretty good description of how it works.

I just want to add: Better start with something easy like children's stories -> news broadcasts -> documentaries -> interview / talk shows -> movies / tv dramas

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@Pulbius- I'm just wondering since you have stated in your profile that you are at a native level of Chinese, is Chinese your native language or have are you saying you have reached a native level as a foreign language learner?  You are speaking about the method above from experience so did you study Chinese in this way?

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Actually, just after I posted this, I kept digging through the forum and found a thread that might answer my question.  :wall



@wushucrab20 - The above seems similar to what you said.  Does anyone have direct experience with the above-mentioned method to support it?  The guy in the link above said it made a "huge impact on [his] Chinese," (for listening) over the course of just a few weeks.  From the looks of it, I would guess that an approach based on focusing on the tiny changes/nuances in native speech is much more effective for improving comprehension skills than a solely a volume-based approach.

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@wushucrab20 -- Yaa, Chinese is my native language. But I did use the "transcribing" method in learning other languages -- English, Cantonese, and Japanese. And I find the method works even better for Cantonese and Japanese, because of the indirect input method -- you enter the pinyin/jyutping/kana of a word, then pick from a list of candidates the correct one, make a tiny change and you can see immediately what's possible or impossible.

This so-called 聽寫法 is quite popular among language learners in mainland China. For example, the leading online education site hujiang.com uses it. And I can attest to its effectiveness. :)

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I don't know what your Chinese is like, but I'll just chip in with my own experience.

I spent many years trying to 'improve' listening skills by watching numerous TV shows once. In the end only my Chinese reading and vocabulary improved.

What made a difference for me was actually just regular speaking to natives via Language Exchange. I also hired a one to one tutor to help point out and fix my pronunciation in regard to the tones. In the end, I found my listening automatically improved simply because natives were speaking slower (but not too slow) that I often heard stock phrases from them again & again on TV shows once I recognised it. And the classes helped me distinguish the tones very clearly in real life whether speaking to natives or watching native TV shows. The effect of recognising tones in real life is subtle but extremely important in Chinese; do not ignore it like I did!

So, the old rule of just speaking as much as possible worked for me. YMNV.

Oh, and consider Chinese radio stations with plenty of talking instead of Tv shows.

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The jazz music show on National Education Radio Taiwan (國立教育廣播電台).

Other radio stations worth checking out:

RTI Taiwan (see a review here http://www.hackingchinese.com/rti-my-favourite-radio-station/ )

RFI Chinese ( French radio station)

Durian FM (Malaysia)

民間電台 Citizens' Radio ( Hong Kong)

Haven't been able to find stable streaming to mainland China radio stations.

Appreciate recommendations.

I use Tune In radio app a lot

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I used to study with 爱情公寓 too. Maybe you'd also like 四大名助. The main host, 孟非, along with 3 others read viewer submitted letters, and then invite them to the show to talk about their problems in a light atmosphere like you'd see among friends.

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