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Listening to Audiobooks


phills
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@TofuChris thanks for asking!   I am about 100 hours in now.  I took a 10 day break in February, when I got discouraged by the slowing progress, but I'm back on the treadmill now.  I was going to update with stats when I get to 120 hours or so.  I only generate a new data point every 5-10 hours (not enough has changed otherwise).

 

I'm about half new books, half old books at this point.  The new books are mainly sequels of things I read, where I generally know the plot but haven't exactly read the material before.  I'm also watching Reset the tv series. 

 

For the first time recently, I was able to listen to an audio book while doing dishes, with ok comprehension!

 

I did run into the problem of becoming bored / distracted with pure listening.  That was part of what slowed my progress in mid February.  It's ironic, because one of my goals when starting this was to be able to listen to material, while doing other stuff (like chores).  I still want to do that, but you can't actually learn (well) that way.

 

So now, when free listening, I open a window and take notes (in English).  Like I'm in school, going to a lecture.  They don't have to be great notes; but it keeps me focused on what I'm listening to.  And that way even when I get lost, I can look back up at my old notes and feel assured I mostly understood the material.  That's about 2/3rds of my total listening time.

 

The other 1/3rds of the time, I keep the original material open in another window, and  glance over every 15-20 seconds or so to make sure I'm comprehending everything I heard. I used to have to do this to ensure learning, but now I only do it as a change-up and to catch any stray words that I get wrong.  Approx 10% of the time, I will test myself with my script to see how many times I need subtitle help. 

 

That's my new routine now.   

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On 1/28/2022 at 7:45 AM, phills said:

BTW, I may be oversensitive, but is the female version an AI voice? 

 

It's Microsoft Azure's TTS.

 

I think the question has been posed before, but does anyone know of a good way of buying and listening to audiobooks on Ximalaya from outside of China? Having just finished 孽子 I'd love to listen to the audio book (and others). 

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On 3/6/2022 at 5:44 PM, Insectosaurus said:

It's Microsoft Azure's TTS.

 

Good ear!  I looked up Azure and there's a demo right on the page:

 

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-services/text-to-speech/#features

 

It's funny that the sample text has 2 instances of "语言" in it.  It sounds quite like that narration in the youtube video.

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  • 6 months later...

I wanted to give an update!  Sadly, I fell off the listening wagon after my last post in March, but I'm back at it again.

 

I took 2 breaks since my last post (each about 2-ish months each).  So between March and now (6 months total), I've only been following my listening routine for about 2 months. 

 

Since the end of my last break, I've been sticking to my listening routine for a month now.  All told, I'm at ~170 hours cumulative listening time, since the beginning of the year, ~40 hours per month when I've been seriously engaged. 

 

Recent observations:

 

1. It's harder to maintain focus on intensive listening than I originally thought.  Harder than my intensive reading project from last year (at least for my learning style). 

 

I thought it would become easier as I got better.  But it's turned out not exactly to be the case.  As I got better, my attention started wandering.  E.g. started clicking around the internet, reading stuff, looking for other things to do, while listening.

 

Paradoxically, I couldn't do these other things before when I was worse at the skill.  I had to focus 100%.  After I got better, so that I could focus < 100%, I actually did focus < 100%, making the process just as hard as before.  Lol.

2. Also, my improvement was veeeerrrrry slow, plateauing hard after the first 50 hours or so. Without much noticeable improvement, I couldn't maintain interest.  Even my attempts to create tests to track my progress didn't help, since the test scores didn't budge much, and went down as much as up. 

 

3. One sure sign I was about to fall off the wagon is when I start listening to lots of different stuff.  Listening to a chapter from 5 or 6 books / shows over a few days preceded all of my prolonged lapses.  If I'm sampling heavily, it's a sure sign I'm getting bored.

 

4. Last year, when I was continuously reading, I made a habit of sticking to a single book at a time.  In hindsight, that was very important to maintaining my progress, because if nothing else, just finishing a book feels like progress. 

 

Also, books get easier as you continue through it, so you can tell yourself you're getting better.  Even if it's partly illusory competence, you feel it viscerally. 

 

But when you're jumping around 5 or 6 books, you get continuous hints that you haven't improved as much as you think.  You're falling down the competence curve every time you switch.

 

Since coming back from my last lapse, I've been sticking to a single book at a time.  In fact, I've just listened to books from a single series since then.  That makes it much more similar to my experience last year, which boosts my confidence (since that worked well last time).


5. Recently, I had a bit of a breakthrough in terms of performance. 

 

It came around 150 hr mark (or about ~2 million chars).  That's just about when I expected it... because that's the same point at which I felt a lot more comfortable with reading (2 million chars). 

 

That coincidence does makes me wonder if it's just psychological, but I'm going to see if it sticks and if I can confirm it through tests.  I'll post again if it confirms.  But feeling an actual improvement is hugely encouraging, giving me some hope I'll stick to my routine this time.

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On 3/6/2022 at 9:44 AM, Insectosaurus said:

I think the question has been posed before, but does anyone know of a good way of buying and listening to audiobooks on Ximalaya from outside of China?

 

@Insectosaurus did you find an answer to your question? Sorry I missed it. If you haven't, and for others who don't yet know: you can access Ximalaya in your browser, just go to:  

https://www.ximalaya.com/  

It's all there, if not all, at least enough to keep you busy for a long time. You can open an account using your email &/or non-Chinese phone number, this allows you to keep track of your listening history, choices, favs, etc. as well as sync across devices. You can use browser extensions like Zhongwen and translator apps on the web pages.  

There will be restrictions on some audios due to copyright, depending on your location, and also podcasts that are restricted to VIPs, but there is much good stuff for free. You'll have to check how much of what you want to listen is for VIPs only -  and you may want to find a way to subscribe, for which I think may need to register via the international branch (more below). I have an annual subscription and find it good value but I joined a long time ago and subscribe via the Apple store (the app is only available through the Chinese store now). 

There are also many lecture series for purchase (prices are reasonable) and are yours to keep no matter what. 

 

A tip: If an audio book you want is restricted, search for the same book title in the H. site - many books have multiple recordings, some restricted, some free, it's worth a try.

 

The home page on the web site will invite you to download their Windows app. This is a nice tool, it allows you to download audios and save them in your device to listen offline.  Note: The files are not mp3s. The app downloaded from the Ximalaya website is new and updated regularly, unlike the ximalaya app in the Windows Store.

 

The Ximalaya Home page also has a link to the Ximalaya international branch: Himalaya. The Android and iOS apps are available in the US store though not in Europe or UK (Copyright regulations again), but there now is web access. I don't know whether it allows subscribing from EU/UK (US subs are $60 per year), though one can explore the site and listen to the free stuff. You can sign up for an account using email, or non-Chinese phone, or WeChat / Google or Facebook.

https://www.himalaya.com/cn  

 

 

 

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@Insectosaurus I'm sorry to hear that. Can't even start to imagine how it would be, I have hundreds of podcast series waiting to be listened. Have you tried Dragonfly FM ((蜻蜓FM)? Apple Podcasts alsomany good podcasts in Chinese, but I don't think they have audio books. DangDang Cloud reader has very good audio books, but they're not free (though they're cheap) and I think this is another app that disappeared from the UK/Europe stores, so you'd be late to join from outside China (I was lucky there too) 

 

A few more suggestions:  

https://www.whatsonweibo.com/top-10-of-popular-chinese-podcasts-by-whats-on-weibo/  

 

Failing everything, there are some good audio books in YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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