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wfujkramer

Will this work to develop listening skills?

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wfujkramer

If you can divide up chinese into things like pronunciation, spoken, reading/writing and listening skills, I have a serious problem - I have everything in a nice balance except my listening skills.

I don't know why. I have lots of chinese friends, i go out with them frequently, try to limit how much english I'm speaking, and I'm also living in harbin so what I'm hearing (or rather not hearing) is very clear chinese. I don't have many problems with my friends, maybe because at this point I'm used to the way they speak individually, or maybe i can just predict what they're going to say. So, besides finding more friends, what can I do to improve my listening skills?

I have an idea to dedicate an hour or two every night to staring at chinese TV - maybe a news channel, or even CCTV shao er. Right now I can understand almost nothing on TV. If I just sit in front of the box for an hour a night and try my best will this have some benefit over the long run? Or should I just put that same effort into increasing my vocabulary so that maybe I'll be able to recognize mord words?

Thanks.

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roddy

For my money, there are more profitable things you can do with your time than just sitting in front of the TV or radio - we had discussion about this here. It can be useful, but you can do more with your time (of course, if you just want to veg out time in front of the tube, then doing it in Chinese is better than nothing).

In your position, I'd get hold of these books, which I really do think are first rate for developing listening skills, and work through those steadily.

Roddy

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atitarev

Guys, what do you think of the New Practical Chinese Reader for developing listening skills?

I finished volume 2, reviewing it and tracing over the characters I covered. It must be my bad skills, even the texts I know well - I read and learned words and characters, when I listen to them without looking at the text, I miss words and phrases. Luckily, the CD's provided have fast (natural) and slow reading for each text. I am much more comfortable with the slow reading.

I find understanding spoken Chinese the biggest challenge after mastering the characters, I considered myself good in learning languages - I learned English, German, certain French, Polish and certain Japanese (my native tongue is Russian). The main difficulty in understanding Mandarin is not the tones but very short words, in my opinion.

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Ferno

atitarev, Polish grammar alone requires several years of study. Are you sure you "learned" it?

yes the many short words that mean so many different things are also a problem for me... ie: overused "ma can mean mother, hemp, horse or grasshopper depending on the tone!" it's not even that simple :)

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atitarev

Ferno. Yes, I am sure, I learned Polish, I haven't used it for many years though. Polish grammar is very similar to Russian with only minor differences so and you can map grammatical cases, conjugations, etc, many Russians/Poles pick up each other's language just by communicating but I put in some effort into actually learning it - I used one thick textbook with heaps of audio, a dictionary and phrase-book, learned by heart a few poems and songs, then I had good practise when I went to Poland and did some small trades - I spent about 4-5 months to reach a very reasonable level. Agree, that for English speakers both Russian and Polish are too hard in terms of grammar and vocabulary.

Well, tones are a problem but only partial in the listening, the context usually (!) helps to understand if you know enough words, even if you don't have a good ear for tones, I actually practised enough with the tones, so it's not the problem to figure out which tone is used for a word but what is actually pronounced when it's spoken with a normal speed. Of course there are many situations where you may get confused because of the tones.

I said to Chinese speakers 我住了在澳大利亚年了。 but they thought it was 年了 because I didn't use the right tone.

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Ferno

na prawde? ale polska grammatika jest tak cholernie truda! :shock::)

Polish may be somewhat similar to Russian (not as much as Czech), but you still have to go through memorize all the different conjugations, how specific word endings (and beginings!) change with indirect/direct subject, object, masculine/feminine/neutral and tons of other factors (to the point that sometimes the origional root word is dwarfed by the stuff attached to it)

Anyways, I'm impressed that you achieved any degree of fluency with this grammatical beast :)

yeah what I meant was that even if you understand the tone of a 1 syllable word (ie like my "ma" example), it is not enough information, since for the most part single-syllable Chinese worlds have absolutely no meaning out of context - that's why I still can't reliably recognize 1-syllable words that I know, I can only reliably pick out the meanings of 2-syllable words that I know when listening to speech (since most don't have homonyms)

..what do you mean with that last example? Are you saying that syllable finals get removed when speaking at "normal" speed? That "ba" and "ban" become the same thing? Uh oh... more good news :(

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atitarev

I don't want to type much in Polish, because I have to use a lot of diacritic symbols, which I have never used but I will say again that all these grammatical rules are similar to Russian, despite more phonetical changes than in Russian, like "in the bar" in Russian is just "бар ->в баре" (v barye) but in Polish it's "w barze" (read: v bazhe), the original "bar" changes sound, or "obiad" (lunch) changes to "na obiedzie" (at lunch) - compare to Russian: обед -> на обеде (obyed -> na obyede).

It wouldn't take you years to learn the grammar if you were immersed into the language environment you're learning, like with any language. When I studied at Kharkov University, Ukraine, we had foreign students, which had to take a 1 year Russian language course before starting their actual studies course. One year was normally sufficient to be able to follow lectures and study with the rest of Russian-speaking students, of course it depends on the ability but usually grammatical problems don't take years to overcome, a few months - up to a year is normally OK. Russian grammar is one of those what you call grammatical beasts, with a bit less phonetical changes than Polish but with a very inconsistent syllable stress. I am not learning/using Polish any more but if you're interested in Russian language, let's take it off this topic, otherwise, other people will get upset.

No, I don't want to say that finals are swallowed in the fast speech but in my last example "ban nian" or "ba nian" - the "nian" starts with N, so they ignored that I didn't pronounce the final N but heard that I used the 4th tone instead of the 1st. So, we had a funny situation, when a girl said that she was in Australia for 5 months and I for 8 years and then she says, "Well, that's almost the same" (5 and 6 months are not a big differences) when I said again with properly pronouncing "ba1 nian2", it bacame clear and everyone laughed.

Well, I guess, I just need more practice with Chinese, there's no substitute for that. I have no deadline to meet, so I'll keep going.

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wfujkramer

While I don't know what kind of computer and web browser you're using, on my screen there is a button called "Post a New Topic" which you can use if you want to create a new message unrelated to the others.

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Ferno

hmm atitarev, it might depend on ability as you said. Many people have problems with English grammar long after they immigrated to North America.

oh sorry wfujkramer, didn't realize we were taking your thread off topic :o. each of our posts did contain Chinese-listening specific stuff though :)

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roddy
oh sorry wfujkramer, didn't realize we were taking your thread off topic

What, had you not even read it? This is particularly annoying when the original question hasn't even been fully answered.

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atitarev

My apologies for the offtopic, guys.

Apart from listening audio recordings, I find learning nice foreign songs efficient too to learn a language. Pronunciation in songs are different from normal speech but it's fun.

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赫杰
I don't know why. I have lots of chinese friends, I go out with them frequently, try to limit how much english I'm speaking, and I'm also living in harbin so what I'm hearing (or rather not hearing) is very clear chinese. I don't have many problems with my friends, maybe because at this point I'm used to the way they speak individually, or maybe I can just predict what they're going to say. So, besides finding more friends, what can I do to improve my listening skills?

I have an idea to dedicate an hour or two every night to staring at chinese TV - maybe a news channel, or even CCTV shao er. Right now I can understand almost nothing on TV. If I just sit in front of the box for an hour a night and try my best will this have some benefit over the long run? Or should I just put that same effort into increasing my vocabulary so that maybe I'll be able to recognize mord words?

YES!! Someone I can relate to! I feel your pain. I have been at CCNU in Wuhan for a little over four months. I live off campus where I have yet to see another foreigner, live with chinese (who speak little english - but a thick wuhan accented mandarin ><), and all of my friends are chinese or korean so we have to speak chinese to communicate. Well, I do have an american classmate and friend but in four months we have yet to use english to communicate. O! He is going to Harbin for winter break! We tried speaking English once, and went right back into Chinese.

Like you, I feel quite comfortable now with speaking/expressing in Chinese, and for the most part also have no problem listening and conversing in normal conversations, or eavesdropping on other conversations for that matter. For me however, dramas and movies I am usually okay at understanding. Saw a terrible movie the other day at the theatre in fact. But watching the news and listening to the news on the radio...Jesus. I am right there with you dude. So here is what I am doing/have been doing for bout a month now:

Instead of watching the CCTV news, I prefer to listen to the internet radio because the scripts are available for download. I listen to cri. I try to listen to relatively new news reports and programs that are similar to the information that you may see on the GENERAL news reports/updates that are often seen on CCTV, that is to say they cover a wide range of topics. When I first starting doing this, just from sheer concentration of trying to keep up with the speed of what is being said, I immediately noticed a big improvement in my listening regarding conversational and such...but I still suck at it. haha

Anyway here is a small passage and the speed of which it was read (I timed it). This is from a program I listened in on today:

"

届时 将 有 中央 领导人 参加 。 同时 , 据 海 协 了解 , 根据 汪道涵 家属 的 意见 , 参加 告别仪式 的 还 有 已故 台湾海峡 交流 基金会 董事长 辜振甫 的 家人 , 参加 过 “ 汪辜 会 谈 ” 及 两 会商 谈的 部 分 原 海基会 会务 负责人 , 国民党 、 亲 民 党 、 新党 以及 台湾 中国 统一 联盟 的 代表 , 汪道涵 生前 熟悉 的 部 分 台胞 朋友 及 在 大陆 投资 的 部 分 台商 和 台资 企业 协会 会长 等 。 "

This was read in 28 seconds and I think is around 140 characters or so. By looking at the speaking speed, you may want to try to match such speed with the speed at which you read. Also, you may find that by looking at the scripts, you may not understand because of the content and such, not at all because of the speed.

Whenever I don’t understand a section I have little method: rewind listen to the section 1 or 2 more times, use the pause to try to break up the section word by word, and if all else fails and I still don't understand, THEN I look at the script. After seeing the script I listen to the section again all the way through to fully understand it. So, a few minutes of a program may take up a few hours, but hey no one said this was gonna be easy. I also heard some people like to picture the words as they are listening, and this seems to help.

Only six months left...back to studying (listening)!!

Comments are welcome on this. I would also like to pose a question for those out there in web-land: at what point in your studies were you able to consistently understand the radio news and TV programs? What would you attribute your success to?

Okay! Good luck everyone! Happy New Year

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Quest

When I learned English, I found English TV news more standardized and easier to understand than daily speech. Why is it the opposite for Chinese?

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wushijiao
When I learned English, I found English TV news more standardized and easier to understand than daily speech. Why is it the opposite for Chinese?

I don't think it is that different. The difficulty in understanding the news mainly comes down to the very large amount of vocabulary needed to understand the news in any language, combined with the rapid speed of delivery. However, I would say that the news on CCTV is delivered in a more monotone, less dramatic way than the nightly news in the US (think of anchors like Tom Brokaw), which can hamper comprehension, in my opinion. There is another news program that I sometimes watch on 东方电视台 that has political news and a mix of human interest stories in a less propagandistic format. I find this to be a bit easier to understand.

It sounds like 赫杰 has developed a useful method. If I'm planning on watching the news, especially on CCTV, I often browse some Chinese news websites so that I'm already familiar with the headlines and key vocab.

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HashiriKata

As wushijiao has said, you'll need a very large amount of vocab to understand news in any language. It also seems that news in Chinese, Japanese, etc tends to use almost a different set of vocab (more formal) from that commonly used in talking between friends.

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gato
It also seems that news in Chinese, Japanese, etc tends to use almost a different set of vocab (more formal) from that commonly used in talking between friends.
It's probably because written Chinese still uses many elements from 文言文 or classical Chinese, which is not a spoken language. The gap between the spoken and the written language was also once much greater than it is today for English, perhaps as recent as fifty years ago.

I think the problem may be even more severe in Taiwan because their secondary school emphasize classical Chinese much more than mainland schools. The percentage of high school reading material in classical Chinese is around 60-70% in Taiwan, versus 30-40% in the mainland, according to one article I read. Yet, the Taiwanese don't seem to use any more classical Chinese phraseology in everyday conversation than mainlanders. Quite the contrary, to my ears, they talk, if anything, even more colloquially.

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赫杰
I would also like to pose a question for those out there in web-land: at what point in your studies were you able to consistently understand the radio news and TV programs? What would you attribute your success to?

My apologies, but I would like to bring this up one last time. There has to be someone here who can answer this. I am so curious and it would be helpful for those who are having problems with understanding such things.

Thanks Thanks

HJ

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Quest

I think the best way is to live like a Chinese for a couple years, that means to have Chinese friends only, watch Chinese TV only, read Chinese books only, listen to Chinese music only, speak Chinese only, and immerse yourself in Chinese culture both ancient and modern. That's the ideal case, but unrealistic for most people.

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wushijiao
My apologies, but I would like to bring this up one last time. There has to be someone here who can answer this. I am so curious and it would be helpful for those who are having problems with understanding such things.

I'm not sure if I can quite say I "consistently understand" all, but I think I understand the vast majority of TV and radio news. I've been studying Chinese for almost four years. Although, as Quest pointed out, the ideal situation would be to be 100% immeresed. I've been teaching English in an "English only" environment, which has hurt my progress. So I think understanding the news could be done faster. In any case, after about a year of studying, I felt like I could watch the TV news and get something out of it, at least, evn if it was just looking at the pretty pictures and reading the headlines.

One thing that certainly helped me is two books from BCLU called "新闻听力教程" (both 上and 下). The book covers the basic types of news stories they have on Chinese news. They have things like meeting leaders from foreign countries, how wonderful China is...etc. However, they do cover a wide range of useful news related vocab. Also they teach you set phrases in each chapter. For example, for the word 抵抗 (di3kang4, to stand up to, to resist) they give you these set combos: 抵抗侵略, 抵抗敌人, 抵抗压迫, 抵抗疾病, 继续抵抗. Because they speak the news so damn fast, learning common set combos can really help.

Basically, the books' tapes aren't good and I don't like excersizes' set up. But, with the help of my wife, for every chapter I recorded all the English-Chinese words lists, the set phrases, then my wife read out the news transscipts in a slightly slower than usual pace. For the last year or so, everywhere I go I listen to these tapes, plus other tapes.

On top of that, I try to listen to CRI almost every day (but don't always). Also, I have newspaper subsriptions to a few local papers (新闻晨报,南方周末, 第一财经日报). That helps me because I usaully am somewhat familiar with the major news events. Also, as gato pointed out, the news, in any language, is the written form of a language being spoken, which is a bit awkward. There are no pauses, umms, ahhs, hesitations, slang...etc. Instead, there is higher than avergae rate of formal, written Chinese. So, if one is familiar with the written form first, it makes listening to the news a bit easier.

In any case, I think going from understanding a bit here and there to finally understanding almost all is a long, long, process. I think it will be a while before I can confidently say that I "consistently understand" everything. Nonetheless, if you are interested in the news, I'd suggest starting to take stabs at it on a daily basis, even from the start.

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赫杰

Wow. I am so happy today. After getting done with the usual 3/4 hour listen in to the news on the radio session. I turned on the tv to listen to the news while working out..but I noticed something.

For thirty minutes, I was able to understand a good bit of what was being said!! I mean of course not all of it, but I was able to follow along quite well! This was the first time I did not just stare at that damn reporter wandering wtf she was saying. So...

I recommend trying my above posted method of listening to the radio, for people who are having the same problem. At least try it out. I have been going like this for a little over a month and have been noticing gradual improvement, until today, in which I noticed a big improvement. It still takes me two days, at 3/4 hours a day (lots of note taking and repeated listening on places I don't understand) to listen to a 9 minute cri radio program, but it seems to be getting better! Of course, it is not where I want to be but I just want to say that it seems to be working, so for those with similar listening problems, just give it some thought.

Thanks to wushijiao for those insights. That was exactly what I was looking for. I will look into getting those books upon returning to america in the summer.

^_^ Peace, HJ

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