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Listening exercises

  Tags: Listening
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JanKG
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Belgium
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 Message 1 of 7
04 July 2009 at 3:12pm | IP Logged 
Does anyone have any idea of how a learner can get to understand spoken language better? Do you know of any tricks, or special books (which you have tested and found adequate), or do you have specific hints on that ?

I thought of the 'chunk theory'. I just call it like that, but it is not the name, I guess. I vaguely remember it was a plea for (presenting and) learning words in contexts. We tend to consider vocabulary a matter of words, whereas indeed it is a matter of words-in-contexts...

One of the problems for most learners is segmenting words, I think. But then how can we learn - or teach - that ?



Edited by JanKG on 04 July 2009 at 3:28pm

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Splog
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 Message 2 of 7
04 July 2009 at 6:52pm | IP Logged 
It is a good question. When you can already can read some of the language you are learning, it can be a bit disheartening to listen to the same language being spoken and have it sound like gibberish - where you understand almost nothing.

Iversen has some good posts on how to address this. The idea is to separate "hearing" from "understanding". Trying to do both at the same time can be overwhelming at first - since trying to translate words slows you down and the audio races ahead of you so that you soon become lost.

A good first step, then, is to stop trying to understand what you are listening to. That doesn't mean you should have it playing quietly in the background, since your brain will probably filter it out as noise. Instead, listen very carefully to the sounds - particularly trying to notice the starts and ends of words. But don't stop to try to "understand" anything. Just go with the flow of the sound and listen closely to all the sounds of the words (but not their meaning) as they pass by.

After a while, your brain will automatically pick out words that you already do know - and you will find you understand them without any actual translation necessary. The "pattern matching machine" in your brain will probably also automatically notice a few words that for some reason stick in your mind as ones you want to check up later - and you should do this - thereby increasing your vocabulary.

It does help to work with recordings - rather than just listening to the radio - so you can listen to them several times while your brain recognises more on each pass. Again, you have to listen attentively, but without attempting deliberate translation.

A supplementary technique is to use the Listening-Reading method (mentioned in several threads as the L-R method). In early stages of L-R, you start out reading a book in your own language, whilst simultaneously listening closely to a spoken recording of the same book in the language you are learning. The text helps you understand the "gist" of what you are listening to closely - and your brain's "pattern matching machine" does the rest - again without you having to translate on a word for word basis.

I found myself that after about three months of using the above techniques (for three hours a day) my comprehension of the spoken word went from only picking up the odd word here or there (although my vocabulary was probably around 15000 words and my reading ability was already pretty good) to the ability to listen to the news on TV and talk with folks pretty well about general topics.


Edited by Splog on 04 July 2009 at 10:01pm

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JanKG
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 Message 3 of 7
04 July 2009 at 9:51pm | IP Logged 
Beg your pardon: Iverson ?

It might be interesting, but listening to "'the starts and ends of words": aren't you begging the question then? I mean: segmenting is a major part of the problem...

The L-R-method is quite opposed to common methods, in that nowadays immersion is the rule, and no source language reference seems allowed...

Maybe I have not understood quite well though !
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Splog
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 Message 4 of 7
04 July 2009 at 10:16pm | IP Logged 
JanKG wrote:
Beg your pardon: Iverson ?


Sorry, I fixed the spelling mistake. I mean, of course, Iversen.

JanKG wrote:

It might be interesting, but listening to "'the starts and ends of words": aren't you begging the question then? I mean: segmenting is a major part of the problem...


Maybe you are right. I can only go on what others have recommended, and what works for me and people I have taught. Listening to and hearing the sounds - finding endings in words and so on - is just a step in the process. Once your brain can recognise the boundaries of the individual words, it stops filtering out the speech as one long stream of babble and starts to gain comprehension.

This is not the same as pausing on each word to think up its meaning - which would stop the flow and is not recommended. You brain starts to recognise the meaning of individual words (initially those already in your vocabulary). Then, soon, clusters of words start to be recognised as idioms. And pretty quickly you find yourself able to follow natural-speed conversations, without drowning in the flood of sounds.

Certainly, I found these techniques very beneficial. But, again, maybe you have noticed problems in practice that I have not experienced or that I have been too blind to see.

JanKG wrote:
The L-R-method is quite opposed to common methods, in that nowadays immersion is the rule, and no source language reference seems allowed...


It depends what you mean by immersion. If I put you in front of a radio station broadcasting scientific discussions in Icelandic, I would be surprised if you learned anything. The key to immersion is swimming rather than drowning in the flow of words.

My own experience is that immersion should be like a dog (you) chasing a hare (the language) - where you are being challenged by a target that is always moving just slightly ahead of your current capabilities. If the current language immersion is too far ahead of you, few people have the ability to catch up with it.

For example, in my opinion, it is no use attending a month long political conference in Korean if you are currently at the level of children's books.

L-R helps you "grasp the tail" of something by loosely reading English text so that the audio is only just beyond your current reach. It stretches your abilities without snapping them.

After the first or second reading, you will find that you can usually put theĀ English text away, and rely on native text and audio, and finally just on audio.

Remember, these things are processes - rather than goals. Although the interim steps may seem jarring to you, the outcome (as least in several cases I have seen) is that people have indeed been able to ramp up their verbal comprehension skills this way.

Of course, if these methods offend you, or you have found them to not work in practice for yourself or others, then I am perfectly happy to accept they may not be right for you. Mine are only suggestions.

Edited by Splog on 04 July 2009 at 10:26pm

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dancinghobbit
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 Message 5 of 7
15 July 2009 at 7:09pm | IP Logged 
Go to Librivox (www.librivox.org) and find a book in your target language. Then read the transcript (they provide a link) and look up all the words you don't know. Then listen to the recording, reading along. Then put the book on your mp3 player and listen to it over and over until you understand it.

That seems to work better than just listening to the radio, and it builds your vocabulary as well.

Good luck!

Edited by dancinghobbit on 15 July 2009 at 7:13pm

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BlondGirl
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 Message 6 of 7
09 March 2010 at 6:36pm | IP Logged 
Dancinghobbit, I completely agree with this method. It is really helping my listening comprehension as well as my pronunciation when I try reading with the recording. I use booksshouldbefree.com to find titles. I just wish there were more selections available in Spanish!

http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/
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Johntm
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 Message 7 of 7
10 March 2010 at 5:25am | IP Logged 
Listen to a ton of music. I listen to a lot of Spanish music and can hear most words (as opposed to gibberish), even though I don't know what most mean yet :P


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