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Passive listening

  Tags: Passive | Listening
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
14 messages over 2 pages: 1
BartoG
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
confession
Joined 3528 days ago

292 posts - 816 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Italian, Spanish, Latin, Uzbek

 
 Message 9 of 14
24 April 2010 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
I think there may be real value in what matthewmartin is doing, at least at certain phases of language learning. While comprehensible input has its value, at times you need to listen to things that either you understand without effort or that you have no hope of understanding. The thing about comprehensible input is that you will invariably find yourself trying to, well, comprehend it. This means that you wind up focusing on words, and sentences, and meaning. While this has its value for learning individual language items, at certain points you need to let that go and just be in the flow of the language as a stream of sound.

When somebody speaks to me in English, I may be typing an e-mail, or having a side conversation or skimming a document or any number of things. If a lot is going on in my immediate environment, I may not consciously register more than every fifth or even tenth word. Yet when I am done, I will be able to summarize what was said and what the end result of the conversation was. Yet I've recently realized that much of what I do to "improve" my comprehension in other languages is focused on correctly understanding more information, not functioning with less. This is not how we use language in real life: If I had to be fully engaged and participatory to get full use of my English, I'd still be ordering last Tuesday's lunch (today is Saturday).

Most people who speak a second language have some epiphanies along the way. A lot of these epiphanies involve discovering that you can do unsconsiously or automatically something you previously had to think about. One of the hardest parts of language learning for me is allowing myself - trusting myself - to make the leap and not consciously be sure that I understood what I think I understood. I really like the idea of matthewmartin knowing that "krof" is a noun and what context it's used in, even though he's not sure what it means. I do this in English all the time and don't give it a thought. At this point, the same is true in French. But when I'm speaking Spanish or Italian, I feel like I have to be sure I understood words that in English or French I'd barely take the trouble of listening to so long as I didn't feel like I'd lost the thread of the conversation. And it slows down my Spanish and Italian no end.

If I give the phrase, "Last night, I had to burple all the wuggums before I could go to bed," no English speaker will have any trouble identifying the made up verb and noun in the sentence. But here's what's even better: If I said this on a cell phone with a bad connection, a native English speaker might not even ask me to repeat myself - he'd know that something had come up that required me to stay up late, but if it didn't really matter to him what it was, he wouldn't consider it necessary to fulfilling the conversational objectives to actually understand.

Up above, the point was made that what matthewmartin is doing isn't really listening. Depending on your definitions, I'm inclined to agree. But whether it's ordering a coffee, making a deposit at the bank or listening to the radio, I spend a lot of my life half-listening at best in English, and if I'm just chatting with a fellow Francophone, it's the same. So I think there's real value that we might be missing in being able to put on Icelandic radio, hear the word "krof" and know they're going on about the banking crisis again, even without knowing what "krof" means. After all, how much difference really exists between "central bank reserves" and "a word I don't understand but they use it a lot in reports about the financial crisis" for people who aren't interested in economics and finance? Until he looked it up, matthewmartin had pulled off a trick that often trips up the best of language learners: he'd avoided taking the trouble to learn the specific meaning of a specific word that he didn't really need to know given the way he currently uses the language. In this, he comes closer to a native speaker than we might realize!
9 persons have voted this message useful



TheBiscuit
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Mexico
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532 posts - 619 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish, Italian
Studies: German, Croatian

 
 Message 10 of 14
26 April 2010 at 5:23am | IP Logged 
I think you can get more out of certain material. What I do is find a podcast where the presenter is talking about one subject. For German I use 'Slow German'. Each podcast is about one thing so I can infer a large amount of vocabulary. For example I've been listening to one called 'das essen' (food) which means I can guess (and actually learn) a lot of vocabulary and phrases related to food. Each time I hear the podcast I understand more because the vocabulary doesn't vary a lot and what I don't understand can easily be guessed.
4 persons have voted this message useful



iknowchristalen
Diglot
Newbie
Germany
Joined 3424 days ago

20 posts - 24 votes
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Dutch, Japanese

 
 Message 11 of 14
07 May 2010 at 4:32pm | IP Logged 
Humm, I often have the t.v. going on in the background in German mostly sometimes in dutch, all day long, I think it only helps because I can understand almost all German, it's more of a repetition game now, where my speed is slowed down from not being able to recall the word fast enough so the more I heard the same words the better they stick in my head even if I'm not paying full attention. With the Dutch I have to pay attention more to the t.v. if I want to understand, but at this point I think it is more getting a feel for the pronunciation and flow of the language. Though last year this time, I still couldn't stand to watch German programming too long cause it was frustrating to only be able to understand some words here and there, esp. when it came to news.
1 person has voted this message useful



dmaddock1
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3514 days ago

174 posts - 426 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Italian, Esperanto, Latin, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 12 of 14
07 May 2010 at 5:34pm | IP Logged 
Wow, I missed a lot of these replies. For some reason, HTLAL only now decided to notify me of new posts...

BartoG, you've eloquently expressed exactly the sort of activity I was thinking about. Of course, this wouldn't be my only method of learning. There's a time for efficiency but obviously as I'm already busy working my focus needs to be primarily on my work.

It seems that the crux of the argument is how you define "comprehensible". I think the problem with the short dialogs I've been using is that they are actually TOO comprehensible. Ideally, the audio would be incomprehensible enough that I can ignore it when I must, but comprehensible enough that if I focus on it, I can understand fairly well. Length is also an issue. Comprehensible 1-minute dialogs are a lot more tedious to listen to for long periods than say a 20-minute podcast.

matthewmartin, I'll definitely check out Radio Poland, thanks.

OlafP wrote:
Do one thing at a time and do it well. All efforts to save time by doing several things concurrently yield the opposite result.


I get the sentiment, but like all sweeping generalizations it just doesn't hold in practice. Apparently, you've never mowed a lawn...or waited for a large software project to compile. And frankly, I'm very, very good at what I do. ;-) (Not very modest though.) I find using headphones allows me to focus better because I can more easily ignore other potential distractions in my environment as well as indicate to coworkers that I'd prefer not to be disturbed.


2 persons have voted this message useful



TheBiscuit
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Mexico
Joined 4004 days ago

532 posts - 619 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish, Italian
Studies: German, Croatian

 
 Message 13 of 14
09 May 2010 at 6:13am | IP Logged 
dmaddock1 wrote:
It seems that the crux of the argument is how you define "comprehensible". I think the problem with the short dialogs I've been using is that they are actually TOO comprehensible. Ideally, the audio would be incomprehensible enough that I can ignore it when I must, but comprehensible enough that if I focus on it, I can understand fairly well. Length is also an issue. Comprehensible 1-minute dialogs are a lot more tedious to listen to for long periods than say a 20-minute podcast.

The ideal for me is something comprehensible enough to get the gist. I know this will inspire me to keep listening (the same goes for reading). If it's not comprehensible enough, chances are you'll switch off. The same is true of students in a language class - if they don't understand they drift off and stop paying attention.
2 persons have voted this message useful



robsolete
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3466 days ago

191 posts - 428 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French, Russian, Arabic (Written), Mandarin

 
 Message 14 of 14
10 May 2010 at 7:18am | IP Logged 
This is the reason that, from day one, I always try to listen to popular music in my target language. I loved Edith Piaf before I understood a word of French, and while performance singing isn't real life conversation, I think that there's some value in hearing an artist accentuate and play with the language before you get to what the words actually mean.

Thankfully, I can listen to a good song over and over, which I can't do with an Assimil unless I'm purposefully shadowing. So when I eventually do get around to translating the lyrics to the song I've been listening to for a few weeks, I generally will pick up the words very quickly.

I think a "piggyback" off of BartoG's comment is that it's easy to forget in language study how much of our communication is nonverbal. My day job is counseling, and we learn that when they are under critical stress, the words you say to a client will only account for 10% of their reaction. Your posture, intonation, and gestures are infinitely more important.

This is where I turn to music and movies, which are usually far less comprehensible to me yet often more informative. It's one thing to know the words of a native speaker, but what about their gestures? What facial expressions accompany which words? When do they gesture inwards, outwards, or throw up their hands in joy or disgust? (While I'm not studying Italian, Italian movies have convinced me that it's actually 70% sign language. . .)

This is all a process of sublimation, and trying catch each and every word can sometimes get in the way. So while I don't know if I could spend two years listening to incomprehensible radio, I do think that in certain amounts it's not a bad thing.


3 persons have voted this message useful



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