How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

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emk
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby emk » Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:43 am

Cavesa wrote:You're right about the huge differences among the various audiobooks. However one disadvantage stays: they are slow and extremely clear and stardard speech. Awesome at some point but a totally different beast than normal conversations. Yes, they include much more vocabulary, but as you said, there are many proficient second language readers who cannot follow a conversation or tv series, it is not about that.

Yeah, I like audiobooks, and they're certainly very useful. They're usually spoken slowly and clearly by a single narrator (which can be very helpful in the beginning!). But they also have some limitations:

  1. They tend to use a much larger, more formal vocabulary than ordinary conversational speech, and they don't use as much informal conversational vocabulary.
  2. Most books include surprisingly little conversation between the characters. This might not matter so much for a language like Spanish, but for a language like French, narration is very different from dialog. French narration, for example, uses completely different verb tenses that are basically never used in native speech, and it replaces the funky topic/comment and comment/anti-topic structures of spoken French with much more English-like structures. In other words, if your language has any significant diglossia, typical audio books will be a surprisingly inefficient source of natural conversational speech.
  3. No pictures! I like pictures; they help me puzzle out unknown words. :-)
So really, it depends on what you want to learn, and what resources you have available. I like audio books a lot, but they serve very different needs for me than TV does.

Cavesa wrote:I am not generalizing, not saying the timeline and learning curve are always that easy. I am just pointing out that improving one's listening comprehension with tvseries can, in some language combinations, be a much faster process than expected, not a matter of many years of frustration.

I think the most remarkable results from TV happen when you either (1) have a very strong base in a closely related language, or (2) you can already read pretty comfortably, but your listening is weak. If you're starting from nothing at all, it's definitely going to be a longer road, and you'll need more intensive listening and/or reading.

NoManches wrote:I came home from work and started to watch the dubbed version of "Master of None" on Netflix. I have already seen the 1st season in my native language, although it was a few months ago. I'll say this: I am understanding about 90-95% of everything said and it is super motivating! I understand a few things: 1) It is not native content. 2) The speech is very clear. 3) It is much easier to comprehend compared to a show made for native speakers.

As I watch, I keep saying: This is too easy. I need to push myself...I need to "throw myself in the deep end". But, it reminds me of emk's consolidation theory which he was kind enough to repost for me earlier today:

viewtopic.php?t=723#p1119

Yeah, I always look for dubbed shows in the beginning, because they tend to be clearer (well, except for gritty HBO series, which can have very challenging French dubs in my experience!). If you understand 90-95% of Master of None and you're having fun watching it in Spanish, I think it would be an excellent idea to binge-watch several seasons. You'll definitely see a jump in difficultly when you start watching episodes you haven't see before, but by then, you'll have already gotten used to the voices and vocabulary, so the transition will probably be manageable.

And as you watch, you'll burn a lot of Spanish expressions into your brain. Things which are "decipherable" for you at the moment, in this series, will become "automatic" after a few seasons. And then, when you encounter the same expressions in a harder series, or in real life, your brain will be expecting them. High-level listening comprehension basically requires you to be able to "finish the sentences" of native speakers. Until you become so familiar with how people speak that you can already half-guess what they're going to say, it's very hard to decipher slurred speech.

At any given time, I watch the easiest and most entertaining series I can find, and only increase the difficulty slowly, or when I desperately want to watch something cool. My personal rule of thumb for judging difficulty is "Trust my sense of fun." If I'm enjoying something, and maybe stretching just a little bit, the level is probably fine. Yes, this means that truly awesome series are allowed to be more difficult than boring ones. ;-) So if I can have a total blast watching something at 40% comprehension, and nothing else is even more tempting, I'll happily watch it.

(By the way, none of this is new. Dr. Krashen said it long ago, and his ideas proved extremely helpful for my comprehension—though not so much for my output! I'm just trying to find a way to explain old ideas as clearly as possible.)
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby s_allard » Thu Apr 28, 2016 4:02 am

Although I have written that TV shows, and particularly the dramatic series that we are talking about here, can be great tools for learning a language, I think it is important to always keep in mind that much of the language seen on television is very different from the spoken language of the real world. This really struck me today when I was listening to an interview with a woman on Spanish radio and I could hardly understand what the interview was about despite my hundreds of hours of listening to television in Spanish. We must remember that people don't really speak the way actors do on television. Remember that all those dialogues are carefully written out and memorized by the actors. If you want to hear how people really sound in the street, you have to look for shows with lots of interviews with ordinary people. You see this in news broadcasts particularly where the reporter is perfectly comprehensible whilst the people being interviewed are very difficult to understand.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby Adrianslont » Thu Apr 28, 2016 7:29 am

s_allard wrote:Although I have written that TV shows, and particularly the dramatic series that we are talking about here, can be great tools for learning a language, I think it is important to always keep in mind that much of the language seen on television is very different from the spoken language of the real world. This really struck me today when I was listening to an interview with a woman on Spanish radio and I could hardly understand what the interview was about despite my hundreds of hours of listening to television in Spanish. We must remember that people don't really speak the way actors do on television. Remember that all those dialogues are carefully written our and memorized by the actors. If you want to hear how people really sound in the street, you have to look for shows with lots of interviews with ordinary people. You see this in news broadcasts particularly where the reporter is perfectly comprehensible whilst the people being interviewed are very difficult to understand.


This is so true. In real life conversation the language is far less "tidy" than in scripted TV dramas. It's easy to transcribe a TV drama and know where to put the full stops. In real life conversation clause is piled upon clause upon clause in a fashion that makes it hard to know where to put the full stops. In real life native speakers thoughts can change direction abruptly leading to grammatical "mistakes". People remember and throw in elaborations much more frequently than in scripted conversation.
In real life turn taking is much messier with more overlapping and confusion.

I've transcribed and read enough real English casual conversation to know this to be true in English and I'm currently studying with unscripted interviews in Indonesian with average citizens and they too are "all over the place". I suspect this is true of all languages.

For this reason I quite like interview shows. They seem more like natural conversation - although of course they do not deal with the day to day business of life.
And of course all of this does not change the fact that dramas and comedies can be great fun and incredibly useful.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby Cavesa » Fri Jul 08, 2016 4:17 pm

Adrianslont wrote:This is so true. In real life conversation the language is far less "tidy" than in scripted TV dramas. It's easy to transcribe a TV drama and know where to put the full stops. In real life conversation clause is piled upon clause upon clause in a fashion that makes it hard to know where to put the full stops. In real life native speakers thoughts can change direction abruptly leading to grammatical "mistakes". People remember and throw in elaborations much more frequently than in scripted conversation.
In real life turn taking is much messier with more overlapping and confusion.

I've transcribed and read enough real English casual conversation to know this to be true in English and I'm currently studying with unscripted interviews in Indonesian with average citizens and they too are "all over the place". I suspect this is true of all languages.

For this reason I quite like interview shows. They seem more like natural conversation - although of course they do not deal with the day to day business of life.
And of course all of this does not change the fact that dramas and comedies can be great fun and incredibly useful.


Sure, interviews are awesome (perhaps we should make a thread with links to some, as they are surely not being mentioned as often as they deserve). However, I'd say you might be watching too easy tv series, if you can transcribe it with full stops that easily.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby sillygoose1 » Fri Jul 08, 2016 6:34 pm

What do you guys think about reality shows? Whether they're scripted or not, they still tend to use everyday words and expressions more so than even some movies would. The fact that many reality shows these days focus on people from a specific region help too. I'm watching one in Spanish called Amor a prueba with people from Chile, Argentina, and Spain as well as Les Ch'tis and Les Marseillais in French where the latter has been helping me with the Marseillais accent and the former helps with the Belgian accents.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby tastyonions » Fri Jul 08, 2016 6:54 pm

If I ever feel a pressing need to put a special focus on the speech of insufferable idiots and irritating drama queens in any of my languages, I will definitely seek out some reality TV.

As far as unscripted and more casual speech goes, interviews and call-in radio shows work for me.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby sillygoose1 » Fri Jul 08, 2016 7:01 pm

I don't know man, hearing "pas le temps" and "j'adore les problemes" every two minutes from those goofballs gets addicting after awhile!
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby Cavesa » Fri Jul 08, 2016 8:11 pm

I wonder whether large doses of the typical reality shows in the target language could actually worsen one's skills. Since they appear to be melting brains more efficiently than many chemicals, I suppose they could :-D

Joking aside, I'd say it would depend on the show. There are some that border documentaries and reality shows or observe other parts of the "real life" than shutting a group of people in a few rooms, waiting for blood and tears. I can think of two czech ones, that are still labeled reality shows, but are actually interesting and rich in quite normal informal dialogues.

But the majority is horrible. I would as well say many natives entering the crazy ones are not exactly the appropriate model speakers one should strive to speak as.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby Tomás » Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:20 pm

"The Human Zoo" was an excellent reality show that was actually a course in social psychology. It used the stereotypical reality show setup to replicate a number of classic experiments in social psychology. I would recommend it to learners studying English.
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Re: How efficient are TV shows for improving listening comprehension?

Postby chokofingrz » Sat Jul 09, 2016 2:07 am

I'm not sure what to add to the discussion so I'll just post up some shows I've enjoyed in the past 5 years:

[FR] Engrenages seasons 5, 1, 2, 3 - good police procedural show. Probably not that great for language as it contains lots of slang and is quite repetitive in its usage of vocabulary.
[DE] Türkisch für Anfänger s1, s2 - great comedy/drama for teenagers or older. Definitely helped me with colloquial German.
[DE] Deutschland 83 - slick thriller which offers plenty of cultural insights as well as the language.
[RU] Кухня s1, s2 - well-known comedy. Enjoyable, and studying transcripts helped me enjoy the episodes even more.
[DK] 1864 - I don't know Danish but this was a great historical series nonetheless.
[SE/DK] Bron/Broen - the must-see Scandinavian crime programme, but the dialogue is a bit sparse and specialised.
[SE] Äkta Människor - good sci-fi thriller. Improved my comprehension quite a bit.
[SE] Blå Ögon - political thriller. I made a word frequency list out of the subtitle files, to bring me up to speed.
[SE] Tjockare än Vatten s1 - slightly cheesy dark drama. Plenty of everyday dialogue.
[ES] Vis a Vis - just starting this prison drama.

My to-watch list is long and includes [DK] Dicte, [FR] Le bureau des légendes, [DE] Altes Geld.
I'd love to get some more Italian or Spanish recommendations, any genre.
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