Thank you Leosmith for your post. I have been thinking about the same thing over the past few days. I, too, believe that listening is a skill that is not practiced nearly enough by language learners. Many have unpleasant surprises when they realize they cannot understand native speakers despite having spent hours, or even years, on grammar, writing, and speaking.
So, what I’m about to share is not particularly new, but it is a different way to attack the problem, at least for me.
FYI: I sort of stumbled on this practice method by accident.
My tutor simply tells me stories. It might sound silly, but I’m starting to see GOOD results!
So, what does my tutor talk about in these stories? We use 250 conversation starters on Fluent U. Some of the basic questions include: What would you do if you won $10 million; What was your first car like; or what was the worst vacation you’ve ever been on? And the list goes on and on.
This opens the window for answers that can stretch for as long as 15 minutes. (I do give my tutor the topic ahead of time, that way he can prepare some notes to guide him.) (Attention: These are not read out answers. This is spontaneous, off-the-cuff speech.) The narratives are often windy and very VISUAL and full of idiomatic expressions that we discuss after.
I record him while he’s talking, and then I re-listen to the responses later.
To switch things up, I listen to different sources as well. But, with help!!!! For example, if I see there’s an interview that I want to listen to on France Culture titled: “Did cavemen really exist,” I’ll ask my tutor to talk about the subject for roughly 5 to 10 minutes, with comprehensible input. This gets me warmed up for the interview on France Culture.
I would say I’m happy with the results. I can’t say I understand everything, but I the language no longer sounds like it did when I first started learning it.
It should be noted that my tutor speaks at a native clip, and no concessions are made for me because I’m a student. (If you are a beginner, you might be able to tell the teacher to slow down, but you’ll eventually want to unleash the tutor and let him/her fly at cruising altitude.)
But the biggest gain with this is that I am creating a bank, or a listening library, full of hours and hours of comprehensible input. And those conversation starters are great. A topic about “my first car” turned into a discussion of how difficult it can be to pass your driving test, and that morphed into how the government clashed with the infamous Auto-Écoles in France, schools that are known for ripping off students.
Again, I’m just starting to see positive results. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 2 months.