Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

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issemiyaki
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Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:17 pm

Is there a connection between what we read and what we can understand during a spoken conversation?


Given the digital age that we're living in, one gets the impression that old-fashioned reading is looked down on when it comes to learning a language. Everyone is rushing to download the latest app or gimmicky program that promises fluency with no effort.

According to this wonderful blog post on Brainscape, however, READING could blow some of these apps out of the water.
https://www.brainscape.com/blog/2010/09 ... n-langage/

The blogger makes a great case. He says: "Reading at even a slow pace also exposes us to more sentences per minute than the average movie or TV show."

My questions now is: After extracting all those great phrases, expressions and vocabulary from these literary treasures, how can we be sure that we'll be able to "catch" them when they're used during spoken conversation?

With Spanish, this is not that much of a problem because pronunciation is directly linked to spelling. That's not the case with French, given, as we know, the excessive shortening of words, and the infamous elisions. Germanic and Slavic languages may not have to deal with this so much because of the wonderful staccato cadences in their speech patterns.

So, I'm all ready to run to the bookshelf and pull out my French novels, poetry and start going to town, mining these works for great phrases. But, it would be heartbreaking to go through all that work and end up NOT recognizing the phrase or idiom when it is used in spoken language.

Or do you think as one becomes more familiar with the language, these issues will work themselves out?
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daegga
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby daegga » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:28 pm

At the bottom of the article the question is already considered:
Read books with their accompanying audiobooks


I personally am more in favor of doing both separately: read books, listen to audiobooks.
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issemiyaki
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:34 pm

@daegga - I'm not so sure audiobook solves the problem completely.

The way one reads, versus the way one speaks, is often completely different.

If everyone spoke to each other reading off of prepared speeches, then we'd be fine. But pronunciation changes greatly when someone is speaking during a conversation versus carefully reading a text.

But I won't dismiss the value of audiobooks. In fact, I'm planning on trying to make it through Le Petit Prince with an audiobook.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Φιλόσοφος » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:51 pm

When you read literature you engage with a language in its fullest expression. You are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary and more complex forms of its syntax. With this knowledge, tackling the spoken language becomes much easier as it represents a simpler, more streamlined subset of the language, allowing you to concentrate on decoding the phonological rules that govern it without the further hindrance and uncertainty of grappling with unknown vocabulary and uncertain grammatical patterns.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby tastyonions » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:56 pm

Yes, the written language tends to be more complex in grammatical and conceptual terms and also richer in vocabulary. Someone who focused almost entirely on reading and writing the language could certainly learn to speak correctly and even eloquently, provided that they were at least working from a decent pronunciation model. Audiobooks would obviously be helpful.

I suspect that it would be faster to go from understanding most written forms of the language, with all of their intricacies and varied vocabulary, to understanding most spoken forms, with their relative repetitiveness and poverty of vocabulary, than it would be to do the opposite. Then again, this is not a binary choice, since everyone with decent Internet access is perfectly welcome to work on both forms at once.
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daegga
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby daegga » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:57 pm

I'm not so sure audiobook solves the problem completely.


They don't solve the problem completely, they are just one step closer.

If you have heard a phrase often enough in perfect conditions you will have an easier time recognizing it even in less than perfect conditions. On the other hand you probably need to train how to adapt to those conditions, like how a word gets shortened in speech or how noise/hall/etc. make the sounds sound differently. This will all be easier when you already have a good base. That does not mean that you need to avoid all this while still learning. It is easier to adapt to the sound changes of a single person than of a multitude of different people though, a TV series with a small set of actors (like Friends, TBBT, ...) and a lot of episodes can be a good supplement to train exactly this portion at an early stage.
But you can treat these two things as separate issues if you want, get exposure to words with audio in perfect conditions and train your adaption skills on just a smaller set of media.
There are of course other ways to do it, there is no single perfect answer ;) A lot depends on your preferences.
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issemiyaki
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Sat Jul 25, 2015 5:11 pm

You all may not see me for the next couple of weeks. I'm headed to the nearest LIBRARY!

THANK YOU for this Φιλόσοφος - you articulated the hunch I had. But I never suspected I was encountering the language in "its fullest form."

Just by the way you speak about this issue, I can tell you are deeply passionate about this area of language learning. For a long time, I could never explain why my Spanish was so agile, and flexible. Well, now it makes sense. I used to spend days locked up in my apartment with my dictionary by my side (El Diccionario María Moliner - that woman is a Saint. I should visit her grave and place flowers at her tombstone for all she has given me.) Her dictionary offered example sentences both literary and colloquial, and I have always believed that is what helped me "unlock" the Spanish language.

@daegga - thanks for the suggestion. I will vary it up.

Thank you all for such a rich and stimulating conversation. I feel like I can see the road to fluency opening up right before. Sure, there's a lot of hard work ahead. But the best part is when you love it, it doesn't feel like work.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:43 pm

Texts and audiobooks of short stories by Anna Gavalda, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, Le grand cahier by Agota Kritóf and Swann's Way, the first volume of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, greatly aided me in improving my listening comprehension in French. I listened to all of them more than once, and a couple of dozen times (I lost count) to a couple of the stories by Gavalda.

Beginning by reading the text and listening to the audio at the same time, slowly I graduated to listening only.

Three things were key, I believe, to my success.

First, the fiction fascinated me enough that I could endure, even enjoy, hearing them over and over.

Second, both the texts and the audio had to be available. This seems obvious, but not every story or poem or novel I like a lot has audio to go with it.

Third, the audio had to be professionally read or of a professional quality. Gavalda reads her own stories quite well, a French actress read Bonjour Tristesse, my audio of Le grand cahier was voiced by a professional French reader. A couple of volunteers, Monique Vincens and Barnard, read parts of Swann's Way. Although their voices are not “professional” per se, their readings fully engaged me. In fact, when I now hear myself saying something in French in my mind, the voice in my head is that of Bernard.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby emk » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:02 pm

issemiyaki wrote:Given the digital age that we're living in, one gets the impression that old-fashioned reading is looked down on when it comes to learning a language.

Maybe some places, but not around here! :-) The people who finished the first Super Challenge read 10,000 pages, or between 2.5 million and 3.5 million words, over the course of 20 months. Pretty much everybody who made it even half way saw massive improvements in their comprehension. This is a halfway-respectable quantity of reading for a native 12 year old. I believe the consensus around here is that massive amounts of reading are both fun and good for you.

issemiyaki wrote:So, I'm all ready to run to the bookshelf and pull out my French novels, poetry and start going to town, mining these works for great phrases. But, it would be heartbreaking to go through all that work and end up NOT recognizing the phrase or idiom when it is used in spoken language.

Or do you think as one becomes more familiar with the language, these issues will work themselves out?

For French, reading comprehension does not instantly translate to listening comprehension, at least in my experience. It gave me a great starting point, but it wasn't enough by itself. My big listening breakthroughs involved buying DVD box sets of easy French TV series (starting around ~40% comprehension), watching season after season, and seeing significant improvements. I think TV helped me so much because I could use the images for context, and because the actors and the vocabulary mostly stayed the same. That gave me enough of a boost that I could hook up the spoken form and the written form pretty well. I still have work to do, though, on listening. I can channel surf, but hard series and many movies still cause problems.

I definitely think that lots of reading and lots of listening/watching go well together. Listening is really critical for a lot of things, and many people don't spend nearly enough time on it, IMO.
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issemiyaki
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:40 pm

@EMK - thanks for chiming in. It's all starting to sink in and come together.

Thanks to you my order of CLEM is on the way. It ordered the first season. The story of how you used the entire season of a show to improve your listening skills really got me motivated.

Clem.jpg
Clem.jpg (128.03 KiB) Viewed 1255 times

That should keep me busy for awhile.
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