Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

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mentecuerpo
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Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby mentecuerpo » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:11 pm

Yesterday, I was taking a flight to Miami, and in the airport security line, there were these two guys speaking German. I was able to recognized that it was German, but that’s it, I did not understand what they were talking about.

My reflection is that I want to achieve a level where I can understand regular every day conversation between native speakers. I think I have achieved this goal with my Italian. In German, I want to listen to regular everyday spoken language, and work my way with that, by getting the transcript. I will use YouTube with clips of people interviewing others, or dialogues, or podcast, where people talk to each other.

I have use the Yabla.com or FluentU, it is great that it has the audio and the transcriptions, the problem I have is the content. I find the content limited, and many of the clips are not of my interest. This is why, I need to hunt for content I like online, short clips or audios, If necessary will get the transcript using speech to text software. This technology is available and pretty accurate if the audio is of decent quality.

I think listening to random people speaking the language and how much I understand will help me to show my progress. Now I understand 0% in German, let’s see in 6 month, or one year, two years, five years. I just need to keep working at it.
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Axon
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Re: Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby Axon » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:47 pm

mentecuerpo wrote:Yesterday, I was taking a flight to Miami, and in the airport security line, there were these two guys speaking German. I was able to recognized that it was German, but that’s it, I did not understand what they were talking about.

My reflection is that I want to achieve a level where I can understand regular every day conversation between native speakers. I think I have achieved this goal with my Italian. In German, I want to listen to regular everyday spoken language, and work my way with that, by getting the transcript. I will use YouTube with clips of people interviewing others, or dialogues, or podcast, where people talk to each other.

I have use the Yabla.com or FluentU, it is great that it has the audio and the transcriptions, the problem I have is the content. I find the content limited, and many of the clips are not of my interest. This is why, I need to hunt for content I like online, short clips or audios, If necessary will get the transcript using speech to text software. This technology is available and pretty accurate if the audio is of decent quality.

I think listening to random people speaking the language and how much I understand will help me to show my progress. Now I understand 0% in German, let’s see in 6 month, or one year, two years, five years. I just need to keep working at it.


You should definitely check out Easy German! Hundreds of conversational German videos about any topic imaginable.

The only problem with this goal is that people talk about boring things in every language. :D
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Vero
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Re: Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby Vero » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:24 am

Lot's of listening, I'd say, and the best thing you could do is to find a friend to speak with. Normally people use lots of slang when speaking informally in the day-to-day situations and my experience is that it is great to have somebody to explain you the background (I mean, people often say things that don't have any other function that just fill the space, or things that refer to political or cultural background that is difficult to understand for a foreigner).

And I'd say that it's not an easy task and that this ability starts at B2 and higher. I wouldn't compare Italian and German - most probably you understand Italian so well because you are a Spanish speaker :)
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AnthonyLauder
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Re: Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby AnthonyLauder » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:48 am

I used to think that learning to understand native speakers was like climbing a mountain, but now I feel it is more like crossing a mountain range. As soon as you reach the top of one mountain, you see a whole range of other mountains ahead of you. The first time you understand a couple of native speakers talking is often a joyful moment, then you hear another couple of native speakers talking and don't understand anything. It is quite humbling.

Even in my strongest language, when I am at a party, things start out well. But as the evening progresses and everybody is a bit drunk, they forget "the English guy" is there, then the accents get thicker, the slang gets more intense, and the conversation is full of quotes from childhood cartoons, old songs and movies, jokes about politicians and celebrities, and other cultural events stretching back years. Then I really feel like an outsider, with nothing to add to the conversation that wouldn't ruin the flow and the fun.

This is why I sometimes say that you are "forever intermediate".
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golyplot
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Re: Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby golyplot » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:45 pm

On the other hand, I've noticed that conversations involving families with small children are usually relatively easy to understand.
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Speakeasy
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Re: Understanding regular every day conversation between natives

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:43 pm

I was about to respond from my own experience and suggest that there are at least three factors at play:

(1) Sound Signal: That is, when eavesdropping on a conversation, it is possible, if not very likely, that the sound signal is not directed at the surreptitious listener who can capture but a muffled, interrupted portion of what is being said. Other factors, such as background noise, air currents, or other types of interference will impede the arrival of the sound signal in sufficient strength and clarity for a good understanding of the conversation.

(2) Familiarity with the Language: The topic being discussed, along with the vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and code signalling, can have a great influence on our ability to understand what is being said. That is, even in cases where the sound signal and the cadence of speech pose no difficulties, should we do not possess virtually 100% of the vocabulary used in the exchange, we are bound to miss a great deal.

(3) Accents/Pronunciation: Even in cases where the second-language eavesdropper has genuinely "mastered" the Standardized form of a foreign language (for example: the so-called International French), he/she may continue to experience difficulties understanding other variants, be these distinct regional accents, the atypical pronunciation of socio-cultural groups, and the like. I am not talking about differences in vocabulary, I am suggesting that shared vocabulary can seem incomprehensible even between native speakers who are not familiar with each other's accents. Can all native English speakers understand "Shwa"? The same difficulties of understanding exist for second language speakers who have "mastered" a foreign language.

Can you (or any of us) understand absolutely everything that is being said between strangers, whilst eavesdropping on them, in our own languages? All the time? In less than ideal listening conditions? I seriously doubt it! Performing such a feat in a second language which we have yet to master -- and I do mean “master” – is much more difficult.

Okay, that I was what I was going to say. And then, I Googled “Listening in a Crowd” and the following article popped up from “Science Daily”:

“Scientists have discovered that a group of neurons in the brain’s auditory stem help us to tune into specific conversations in a crowded room. In order to focus on a particular conversation, listeners need to be able to focus on the voice of the speaker they wish to listen to. This process is called “selective attention” and it has been long known by researchers that it happens in the part of the brain called the auditory cortex, which processes speech information.

Selective attention helps the brain to modulate sound information and to prioritise information over the background noise, such as focusing on one conversation above all others in a crowded room. However, what triggers selective attention in the auditory cortex has been debated by scientists.

In a study published today in the journal eLife, the researchers from Imperial College London write how they investigated the structures downstream of the auditory cortex. In particular, they looked at the contribution that the auditory brainstem, which sits below the auditory cortex, makes to the selective attention process. The researchers set up non-invasive experiments with 14 participants who listened to two competing conversations. Electrodes were fitted to the participants’ heads and connected to a computer, which relayed the brain readings in the auditory brain stem. Algorithms devised by the team then decoded the information gathered by the electrodes.

When the participants chose to focus on one conversation above the other, neurons in the auditory brainstem responded more to the pitch of the voice that they listened to rather than to the pitch of the voice that they ignored. This suggests that an important aspect of selective attention occurs in the auditory brainstem and the neural signal is then relayed to the auditory cortex, where higher level processing of auditory information occurs.

Dr Tobias Reichenbach, the lead author from the Department of Bioengineering, said: “Humans excel at selectively listening to a target speaker when there are a lot of background noises, such as many competing voices. In this din of chatter the auditory cortex switches into action and with laser focus, processes information that enables us to zone in on one conversation. But how these selective process works have been debated.

“Now, our study is showing us that the pitch of the speaker’s voice we want to focus on is an important cue that is used in the auditory brainstem to focus on a target speaker. This helps us to concentrate on a voice while filtering out all the background noise.”

The team suggests that their discovery may hold the key to explaining why some people, who do not have hearing problems in the inner ear, still find it difficult to keep track of conversations in large crowds. It could be that the neurons in their auditory brainstem, associated with receiving pitch signals, are not properly activated.

The researchers say their discovery may also help engineers to refine speech recognition technologies such as automated answering machine systems and speech recognition technologies. Currently, these technologies do not function at their optimum level when there is a lot of background noise. The team suggests that if the technology could focus on the pitch of the user’s voice, then it may help to make the speech recognition process more accurate in environments with a lot of noise.

Now that the researchers have discovered that voice pitch causes a response in the auditory brain stem they want to refine their experiments further. The next stage will involve non-invasive experiments with participants who will listen to several conversations at once so that the team can determine how selective attention works in more complex environments.

Understanding this process in more detail could, for example, help engineers to build better hearing aids that are more adept at filtering out background noise for users, which is currently a challenge for those with hearing impairments in noisy places.” -- Source: Imperial College of London (written by Colin Smith)


You see, I missed the target by a wide margin!

EDITED:
(3) Accents/Pronunciation
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