Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

General discussion about learning languages
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Re: Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

Postby olim21 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:44 am

Serpent wrote:
olim21 wrote:That's something learners often think: they are too slow. That's why we see slow-speed podcast and such. I don't think that's true, though.

I already explained all of this, but let's try again another way. That impression of being too slow is just that: an impression. This is a symptom of a the real problem underneath. The problem is that you are not ready to understand yet. Either because you don't know the words and/or the patterns of the language (or not well enough), and/or the sound of the language you hear in your head when you read is too dissimilar. The result being that you have to concentrate to figure out the meaning of each word and/or just recognize it when listening and its connection with the rest. It requires too much time, more than you have anyway. The consequence being that you can't follow.

Imagine the two different situations:

In the first one, you are a learner, you have some understanding already but not enough. When you hear a word it makes you think about how it sounds familiar, you're sure you've heard it before. You try to remember a context with the same word. After some thinking maybe you finally reach the thought corresponding in your mind with the idea that the word is supposed to describe. Now you still have to figure out the relation with the rest of the current context. It is slow and also prevent you from thinking about the actual meaning of what you are listening to.

In the second situation, you know the language, you can be a native speaker or a learner having reach a native level. When you hear a word, the corresponding thought (or series of thoughts) are immediately created in your brain (your hearing triggers the thoughts), they merge or take over the previous context. No need to think, no need to remember, it is instantaneous (almost).

In the first case, you don't know. What you do know is how to recover the meaning. In the second case, you just know. The consequence is a big difference in reaction time, this speed improvement is the byproduct of your learning.

Serpent wrote:What about the learners who can understand a lot in writing but still need those podcasts?

I also answered this one already. I you want to know, please read my other posts.

Serpent wrote:I actually like reading, I'm just slow. Please avoid making assumptions.

No assumptions? Are you serious? It's impossible, I'm a human being after all, that's what we do. We make assumptions all day long. And when they don't match with the reality we observe, we change them. There is no way around it. Assumptions are not a problem, not being able to let them go is.

Serpent wrote:Have you heard of the LR method?

It would be hard not to. You can see LR mentioned once every ten posts, it was even more than that at HTLAL. So yes I heard about it. And although I agree with a lot of it and you could even say that I use a variation on it to some degree, what are you supposed to do when the language you want to learn is fully opaque? Imagine Greenlandic as an English speaker for example. Words don't even match at all.

Serpent wrote:That's still a good starting point. If you can find something you want to understand and put in the hours, you're going to understand more.

For sure. That doesn't contradict what I have been saying all along, though.

Serpent wrote:And depending on the language combination the similarities may well be clearer in the spoken language.

Sure, Maybe. What combination are you thinking about?

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Re: Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

Postby Bex » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:51 am

olim21 wrote:It would be very nice if you could elaborate a little. What language are we talking about? Is it Spanish?
Spanish. I'll tell you how this happened in order to 'elaborate a little'. I moved to Spain being able to say "hola" and no more..my level was zero.

I went into supermarkets and every time I got to the till they said "blah, blah, blah, blah" for some reason even the first time it happened I knew what they were saying from context, rythm and experience "Do you want/need a carrier bag(s)?"...even my husband at the time could not fathom how just from context I new this. It seemed obvious to me. In a DIY store at the till "do you have a store card?". Tourist's in the street...always directions. I learnt like a child from context. If I don't understand they can rephrase, wave arms, point at things etc, whereas when reading if I don't understand that's it, I just don't understand. I would have had a terrible time when I moved here if everything had been written down and nobody spoke, all those visual, rythm, intonation, stress, context and emotional clues would have been missing.

People selling you things or needing your help are surprisingly good at making themselves understandable.

olim21 wrote: What are you trying to read with what kind of level?
I am reading Harry Potter at the moment but I have attempted to read easy readers too.
olim21 wrote:And more importantly what is preventing you from reading?
This is more difficult to explain. The actual task of reading is what I feel difficult, I read every word individually never a sentence at a time, sometimes I've even forgotten the beginning of the sentence before I get to the end, so I have to re-start. Whereas I process the whole sentence, the emphasis, who's doing what, the context, the emotion, all of it when I listen.

I don't see my experience learning L2 is any different from an adult not being able to read in their native language. We've just never learnt to read.

olim21 wrote:For example if someone makes you a transcript of something you can understand when you listen, can you read it then? Why not?
I don't really know how to explain it... it's almost like when I read every new word or 3, they wipe out the last few...like I can't hold them in my mind whilst I read the rest of the sentence, it's probably because I read so slowly. So yes I could read most of the words (although many still suprise me when I see them written) , but it would be painfully, painfully slow and I would miss large chunks and generally understand a lot, lot less.
olim21 wrote:And even if you can't read, which I find a little puzzling but OK, it's not in contradiction with what I have been saying. My position is: if you trained properly your pronunciation at the beginning (and check from time to time to make sure you haven't slipped), read a massive amount of text (how massive, I'm not sure exactly but let's say 5 million words maybe less), then you should be able to listen and understand without too much trouble. I'm talking about understanding natively or close. From there you will still have to get used to the few differences between the written language and the spoken language and familiarize yourself with the relevant accents for your situation. You also are ready to easily learn to speak and write.

So you see my position is not in conflict with what you described.

I suspect if I had read at the beginning then yes my reading would be better now but I didn't. I wasn't trying to argue against your method, it actually appears quite sound to me. I was just pointing out that some of your statements were not what I myself had experienced when I learnt Spanish. I am sure however that they are exactly what you experienced because you learnt through reading.
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Re: Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

Postby Kraut » Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:48 am

My position is: if you trained properly your pronunciation at the beginning (and check from time to time to make sure you haven't slipped), read a massive amount of text (how massive, I'm not sure exactly but let's say 5 million words maybe less), then you should be able to listen and understand without too much trouble.

Please tell how you learnt your mother tongue? I for instance have been a fluent speaker of German and of my Swabian dialect before I even entered a classroom where I learnt to read and write. My brain also could work mentally the sounds I heard into the "phonemes" that are a prerequisite to create meaning.
How about your brain? Had you not developped unconsciously a perfect phonological system via your listening skill before you learnt which letters stand for which phonemes (reading and writing skill)?
Mind you, illiterates can master a spoken language perfectly.
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Re: Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

Postby olim21 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:12 am

I'm very confused. Even if you were absolutely right, how would that change anything? There is no relation between what you quoted and what you wrote underneath. If a baby learn in a particular way, it doesn't mean this is the only way, it doesn't mean this is the best way, it doesn't mean that adults have to learn the same way.

Kraut wrote:Please tell how you learnt your mother tongue?

Like everybody else, very slowly, very painfully, one word at a time, with a lot of repetition, a lot of mistakes, a lot of efforts. And like everyone else, I don't remember any of it, giving me this impression that it was effortless, that it happened in the blink of an eye, almost magically. That's not the real story. Watch this ted talk https://www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word#t-250480 to realize how much effort is required, how long it takes, before you finally babble a new word.

As an adult being, capable of a lot more than a child, I have the choice to learn using a better method, more interesting and faster. Why would I want to learn like a baby if I have the choice not to? You can if you want, it has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

Mainly it doesn't change the fact that baby don't learn because of the listening but because of all the repetitive context around them. They spend hours upon hours, day after day, month after month, year after year trying to make sense of their tiny little world. But because sound is part of their experience, they also pick up on the repetitive sound patterns and start to associate what they hear with what they already understand ("already" being a keyword here).

Baby understand a big chunk of their world way before they understand the spoken language, way before they utter their first word. Having a language is not required to understand: baby that are deaf at birth learn to understand their world just as well without the sound.

If your point was that you can learn a language without reading, who says otherwise? Not me. Just read what I said about Bakunin's method, you'll see.

Kraut wrote:Had you not developped unconsciously a perfect phonological system via your listening skill

You use words like "unconsciously" and "perfect", but they are just masking the fact that you don't have an explanation for what happened. Because you didn't learn unconsciously at all, you just don't remember it. This is really not the same thing. And what is a "perfect phonological system"? I am familiar with the sound I'm used to, but I can also learn more. Does that mean my "phonological system" can become more perfect? In the end I agree that you learn the sounds of the language(s) you were exposed to by listening. How else? But you still mainly learned the language by making sense of the bubble of world around you. The listening part is just the mode of communication. This is a very important distinction.

Imagine the following cruel experiment: you keep a newborn in complete isolation, with no access to the world, except for the sound. She can't see, she can't feel, she can't move, she can only hear. Do you think she will learn the language? How could she? The best she can do is become familiar with sequences of sounds. She can recognize them but she doesn't not understand because she can't connect what she hear with anything.

Kraut wrote:Mind you, illiterates can master a spoken language perfectly.

Of course, who says otherwise? "Perfectly" seems a little overboard, however.

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Re: Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

Postby NoManches » Mon Apr 02, 2018 5:40 pm

This is a very interesting thread and I really wish I had more time to participate in it. The truth is, I've only been reading bits and pieces of it trying to get the gist of what is going on. Also, I feel pretty outgunned by all the studies being quoted and the vast amount of experience most of you have in learning multiple languages (I'm still on my L2 :| ).

I do feel like participating though so here are my thoughts:

In college when I had extra time to learn Spanish, I was really focused on improving my "listening comprehension". I had already been exposed to all of the verb tenses and although I was not the best at reading in Spanish, I considered myself literate. My biggest problem was always with listening (so I thought). One day, I was watching a telenovela without subtitles and rewinding every so often to turn the subtitles on in order to figure out what was going on. I quickly realized that my problem had little to do with "listening comprehension" (I probably could have transcribed what I was hearing). The problem I had was with "comprehension" in general. I realized this because even after I turned the subtitles on, I could not fully comprehend what I was reading without looking it over a few times and maybe thinking about why a verb tense was used or having to look up an unknown word. I came to the hasty conclusion that Assuming you are literate in your L2, if you cannot read something and understand it, then you will definitely not be able to hear it and understand it.

So I guess based on this conclusion, I agree with olim21, at least in the sense that reading helps with listening. It took me a long time to realize this and even now, knowing what I know, I still devote too much time to listening and not enough time to reading :roll: .

I think at this point the conversation is dealing with other things but I just wanted to share this one thought which I believe many already agree with and has been mentioned here.
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