Reading first?

General discussion about learning languages
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sfuqua
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Reading first?

Postby sfuqua » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:39 pm

A couple of years ago, when I started reading Spanish extensively, I had already watched about 120 hours of soap operas.
I took right off in reading, and only noticed temporary differences in my listening and reading.
Now, I'm at a point with my French where I have begun to be able to read extensively.
My reading comprehension is quite a bit better than my listening comprehension.
It feels like I get a lot more out of reading than listening right now.

I fully realize that many people have persisted in listening and eventually had success, but I wonder if it might all go faster if I get my reading up to speed first.

Does it make sense to specialize in reading first and then switch to listening? It feels like it might be a variation on Krashen's idea of narrow reading? http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/narrow.pdf

Of course I realize that there is no way to learn to listen without listening.
Last edited by sfuqua on Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reading first.

Postby emk » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:13 pm

sfuqua wrote:A couple of years ago, when I started reading Spanish extensively, I had already watched about 120 hours of soap operas.
I took right off in reading, and only noticed temporary differences in my listening and reading.
Now, I'm at a point with my French where I have begun to be able to read extensively.
My reading comprehension is quite a bit better than my listening comprehension.
It feels like I get a lot more out of reading than listening right now.

In high school, I had a teacher who taught himself Spanish exclusively via reading. He read very fluently. But as for spoken Spanish, he couldn't even tell the difference between spoken Spanish and spoken Navajo. This seems like a suboptimal outcome.

Personally, I found that reading improved my vocabulary a lot more than listening did. But listening was absolutely essential, because taught me how the language actually flowed and fit together, and how people actually spoke. I started Spanish by listening very early. But I also know that I'd have to read at least 1,000 pages to start pulling together a useful vocabulary.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby Ani » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:19 am

In a language like French where the pronunciation is very different from the way the written word looks, it may be very easy to build bad habits of inaccurate expected pronunciation. This would really come back to bite you both in listening and speaking. If you are really solid on phonetics maybe you'd be ok. I notice if I read too much over listening that my accent starts to slip and it takes me longer stretches to get my listening comprehension going again.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby NoManches » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:42 am

sfuqua wrote:
I fully realize that many people have persisted in listening and eventually had success, but I wonder if it might all go faster if I get my reading up to speed first.

Does it make sense to specialize in reading first and then switch to listening?


For me there are two different types of listening:

A) The kind where you can distinguish words. You can tell when one word ends and another begins. You can hear audio and be able to transcribe it.

B) You can listen to speech and actually understand it. Not only do you hear the words, but you can make sense of them. When you put them together they have meaning, they are not just sounds.

Reading has helped me a lot with "B". No amount of reading will really help you with "A". Okay maybe lots of reading can help you with to some degree with this, but I suppose it depends on the language. But, for "A" you need listening practice.

I think you would be better off doing both (reading and listening) at the same time. I think its quite possible to "specialize in reading" while at the same time making tremendous improvements to your listening skills.

While I think you'd see an improvement if you were to do a ton of reading and then come back to test your listening, you'd see a bigger improvement if you did a lot of reading and listening on a regular basis.

I suppose this is the "well duh, that is obvious" answer but it seems like it applies.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby Atinkoriko » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:41 am

Ani wrote:In a language like French where the pronunciation is very different from the way the written word looks, it may be very easy to build bad habits of inaccurate expected pronunciation. This would really come back to bite you both in listening and speaking. If you are really solid on phonetics maybe you'd be ok. I notice if I read too much over listening that my accent starts to slip and it takes me longer stretches to get my listening comprehension going again.


I'd have to second this in my opinion. I started with a poor foundation in French due to a set of inept teachers, progressed very rapidly with regards to grammar and reading comprehension (high B2 at the least) but left with stunted listening comprehension due to said poor foundation in phonology, In all the reading I was doing, I'd also been subvocalising and reinforcing the poor pronunciation.
I've had to go back and learn phonology from scratch, and I'm currently doing the Super Challenge in the hopes that it'd smash this problem for good and let me progress into B2.


In summary, and at least in my case, poor phonology + a lot of reading = great reading comprehension but a world of frustration when it comes to listening comprehension
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Re: Reading first?

Postby luke » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:57 am

Atinkoriko wrote:I've had to go back and learn phonology from scratch, and I'm currently doing the Super Challenge in the hopes that it'd smash this problem for good and let me progress into B2.


I was thinking about the benefits of FSI French Phonology as I first read the thread. Then seeing Atinkoriko's post, decided to chime in.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby Ani » Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:43 am

luke wrote:
Atinkoriko wrote:I've had to go back and learn phonology from scratch, and I'm currently doing the Super Challenge in the hopes that it'd smash this problem for good and let me progress into B2.


I was thinking about the benefits of FSI French Phonology as I first read the thread. Then seeing Atinkoriko's post, decided to chime in.


I think FSI French Phonology is actually a very weak course. I never see anyone post that opinion so I am jumping in to say it :) I did it as a beginner, very very thoroughly. I hand wrote each lesson and listened to the tracks a minimum of 5x each, often quite a few times more. I actually can't believe now how much I ended up missing, either through lack of clarity of the course or omission. I am not even sure. I would very much recommend CLE's phonétique progressive du français as an alternative, and taking the time to learn IPA (which is included in the CLE course).
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Re: Reading first?

Postby tarvos » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:21 am

Reading is a good panache for vocabulary problems, but not for understanding phonology. Like with everything, you're not going to hammer in a nail with a pair of scissors, so just don't try doing it.

Language learning is all about targeted practice - there has to be an idea behind the thing you're doing. There has to be a why - and that why can only be answered given your personal context, personality and preferences. Reading first? Maybe, that just really depends on what you want to do.

I always do phonology and pronunciation first, but that's just my style and it works for me.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby smallwhite » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:32 am

sfuqua wrote:It feels like I get a lot more out of reading than listening right now.
Does it make sense to specialize in reading first and then switch to listening?

What are you trying to get out of reading? Just the ability to read, or vocabulary, or both? If you're just after the ability to read, my experience is that with French being so similar to English and Spanish, you don't need to read much in order to be able to read fluently. 200 pages, maybe. If you're after vocabulary, then you're really asking What is the best way to learn vocabulary? and it depends on who you ask.

I didn't find it necessary to pick one to do first. When I was learning French, I played French radio in the background whenever possible. Started with France Culture after 6 months of mostly grammar study and next to zero reading, and 4 months later I was understanding ~95% of it. Listening done this way doesn't take away your reading time.
Last edited by smallwhite on Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reading first?

Postby blaurebell » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:38 am

I had lots of success with reading French very early, but I really focussed a lot on good phonetics first. I did Wyner's pronunciation trainer, which is mostly minimal pairs listening drills. I continued with some of FSI French phonology and shadowed half of Assimil. With that basis my own subvocalisation wasn't a problem. After I finished reading 5000 pages I started watching Buffy French dubs. After 2 seasons - 1 with subs, one without subs - I understood about 95%. After the whole series I get maybe 97-99%. I also understand 97-99% of France culture now, the remaining 1-3% are vocabulary problems. Focussing on listening when the vocabulary isn't in place yet is basically a waste of time for me, because I'm not really able to pick up new vocabulary from audio. Other people might do better with that so they might have more success with lots of listening.
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