Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby reineke » Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:40 pm

NoManches wrote:I really enjoy reading these responses!

I'd be lying if I told you that I posted this link with no desire for everyone to reassure me of how much television can help with language learning. After reading some of the responses I just got motivation to binge watch as many shows as I possibly can on Netflix.

The author did present some information that sounded legitimate and I'm glad that people were able to counter it with personal experiences. 8-)


s_allard wrote:I read the original article and tend to agree with the author. But first, I must disagree with the title of the thread. There is no case against TV.. Even though we may feel that watching native-language television and movies is an enjoyable way to gain exposure to natural language, depending on the listener’s fundamental linguistic skills, the bulk of speech may never move from input to intake.[/i]

What the author does suggest is that periods of intensive study of short segments of audio only are an optimal way to increment true comprehension skills. The operative word here is optimal. I would say the most efficient. So, binge-watching 20 hours of your favorite series with or without subtitles may be very enjoyable - and you will learn something. But in terms of actually improving listening comprehension, a complementary approach might be something along the lines of working systematically and repetitively on a couple of short segments.

This approach is more bottom-up, meaning that it concentrates on looking at the individual words and grammatical details, as opposed to the top-down approach of simply watching the program with all the visual and contextual clues. My individual take on the author's suggestion is a bit different. It involves the following steps:

1. Make transcripts of short segments (2 - 5 minutes) of recordings representing desired kinds of speech. This kind of detailed work is very useful because one is forced to repetitively listen to the recording in order to decipher what is being said. Often one will need the help of a tutor or a native speaker to understand what was actually said. This is also good practice in writing and spelling.
2. Review and research any major elements of grammar and vocabulary. A tutor here may be very useful.
3. Listen to this segment a few times with and without the transcript. My rule of thumb is at least 12 times.
4. Shadow the recording to develop prosody and fluency.

In a short while, it is easy to have a dozen 5-minute segments with a variety of voices, accents, topics and speaking styles. Repeatedly listening of these recordings will, in my opinion, provide a very significant boost in listening comprehension that will make that extensive TV watching all the more enjoyable.

Part of the reasoning behind this approach is that speech is highly redundant linguistically. One episode of a television series will most likely contain all of the grammar and a good part of the vocabulary of all the episodes. Therefore there is something to be said for studying systematically just one episode in detail, especially if one has access to a native speaker.

I have found that watching videos with a native speaker is a very enlightening experience. My question is always: Am I understanding this program like a native speaker would? The answer is always no. There are definitely very different ways of understanding, especially for humor and regional accents.

Spoken speech is highly idiomatic. There can be different levels of meanings and usage of formulaic language that initially escape the non-native.

So, somewhat along the line of what the author of the article suggests, I believe in the didactic value of working intensively with a variety of short recordings in the target language all the while enjoying lots of TV input.


No one can binge watch intensively. If you have time to binge watch there is also no reason why you cannot include some intensive activities. This is especially true if you are not convinced by the extentensive approach, if you are investing serious amounts of time into listening, if your listening is just an exercise anyway, and, finally, if you are not seeing any progress after a reasonable amount of time.

NM, from your log I gather that you dedicate time for vocabulary study and intensive listening activities. You have also reported that listening skills are still your weakest point despite "the thousands of hours of listening". I'm glad to read that you are determined not to become discouraged. However, unless the "thousands of hours" were a rhetorical flourish, you need to take a closer look at your activities and your actual weaknesses. Unless you are judging yourself too harshly maybe intensive, targeted listening is exactly what you need to progress to the next stage.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby YtownPolyglot » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:42 pm

If you're a true beginner in a language, intensive TV viewing and listening does more for your prosody than anything else.

If you're at A1 or A2, you should start to recognize some common words and cognates. You may pick up a few words and phrases through context. Television may help you some with pronunciation.

If you're at B1 or B2, you should pick up a few words and phrases. This is a level where you should begin to understand more and more of what you are seeing and hearing.

If you're at C1 and C2, you are in a position to develop a more natural sounding version of the language. You'll pick up informal expressions and constructions, and your accent will sound closer to what the natives are producing.

The problem with "thousands of hours" is that there are only 168 hours in any week, and you will want to eat, sleep, etc. Even great input from television is not all you need. You should do things that are substantially more active and get feedback to really learn a language. it reminds me of the old cereal commercials, where they say that the brand advertised was "part of a balanced breakfast," and not the whole thing.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby reineke » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:09 pm

Ytown, I disagree . Postponed listening practice means postponed listening comprehension. Your CEFR listening expectations are inaccurate and for C-levels you're referring to speaking and not listening.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby rdearman » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:23 pm

YtownPolyglot wrote:If you're a true beginner in a language, intensive TV viewing and listening does more for your prosody than anything else.

If you're at A1 or A2, you should start to recognize some common words and cognates. You may pick up a few words and phrases through context. Television may help you some with pronunciation.

If you're at B1 or B2, you should pick up a few words and phrases. This is a level where you should begin to understand more and more of what you are seeing and hearing.

If you're at C1 and C2, you are in a position to develop a more natural sounding version of the language. You'll pick up informal expressions and constructions, and your accent will sound closer to what the natives are producing.

The problem with "thousands of hours" is that there are only 168 hours in any week, and you will want to eat, sleep, etc. Even great input from television is not all you need. You should do things that are substantially more active and get feedback to really learn a language. it reminds me of the old cereal commercials, where they say that the brand advertised was "part of a balanced breakfast," and not the whole thing.


I'm not sure about this scale, and did a quick look around for an explanation of the CEFR with regards to listening only, but couldn't find anything useful.

EDIT:
Found a decent explanation for listening here: http://europass.cedefop.europa.eu/sites ... efr-en.pdf
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Cavesa » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:26 pm

YtownPolyglot wrote:The problem with "thousands of hours" is that there are only 168 hours in any week, and you will want to eat, sleep, etc. Even great input from television is not all you need. You should do things that are substantially more active and get feedback to really learn a language. it reminds me of the old cereal commercials, where they say that the brand advertised was "part of a balanced breakfast," and not the whole thing.


From my experience, it's not thousands of hours. It's more like 200-300 hours (talking about relatively easy languages, not Mandarin or Arabic). 200-300 hours of binge watching are not that much of a problem. Look at the amount of time most people spend either watching tv in their native language or just browsing the internet. For vast majority of people, there are at least three hours per day, that are convertible to extensive input activites without draining the people too much or interfering with their duties or family life.

C level comprehension is not that difficult to get just with extensive activities. Yes, I don't argue about usefulness of intensive activities for beginners or as one of the exercises to develop active skills (analysing grammar, drawing all the vocab etc.). But the author of the article clearly insists that purely extensive activities are not the way. Or at least not an efficient way.
Hey author, getting to high enough level of comprehension to spend a month fully in the langauge in just 6 weeks with extensive listening, that was not efficient? Do your students, with all your dissected 2 minute long bits, get from A2ish listening to C1ish listening in 6 weeks? (-ish means lack of official exam, I do not use the levels lightly and would like to avoid nitpicking)

I think the problem is the concept of efficiency. Too many langauge teachers see efficiency as result per hour spent with the teacher. Or result per hour spent on the activity. But I think we need to look at efficiency as the result over a larger time period, such as a month. I highly doubt you can force yourself to do enough intensive listening as needed in one month to have the same results as with one month of extensive binge watching. I don't know many people who would stay concentrated and not desperate after an hour of intensive activities, as described by the author of the article. Let's say you can afford to pay a teacher for 90 minutes (2 classical 45 minute long lessons) per week (many people pay just one 45 or 60 minutes long lesson per week). And let's say you spend all the time on intensive listening. 2 minutes per audio, and 15 minutes of detailed analysis (estimate based on my experience with tutors and teachers, it is just an estimate). This way, you could do 5 or 6 audio bits per week, that gives something like 40-60 minutes of audio per month. Can this really compete with extensive listening done in one month?

Another point against his "why not use the BBC news instead of tv series you like": he is simply being a snob here. This attitude is completely in line with the prejudices against american (or any other than british) English, with the negative attitude against popular culture as part of learning (or just anything remotely fun for most people who do not tend to spend every free minute with Dostoyevsky), and with the BBC glorification. Yes, BBC is awesome, but it is not the only source of high quality british English. And BBC makes great tv series too.

And there is one more problem with the news, than those I have already mentioned. Can you imagine binge watching the news? Spending hundreds of hours with the news? Especially these days, I feel worse after ten minutes and I know I am not the only one. Does the author really expect people to torture themselves for long enough to learn?

This is another of the prejudices teachers tend to have. Learning must be boring or difficult or unpleasant. Fun is not learning. The "watch news instead of tv series" recommendation is simply that. If your input source doesn't require you to take anxiolytics with it, it is obviously not good enough.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Serpent » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:38 pm

YtownPolyglot wrote:If you're a true beginner in a language
...which is what English speakers never are when learning a Romance or Germanic language :) (okay, I mean the major languages... not necessarily Romanian, Sardinian or Icelandic ;))

@NoManches and reineke: sure, intensive listening can help. But that's not the only solution. You can try reading and LR (including L2/L2 LR).

I also find it important to learn to let go. Even in L1 we're very close to 100% but not quite there. If you've listened to a passage 5 or 10 times and have understood everything except one word, just move on. You've reached the point of diminishing returns. Unless you really need it for comprehension, don't waste more time on it. If it's important you'll come across it again, many times. Otherwise the time for this kind of words/expressions will come when you can understand the rest effortlessly.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby reineke » Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:50 am

I find Dostojewski compatible with Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones felt harder in Br.Port. than BB but it was nothing that a few seasons worth of watching couldn't cure. My main tool was Italian. A levels of language competence are also compatible with TV watching. I used to watch news channels all the time but to each his own.

I find it sufficient to "just listen" but I suspect that some beginners and advanced learners could profit from targeted intensive listening. In the case of NM, I believe that he would like to be able to hit the ground running if he's talking to Argentinian farmers or if he were to explore the source of the Orinoco. I have posted some audio resources that could help him get used to all sorts of Spanish speakers (including when they're speaking over the phone). If you are considering a profession that requires daily contact with Spanish speakers these resources could prove valuable. Jesse doesn't get impatient if you pause or rewind him. Finally, I believe that teachers have to put up with a lot of crap. The teaching profession deserves respect and there are some cool teachers out there.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:

LISTENING TO RADIO AUDIO & RECORDINGS

A2 Can understand and extract the essential information from short recorded passages dealing with predictable everyday matters that are delivered slowly and clearly.

B1. 1 Can understand the main points of radio news bulletins and simpler recorded material about familiar subjects delivered relatively slowly and clearly.
B1. 2 Can understand the information content of the majority of recorded or broadcast audio material on topics of personal interest delivered in clear standard speech.

B2. 1 Can understand most radio documentaries and most other recorded or broadcast audio material delivered in standard dialect and can identify the speaker's mood, tone etc.

B 2.2 Can understand recordings in standard dialect likely to be encountered in social, professional or academic life and identify speaker viewpoints and attitudes as well as the information content.

C1 Can understand a wide range of recorded and broadcast audio material, including some non-standard usage, and identify finer points of detail including implicit attitudes and relationships between speakers.

WATCHING TV AND FILM

A2. 1 Can follow changes of topic of factual TV news items, and form an idea of the main content.
A2. 2 Can identify the main point of TV news items reporting events, accidents etc. where the visual supports the commentary.

B1. 1 Can follow many films in which visuals and action carry much of the storyline, and which are delivered clearly in straightforward language.
Can catch the main points in TV programmes on familiar topics when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.
B. 1.2 Can understand a large part of many TV programmes on topics of personal interest such as interviews, short lectures, and news reports when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.

B2 Can understand most TV news and current affairs programmes.
Can understand documentaries, live interviews, talk shows, plays and the majority of films in standard dialect.

C1 Can follow films employing a considerable degree of slang and idiomatic usage.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching ...
By Council of Europe
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby smallwhite » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:40 am

Cavesa wrote:I think we need to look at efficiency as the result over a larger time period, such as a month. I highly doubt you can force yourself to do enough intensive listening as needed in one month to have the same results as with one month of extensive binge watching. I don't know many people who would stay concentrated and not desperate after an hour of intensive activities, as described by the author of the article.


I don't agree with this measurement of comparing the month-end results of 60min/day of intensive listening with 360min/day[*] of TV. Firstly because you're just ASSUMING that people can't intensive-listen for longer. I, for one, can binge on any hardcore study (but dread watching TV and don't have 6 hours a day for it either), so the assumption is hardly universal. Secondly, for every 300 mins you save per day (360-60), you can do 300 mins more of something else - grammar study or hiking - so the difference is real and of value. You can only use your measurement if the learner can ONLY EITHER do 60m/d of intensive listening OR do 360m/d of tv and there is NO third thing they can do with that time, which isn't the case with time.

[*] 360min/day ~= 250 hours x 60 mins / 42 days
250 hours being average of 200 and 300 hours, and 42 days being 6 weeks as mentioned in the quote below.

I want to ask, though: do you mean that 360min/day of TV works WAY better than 60min/day? If I can only watch for 60min/day, how much would I have to watch in order to achieve the same results as 200-300 hours of 360min/day?

Cavesa wrote:From my experience, it's not thousands of hours. It's more like 200-300 hours (talking about relatively easy languages, not Mandarin or Arabic). 200-300 hours of binge watching are not that much of a problem.

Hey author, getting to high enough level of comprehension to spend a month fully in the langauge in just 6 weeks with extensive listening, that was not efficient? Do your students, with all your dissected 2 minute long bits, get from A2ish listening to C1ish listening in 6 weeks?


I do mostly intensive listening, though not exactly as proposed in the article. I have B2 listening (per mock tests) in Italian (scored 80%), German (scored 80%) and Swedish (actual score unknown). How much TV would I have to watch to reach that level? This is what I did before getting those scores:

Italian: 1 movie which I didn't understand much of; 12 to 24 hours of intensive listening.
German: 1 movie and 1 episode of TV which I didn't understand much of; 10 to 15 hours of intensive listening.
Swedish: 13 to 15 hours of intensive listening; 8 hours of TV recently.

I also have audio in the background sometimes, but you can do that alongside both intensive-listening and TV-watching so it doesn't really affect the comparison.

Can you get 80% in B2 listening tests in Cat I & II languages with 10 to 20 hours of TV?

PS.: I didn't try the C1 tests. Maybe I can pass them, maybe not; I don't know.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby blaurebell » Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:34 am

smallwhite wrote:an you reach B2 in Cat I & II languages with 10 to 20 hours of TV?


As always with intensive vs extensive activities there is a trade off. Of course you progress faster with intensive activities, but they are also harder to bear and more like "work" rather than fun. I can deal with intensive reading and find it super effective, but intensive listening drives me nuts, so I never do it. But then I've always been someone who watches a lot of series and switching those to my TL isn't a strain at all.

Time estimates: I find that after intensive reading 5000 pages I can get to 95% understood with dubbed series in 2 seasons, that's about 30h. For this you have to have the phonetics straight beforehand though - minimal pairs listening drills, some listening reading, some shadowing -, otherwise all the reading with wrong subvocalisation will probably make things much more difficult. If you have the vocabulary in place you can probably just about pass a B2 exam on 2 seasons, although with some gaps. To get to a point where it's really just a matter of vocabulary, for me it takes about 110-130h, one full series of dubs. Native actors have worse enunciation than voice actors and there is more slang, so another full series 110-130h to get used to that. You can probably even pass a C1 listening test after that, at least for languages where the exams don't include all sorts of accents. In Spanish for example you'd also have to cover the most common accents that come up in exams so Iberian, Mexican and Argentinian, that takes more effort. One SC worth of those for each accent is probably overkill though unless you need local slang also, maybe 50h each? I would guess that you can make it to C1 listening skills with accents in 300-400h if you have the vocabulary in place already. And when I have to choose between 300-400h of fun and 50h of work I will choose fun always, unless suddenly my life and future depended on getting there in 50h.

If you don't have the vocabulary in place, extensive listening isn't very efficient unless you are really good at picking up vocabulary from spoken language. For me that's pretty much impossible, so I leave extensive listening for later.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby smallwhite » Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:54 am

blaurebell wrote:
smallwhite wrote:Can you reach B2 in Cat I & II languages with 10 to 20 hours of TV?


If you have the vocabulary in place you can probably just about pass a B2 exam on 2 seasons, although with some gaps.


Thanks, but I mean real experience rather than guesses.

In my case I also more or less have the vocabulary in place.

blaurebell wrote:And when I have to choose between 300-400h of fun and 50h of work I will choose fun always, unless suddenly my life and future depended on getting there in 50h.


But intensive listening in my case is not 50h but just 10-20h so I choose intensive, and then spend the 290-hour difference (300-10) doing anything I want to - watching the same series, or another one in another language, or just anything. Understanding something 290 hours later than I could have is torture in itself!
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