Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

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Takra jenai
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Takra jenai » Mon Jul 27, 2015 5:29 pm

Inspired by this thread, I listened to 'The Little Prince' read by Peter Ustinov.
It's basically a fairy tale, somewhat funny, somewhat sad.
But forgive me a stupid question, why is it considered to be 'great literature'?
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby tastyonions » Mon Jul 27, 2015 7:19 pm

I have not read it myself, but it may comfort you to know that at least some authors are not entirely favorable toward the book (1).

Excerpts from an interview, translated to English for those who don't know French:
Philippe Forest: J'ai dû lire Le Petit Prince enfant, mais c'est comme adulte que je me suis intéressé à Saint-Exupéry.

Philippe Forest: I must have read The Little Prince as a kid, but it's as an adult that I became interested in Saint-Exupéry.

Agnès Desarthe: Enfant, j'ai écouté plus de disques sur lesquels étaient lus des textes que je n'ai lu moi-même de livres. C'est le cas pour Le Petit Prince. Il était dit par Gérard Philippe, dont j'étais amoureuse. Le texte lui-même a été décapité, beaucoup plus tard, par le jugement définitif d'une amie proche – "Le Petit Prince, quelle m… !", m'a-t-elle dit. Depuis, je ne peux plus y penser sereinement.

Agnès Desarthe: As a child I listened to discs with readings of books rather than reading them myself. That's how it was for The Little Prince. It was read by Gérard Philippe, whom I was in love with. But the book itself was eviscerated, much later, by the judgment of a close friend: "The Little Prince, what crap!", she said to me. Since then, I can no longer think of it without feeling a bit agitated.

Ph. F.: Un préjugé existe à l'égard du Petit Prince. Pour célébrer l'anniversaire du livre, autour duquel plusieurs manifestations sont organisées, il est difficile de trouver des écrivains désireux de s'exprimer à son sujet. Comme s'il était de bon ton de ne pas l'aimer.

Ph. F.: There's a prejudice with respect to The Little Prince. Celebrating the anniversary of the book, with all these events being organized around it, it's hard to find writers who want to say something about it. As if it were simply a matter of course not to like it.

A. D.: Je ne crois pas que la question soit là. En ce qui me concerne, je trouve qu'il y a dans ce texte, outre des passages d'une beauté incroyable, quelque chose qui relève de la leçon de morale. Les phrases comme : "On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux" ressemblent à un slogan efficace qui, pour moi, fait obstacle. Le très grand livre pour enfants, dans lequel je ne vois pas de messages de ce type, c'est le Peter Pan de J. M. Barry, dont parle souvent Philippe Forest. C'est le classique absolu. Dans Le Petit Prince, je vois l'adulte se pencher vers l'enfant pour lui dispenser une leçon ; là, je ne sens rien de cet ordre.

A. D.: I don't think that that's it, exactly. As far as my own view, I think that this book -- setting aside some incredibly beautiful passages -- has something a bit preachy about it. Sentences like "One can see clearly only with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eyes" sound like little engineered slogans and that puts me off. The really great children's book, one that doesn't have any messages of this kind, is Peter Pan by J.M. Barry, which Philippe Forest often talks about. It's the classic of classics. In The Little Prince, I see the adult bending down toward the kid to sermonize, but in Peter Pan, I don't get any sense of that.

(1) http://www.lemonde.fr/livres/article/2013/07/10/ce-que-la-litterature-doit-a-notre-enfance_3445779_3260.html
Last edited by tastyonions on Tue Jul 28, 2015 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Takra jenai
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Takra jenai » Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:09 am

tastyonions wrote:Sentences like "One can see clearly only with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eyes" sound like little engineered slogans and that puts me off.

Exactly my feeling. But on the other hand, there must be something to it.
Malala Yousafzai was asked in an interview,
'What inner qualities made it possible for you to exibit such courage and self-confidence?'
She replied,
'I think I'm just listening to my heart and my heart is just listening to people.'
Malala is the only preacher I'm inclined to listen to as she practices what she preaches and her values can be described in two words: human rights.

Another question
What are some simple books that are 'great literature' and not 'preachie'?
I've read about *Winnie-the-Pooh' and 'Alice in Wonderland', but haven't tried them yet.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby BAnna » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:40 pm

In my reading adventures in German and Spanish, I've found that the classics of great literature are actually not as useful to improve listening skills as popular books such as detective novels, young adult and "lowbrow" novels or non-fiction, whose syntax and vocabulary are simpler, more frequently used and more contemporary. These sources can be more helpful to understand spoken speech whether on film or by real people.

The great literature of the world in any language tends to be quite dense and uses very low frequency vocabulary. Unless you will primarily interact with native speakers who are university professors or extremely erudite, you might sound rather strange using some of the grammar constructions or vocabulary at the level of a complex novel. You also might find yourself looking up or learning a lot of words that don't have a lot of real-world usage in modern times.

Reading is definitely extremely useful for picking up lots of vocabulary, and as the post you referenced mentioned, you definitely get more bang for your buck in terms of exposure to language. If you compare watching a film and reading a book for the same amount of time,my guess would be you'd be exposed to maybe up to twice as much actual language and the lack of visual clues in the book forces you puzzle out what's going on and build mental images of those words in your own mind.

Of course, the audio part cannot be neglected and audiobooks with or without accompanying texts can be useful for that. I'm sure we all know people who can read a language fairly well, but cannot produce or understand spoken language well. Truly mastering a language takes a committed, multi-pronged siege-like approach in order to capture the castle.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:39 pm

BAnna - what a thoughtful response.

I can totally agree with what you're saying. I have found lots of useful phrases just by reading Le Petit Prince, which is not that difficult.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby AlexTG » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:05 am

BAnna wrote:Truly mastering a language takes a committed, multi-pronged siege-like approach in order to capture the castle.

This analogy always annoys me. The clearly correct way to mount a successful siege is to find the weakest point of the fortress and throw everything you have at it. Once one point has been broken through, the rest can be taken easily. I'm sure there must be a passage in Sun Tzu somewhere which will confirm this.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby sfuqua » Fri Jul 31, 2015 4:57 am

At one point in learning Samoan I spent hours a day reading newspapers aloud. People said I sounded like a news anchor.

"Good morning, Samoa!
In todays news, a peaceful night was spent by the entire Faamoaga family. Roosters crowed on schedule, and the morning dawned clear and hot, as always.
In other news, there were more signs today a possible affair between, Sina, the first grade teacher and Anapu, the seventh grade math teacher. They were reported to have walked near each other on the road near dusk. Your reporter will keep you updated on developments in this story.
Breaking news, a pig has escaped from the Vaialu family's pigpen! Families with copra drying in the sun should be on the lookout, since this pig has been deemed dangerously hungry!
Tonight's weather should be hot with a 100% chance of mosquitoes."
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby sfuqua » Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:31 am

I love literature. I do think, however, that I've spent too much time trying to read Spanish literature that is over my head.
You learn to do what you practice doing, but I would expect a lot of transfer from listening to audiobooks to listening to conversations.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby aabram » Tue Aug 04, 2015 6:07 am

emk wrote:For French, reading comprehension does not instantly translate to listening comprehension, at least in my experience.


For me though, there is quite a bit of carryover. I've read quite a bit but done next to no listening but when I last week accidentally went to movies to see a film which was supposed to be in English, but, in fact, was 80% in French with no subtitles in either language, I surprised myself with getting the gist of it. I totally was NOT expecting that. Several times I was like "ooohh, so thats how you pronounce it!". Boosted my confidence greatly.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Montmorency » Wed Oct 07, 2015 12:42 am

emk wrote:
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.

[


Yes, around here is fine.

But looking around in general, I do wonder if many people are reading books nowadays. What I see all the time is people on their smart phones, and yes. some of them might be reading books on them (I don't envy them frankly, on even the best of phones), I think most are on Facebook or Twitter or some other relatively trivial thing.

Well, yes, they are probably reading and maybe writing a lot of words, but it's all disjointed, all over the place, and would they have the attention span to read what Professor Arguelles would call a "great book" any more? Would they have the will to? I seriously doubt it, in many cases.


But back to what someone upthread was saying, or quoting: I realised quite a while ago, that you got much more bang per buck with the combination of book+audiobook than you could from any movie or TV series. Whether it helps you with using language "out in the wild", I'm really not sure about.
Maybe all it does is make you better at reading "great books", which is not a bad thing in itself, but I suppose it might not get you far in your next exotic 3rd-world destination. Perhaps it depends on whether you want to be more like the good Professor Arguelles, or out hitting the trail with Benny.
I suppose by temperament, I'm more at home in the hallowed cloister with the Prof (one can almost hear the Gregorian chant in the background), and I certainly don't have Benny's chutzpah. Unfortunately, I don't have the Prof's brains either, so I fall somewhere in the gap in the middle. :-)
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