Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

General discussion about learning languages
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Fortheo
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Fortheo » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:37 am

emk wrote:Well, maybe French is a bit of a special case, at least for me. As an English-speaker, I've always found written French to be relatively easy, thanks to the transparent grammar vocabulary. But idiomatic spoken French is trickier, and in my experience, books are a surprisingly inefficient source of dialog, because so much of the text is actually narration. What's worse—from the perspective of somebody looking for sources of spoken French—is that French narration uses verb forms that are never used in speech.



I watch a lot of shows that are subbed in french for that reason—it gives me a lot of dialogue. It probably looks weird to my family who often see me just sitting there watching a show with no audio (I turn off the source audio and just focus on reading the french subtitles), but it is none the less great exposure to some more casual spoken french than I find in books.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby issemiyaki » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:46 am

@Fortheo - good one.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby reineke » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:24 am

Takra jenai wrote: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'?


It is truly useful since it is beautiful.

"Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them... Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. "
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby ddich » Fri Jan 08, 2016 7:57 am

I think it's absolutely amazing there's all these different ways of learning languages. Movies, TV shows, books and audiobooks included. I probably wouldn't even be learning languages if the only way to do was to sit down and study "conversational Italian/Spanish/anything" (which is ofc something I do, but it's only one part of the language).

Sure, learning how to say "there's a cat reading a map" and that afterwards "Mr. Dursley jerked his head" might not help me when I speak with people (although it would be awesome to see a cat reading a map), but it's still a part of the language I'm not familiar with, so I don't exactly mind if I learn the language in the "wrong order".

I'm from Finland anyway, and I'm pretty sure I learned most of my English by watching Schwarzenegger and Stallone films with subs, so..no complaints there :lol:
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby reineke » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:46 pm

ddich wrote:I think it's absolutely amazing there's all these different ways of learning languages. Movies, TV shows, books and audiobooks included. I probably wouldn't even be learning languages if the only way to do was to sit down and study "conversational Italian/Spanish/anything" (which is ofc something I do, but it's only one part of the language).

Sure, learning how to say "there's a cat reading a map" and that afterwards "Mr. Dursley jerked his head" might not help me when I speak with people (although it would be awesome to see a cat reading a map), but it's still a part of the language I'm not familiar with, so I don't exactly mind if I learn the language in the "wrong order".

I'm from Finland anyway, and I'm pretty sure I learned most of my English by watching Schwarzenegger and Stallone films with subs, so..no complaints there :lol:


A man, a cat, and many other creatures big and small possessing a head may jerk that very same head (perhaps even while reading a map). 'Dursley" is not as useless as you might think since all language learners should familiarize themselves with the look and feel of proper names (real or imaginary - in this case both). From your examples one can also learn important constructions such as "there's..." and SVO word order. Thankfully when consuming native material learners have little control over what's important for their future progress.

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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby IchBinEinPoly » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:46 am

The article you linked is completely devoid of scientific rigor. It's literally just more noisy blogspam polluting the internet, and it's just trying to push its own product, which is ironic in light of your criticism of the latest electronic gimmicks.

Obviously people can read faster than they can listen, but those are different skills. You can also listen in many situations where you can't read. And as for the subject of what constitutes "great literature," reading Shakespeare or even a more modern author like George Orwell will leave you utterly unable to comprehend or produce informal language and slang, whereas a popular television show will prepare you for that.

Then there's the issue of diglossic languages, which are written completely differently from how they're spoken, often to the point of the written and oral languages constituting different languages altogether. In that situation reading "great literature" will do almost nothing for your speaking or listening skills.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby Brian » Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:44 am

The digital age is what you make it. I find that internet technology makes it far easier to read in my target language (German). I have daily access to media and can download e-books with a few clicks of a mouse. I still of course buy newspapers when in Germany and books to take home, but I'm only in Germany for 2-3 weeks per year. In fact, I often wonder how much of a hassle it must have been to get access to your chosen literature before the web came into being.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby reineke » Sat Apr 08, 2017 12:50 am

issemiyaki wrote:Is there a connection between what we read and what we can understand during a spoken conversation?


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. Everyone is rushing to download the latest app or gimmicky program that promises fluency with no effort...

The blogger makes a great case. He says: "Reading at even a slow pace also exposes us to more sentences per minute than the average movie or TV show."

My questions now is: After extracting all those great phrases, expressions and vocabulary from these literary treasures, how can we be sure that we'll be able to "catch" them when they're used during spoken conversation?

With Spanish, this is not that much of a problem because pronunciation is directly linked to spelling. That's not the case with French... Germanic and Slavic languages may not have to deal with this so much because of the wonderful staccato cadences in their speech patterns.

So, I'm all ready to run to the bookshelf and pull out my French novels, poetry and start going to town, mining these works for great phrases. But, it would be heartbreaking to go through all that work and end up NOT recognizing the phrase or idiom when it is used in spoken language.

Or do you think as one becomes more familiar with the language, these issues will work themselves out?


I still think that the Little Prince is beautiful. It was the very first book I read in French. It felt like a quick read even then and my vocabulary was rather limited. It also felt great finishing a "real" book. I don't see the point of discussing at length a book that takes less than an hour to read...

I prefer the TV > audiobook > old-fashioned reading route. Vocabulary size is only one of many considerations when trying to troubleshoot litening comprehension issues.
It's not uncommon for an advanced reader to not be able to follow a TV show. A couple of forum members have reported being able to follow audiobooks but that they were still struggling with TV shows.

Speaking vs writing

http://www2.wmin.ac.uk/eic/learning-ski ... _dif.shtml

Plenty of Spanish learners have trouble with listening comprehension. Regarding the wonderful Slavic staccato...bah, humbug!
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby NoManches » Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:41 am

I say yes!!!

Here is the example I always give:

A long time ago I was watching a TV show in Spanish. My listening skills weren't the greatest so I decided to turn on Spanish subtitles. This worked great at first, since I was able to hear the Spanish audio and match it up with the text on the screen. After some time I decided that I needed to force myself to listen more and not rely on the subtitles....so I either turned them off or completely ignored them while I was watching, only using them when I really couldn't figure out what was being said.

I reached a point where I was constantly looking at the subtitles because I couldn't make out the audio....only to realize that I could barely read the subtitles! At the time this was mostly due to lack of vocabulary and perhaps some grammar issues (exposing myself to verb tenses that I had not yet studied). I came to the conclusion then that if I couldn't read what was written on the screen, then there was no way I would understand it if it were spoken.

For me this makes perfect sense. I'm learning Spanish, a language that sounds the way it is spelled. When I am reading I can take my time to comprehend things, make sense of verb tenses, look at pronouns and their relation to other words. With listening, once you hear something you can't go back and listen again (during conversation). This makes reading a lot easier for me...and once again...if I can't read something in Spanish then I probably won't be able to understand it if the same text is spoken to me.

I know this came up in the past and some people disagreed with me...these are my observations that I have experienced. I'm currently making an effort to increase the amount of reading I do by a lot, in hopes that it will result in better listening comprehension.
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Re: Great Literature = Better Listening Skills?

Postby reineke » Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:23 am

NoManches wrote:I say yes!!!

For me this makes perfect sense. I'm learning Spanish, a language that sounds the way it is spelled. When I am reading I can take my time to comprehend things, make sense of verb tenses, look at pronouns and their relation to other words. With listening, once you hear something you can't go back and listen again (during conversation). This makes reading a lot easier for me...and once again...if I can't read something in Spanish then I probably won't be able to understand it if the same text is spoken to me.

I know this came up in the past and some people disagreed with me...these are my observations that I have experienced. I'm currently making an effort to increase the amount of reading I do by a lot, in hopes that it will result in better listening comprehension.


As I understand it, you have been practicing, rather diligently, all the four skills. Whatever you do you'll be fine. If you keep rotating your practice you may end up crediting your last activity for any breakthroughs.

The graphemes reflect the phonemes and not the other way around. The spoken and written conventions are different and language is primarily a spoken phenomenon. Italian, Spanish, and Croatian all have a high degree of grapheme and phoneme correspondence. They can also be described as having a simple phoneme inventory yet plenty of learners regularly make pronunciation mistakes in these languages. While the vocabulary demands of TV programs are relatively modest, people who are competent readers complain of listening comprehension issues.

All this is a long way of saying that the logic of the spoken language flowing from its rich, elevated written counterpart is not entirely sound. That said, I see nothing heartbreaking in reading great literature and time spent reading is time well spent.

Some learners study subtitles and transcripts prior to listening exercises as a way of boosting their vocabulary and listening comprehension skills.
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