losing listening comprehension skills quickly

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drp9341
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losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby drp9341 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:38 pm

Hello everyone!

So this is something that really bothers me. Out of all the 4 major skills, (reading, writing, speaking, and listening,) listening is probably the skill I value to most.

Unfortunately, it's the skill I'm often the worst at. And it's a skill I loose very quickly. To give you an example, exactly 1 year ago I was living in Argentina. I was able to watch Argentine soap operas, and if I had headphones and the audio was decent quality, I was honestly able to hear every word. I could effortlessly comprehend dramatic exchanges between characters, without subtitles. (I admit, Sometimes I would need to look up a word :( , but that doesn't have much to do with listening comprehension.)

I haven't really spoke Spanish or used Spanish at all since the end of last February except for a few sporadic conversations, and last week I started watching a TV series in Spanish. It was Spain Spanish, and my comprehension without subtitles was ~75%. I figured it was a question of accent, so I watched an episode of the same Argentinian show I used to watch, and my comprehension was still, maybe 85%.

This week, I've been working on my Spanish a lot, watching a lot of TV in Spanish, with good headphones, paying really close attention to try to hear every word and improve my listening comprehension. I'm back up to about 98% comprehension for regular dialogue, but when the characters speak really fast, I can't keep up.

Is this normal? It seems that most people once they reach a high level of listening comprehension, are able to retain it quite effortlessly.

This is something I've never heard discussed before, and I'm curious to know about everyone here's experiences. Any input is much appreciated!
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby Dylan95 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:55 pm

Considering you haven't really used Spanish at all for almost a year, I don't find this surprising at all. That's a long time. Just try and fit in a little bit of Spanish on a weekly or almost daily basis, and you'll be sure to maintain your listening abilities. It might be difficult to fit into your schedule, but I think it's certainly worth it.

My Russian comprehension always decays a bit when I'm at home in the US, but not too much, because I make sure to use it for at least 15 minutes a day.

My grandmother grew up with two native languages (English and Italian). She spoke Italian with her grandparents, who didn't speak any English, despite living in the US. They were both dead by the time she was 11, and after that she had no one to speak with. I'm not sure when she really started losing it, but she basically doesn't know any Italian anymore. I would say that I probably knew more than her after a week of intensive Italian classes.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby aokoye » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:38 am

I'm going to echo Dylan95 in saying that it is no real surprise that your Spanish listening skills have declined over the course of a year given that you haven't used the language much if at all in that time. Given the speed that language attrition can happen in adult L1 speakers it's to be expected that the same would happen to L2 speakers.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby rdearman » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:56 am

aokoye wrote:Given the speed that language attrition can happen in adult L1 speakers it's to be expected that the same would happen to L2 speakers.


Can you expand on this statement please?
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby aokoye » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:35 pm

I was essentially describing what Dylan95 said but using different words. Language attrition is essentially the decline in language skills and is perhaps most prominent when an L1 speaker of a language moves from a place where that language is spoken to a place where it isn't frequently spoken. That said you can also have attrition of an L1 in an L1 environment like the loss of an accent or dialect and loss of an L2 in L1 contexts like, "I learned so much French and high school and forgot all of it!", among other situations.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby rdearman » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:37 pm

aokoye wrote:I was essentially describing what Dylan95 said but using different words. Language attrition is essentially the decline in language skills and is perhaps most prominent when an L1 speaker of a language moves from a place where that language is spoken to a place where it isn't frequently spoken. That said you can also have attrition of an L1 in an L1 environment like the loss of an accent or dialect and loss of an L2 in L1 contexts like, "I learned so much French and high school and forgot all of it!", among other situations.


OK, but you seemed to be implying that this was a quick process. I would expect that were I to move to Italy for a number of years my L1 English wouldn't be lost as quickly as my L2 French.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby aokoye » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:56 pm

rdearman wrote:
aokoye wrote:I was essentially describing what Dylan95 said but using different words. Language attrition is essentially the decline in language skills and is perhaps most prominent when an L1 speaker of a language moves from a place where that language is spoken to a place where it isn't frequently spoken. That said you can also have attrition of an L1 in an L1 environment like the loss of an accent or dialect and loss of an L2 in L1 contexts like, "I learned so much French and high school and forgot all of it!", among other situations.


OK, but you seemed to be implying that this was a quick process. I would expect that were I to move to Italy for a number of years my L1 English wouldn't be lost as quickly as my L2 French.

I think you may have misinterpreted me in terms of relative speed.

Edit, note I didn't say not try to imply that L1 speakers quickly have a total loss in their L1 skills.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby NoManches » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:11 pm

I feel like I am having the same exact problem as you. It has been about a year since I actively studied Spanish, although I have had many small opportunities to use the language since I went from studying over 10+ hours/week to barely touching the language.

The other day I started to watch a television show I used to watch religiously when I was studying everyday. I could instantly tell that my listening skills had gotten worse, which isn't saying much because my listening skills have always been my weakest skill. If I understood 90%+ of the show in my "prime", then I only understand about 80% of it now (maybe 85% with certain characters). I picked up a book that I read about a year ago, and found that I understand over 90% of it (when I first read it I probably understood 95% of the book). Yesterday and today I have been speaking Spanish with my dog and find that I still sound very fluent (at least to myself) although there are certain words I completely forget. By the way, all of these percentages are rough estimates.

I can't really answer your question but it seems like what is happening to both of us is a normal thing.

I remember in grade school learning and "mastering" certain math skills, only to forget those skills weeks before the midterm or end of year exam. Then, after "relearning" the same skill you had once "mastered" you feel even more confident with it, picking it up even quicker the second time around. I remember relearning a skill and quickly understanding things that I previously did not understand. It was as if the break had given my brain time to consolidate everything and make links between different skills.

I'm hoping that you and I quickly get back to our old levels of comprehension, but this time do it in a quicker manner and make improvements we could only dream of before. Yes, I think coming back to the language we will be a bit rusty. But, it should only take a short time to get back to where we were before and only a bit longer to start to see new improvements.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby reineke » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:50 pm

I've had multiyear and decade-long breaks with some languages with no noticeable change in my listening comprehension. Most recently, I spent around 500 hours on Portuguese of which (350 hrs in Nov - Dec 2016). After a 6-12 months of inactivity I noticed it slipping a bit.
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Re: losing listening comprehension skills quickly

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:18 am

The stronger your skill is before the break, the less you will lose - and what you've lost, you'll regain very fast.

This is my experience from a number of disciplines, including languages.
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