How to improve oral comprehension and production

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Carmody
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How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Carmody » Tue May 15, 2018 6:40 pm

I have just taken tests on Dialang for my French and they say I am

Listening...B1
Vocabulary B1
Reading....B2
Writing.....B1

I don't believe those results but I do find the cause of my despair in language learning is the very poor skill level that I have in Oral Comprehension and Production. Actually very poor is an understatement.

Currently, I am doing very heavy listening to:
Home Language
Français Authentique
Comme une Française
Petit Caillou
CHARLIE ET LOLA
L'ombre d'un doute

plus documentaries

Note: Both Petit Caillou et CHARLIE ET LOLA sound as if they are speaking at the speed of light.

Plus weekly Skype with an excellent French teacher.

But my oral comprehension and production remains exceedingly bad. It does not budge.

Do people have suggestions for helping me move on up.

Thanks.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby jeffers » Tue May 15, 2018 8:21 pm

Carmody wrote:Do people have suggestions for helping me move on up.


Time.

You're using some good resources, but it takes time. Keep listening and it will undoubtedly get better. Do you repeat the things you're listening to, or just listen once and move on? I find that listening to something several times over is very helpful, and that returning to it a while later is quite encouraging.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Elexi » Tue May 15, 2018 8:35 pm

I think keeping on at it as you are doing is the key, it kind of clicks eventually.

I found that one step for working up to faster stuff is (originally) English cartoons for children like Peppa Pig and Le Petit Royaume de Ben & Holly - freely available on Youtube and gets your ear working sans peine. The fact they are translations from English into French seems to make it easier to follow.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Theodisce » Tue May 15, 2018 10:18 pm

You need a lot of audio books; TV series are important as well. Listening is a key to speaking. Of course, in order to speak well you have to actually speak, but I can hardly imagine learning to speak without substantial audio input preceding and accompanying the process. Up to this point I've gathered 32 hours of speaking French and 47 of speaking Spanish. However, I'm much more fluent in French and I suppose it's because I've devoted to it over 1700 hours (mainly listening) as opposed to 840 hours of Spanish.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby reineke » Wed May 16, 2018 3:52 am

Carmody wrote:2017 End of Year Wrap-Up

Hours Studied: 800

Written Word:
Métaphysique des tubes A. Nothomb
Histoire du lion Personne S. Audeguy
Le lit defait F. Sagan
Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles K. Pancol
La Peste A. Camus
Le Sud Yves Berger
Mercure A. Nothomb
La biographie de la faim A. Nothomb
Thérèse Desqueyroux F. Mauriac
Poil de carotte J. Renard
La Chambre Rouge Mallet-Joris
La Place A. Ernaux
La Douleur M. Duras
Le Château de ma mère M. Pagnol
Les Année Annie Ernaux
Note: Each of the books has been read 2-3 times for vocab, idioms, syntax, etc.

Spoken Word:
Watched countless videos on YouTube that include but are not limited to:
Français Avec Pierre
Français Authentique
Home Language with Patricia
And
A large number of documentaries from the following channels: Documentaire Animalier, Secrets d'Histoire Officiel, Comme une Française, and numerous videos on the building of Guédelon Castle...

During this year I have also set up correspondence with 4-5 people in France on a regular basis and had a few Skype chats.

In summary, my shift of focus will be from written word of last year to the spoken word via Skype, italki, etc. However, my love of French literature will, I hope, always keep me reading French literature.



How much time did you actually spend listening?

CEFR descriptors

Overall listening comprehension
A2

Can understand enough to be able to meet needs of a concrete type provided speech is clearly and slowly articulated.

Can understand phrases and expressions related to areas of most immediate priority (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment) provided speech is clearly and slowly articulated.

B1
Can understand straightforward factual information about common everyday or job related topics, identifying both general messages and specific details, provided speech is clearly articulated in a generally familiar accent.

Can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure etc., including short narratives.

TV & Film

A2

Can identify the main point of TV news items reporting events, accidents etc. where the visual supports the commentary.

B1
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.

Reading comprehension

A2 Can understand short, simple texts on familiar matters of a concrete type which consist of high frequency everyday or job-related language

B1 Can read straightforward factual texts on subjects related to his/her field and interest with a satisfactory level of
comprehension.

B2 Can read with a large degree of independence, adapting style and speed of reading to different texts and purposes, and using appropriate reference sources selectively. Has a broad active reading vocabulary, but may experience some difficulty with low-frequency idioms.

A1-A2 students don't read Mauriac. Your test results seem accurate.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Arnaud » Wed May 16, 2018 5:04 am

For me, it would be better that you get rid of the artificially easy, slow and clear stuff that you're listening like Français Authentique, Comme une Française and use real stuff like Cyprien (subtitled in french) or Norman or whatever pleases you that is subtitled in french
Also see Emk's log who used transcripts of series to progress.
If you like literature, listen to the audio books, too.
Choose more difficult books to gain vocab, because audio understanding is also a question of having a large and varied vocabulary.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Uncle Roger » Wed May 16, 2018 11:16 am

Ah, the CEFR descriptions! Telling you all about the output but nothing about the input needed to get there! :mrgreen:


Time.


You say time, I say spaced repetition. :twisted:

Do you repeat the things you're listening to, or just listen once and move on? I find that listening to something several times over is very helpful, and that returning to it a while later is quite encouraging.


Exactly!
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby NoManches » Wed May 16, 2018 3:19 pm

I'm definitely not a "listening expert" but as a person who has struggled with listening in the past and has asked a lot of questions about listening on this forum, I might be able to give some good advice. This is my story in a nutshell:

One thing I noticed when I was really frustrated with my listening is that I could have 1 on 1 conversations with no problem at all. The problem came when I was with a group of people or watching a TV show/movie. The difference between 1 on 1 conversation and the others is that in a 1 on 1 conversation, you can control the conversation and the person you are speaking to can adjust to your level. If they feel like you are having problems understanding what they are saying, they will start using simpler vocabulary or explaining certain things that they normally wouldn't explain. This type of conversation practice is great for improving your comprehension, but I find it to be really slow.

On the other hand, jumping right in and watching tons and tons of TV shows is something that helped me out quite a bit, but this was still a slow process because the shows I was watching were pretty tough. It wasn't until later that I realized a lack of vocabulary and general comprehension was what was holding me back, not my "listening skills" (see below).

Like I alluded to, I always thought I had bad "listening skills". One summer, I spent every minute I could filling up a notebook by transcribing podcasts. I even hired people to transcribe podcasts for me so I could check my work. I'd take a long podcast and starting with short segments I'd put them on a loop and listening until I was able to write down word for word what was said. This probably helped with my ability to listen but didn't really help my comprehension.

It took a while but I've come to terms with the fact that for me, a lack of overall comprehension is what has made my listening bad. I can hear the individual words just fine, especially if thy are words already in my vocabulary. Understanding those words when used in sentences is a different story though.

For me, I could tell where my problem was when I used what I call "the subtitle test". Here is how to do it: find your favorite television show in your target language. Mute the audio and put the subtitles on. Can you "watch" the show and understand it by only reading the subtitles? If not, you might need to work on your vocabulary and comprehension skills. To do this, it seems like a ton of reading will be the best solution. In my experience, you can learn vocabulary by listening (especially to comprehensible input) but learning by listening is really, really, slow.


One thing a lot of people told me to do when I asked a similar question was to "listen more". I hate getting that answer but the truth is, it is some really good advice. Listening skills take a long time to develop and it is something that needs to be worked on constantly. When you wake up in the morning you should be listening to French. On your way to work or school, listen to French. When you are doing chores or cooking dinner, listen to French. Listen to as much French as you possibly can. If there is ever a time when you don't hear French, stop what you are doing and make it so you are listening to French. This is the advice people gave me for Spanish and it worked , so if you are not doing it in French I'm sure it could help.

I also benefited a lot from watching tons of youtube videos in Spanish. I think they are a great way to fill in random gaps in your day with a foreign language and they are very challenging.

I think I am rambling on now so I'll stop. Not sure if this is helpful or not but I hope it was. For me, realizing that my problem was with "overall" comprehension, not simply "oral" comprehension was a big deal. It made me realize that all the listening in the world won't make a big difference if I have a weak vocabulary. However, all the listening in the world on top of a strong vocabulary will probably allow you to make big improvements.
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Cavesa » Thu May 17, 2018 2:41 am

Carmody wrote:But my oral comprehension and production remains exceedingly bad. It does not budge.


Tons of listening practice. Don't despair. It may look like not budging but you might just be a learner that "jumps" instead of progressing steadily step by step. Like me :-) If you put in enough efforts and time, I am sure a breakthrough will come at some point. A moment of "hey, that's weird, I am suddenly much better than I used to be, a miracle!" and it will feel great! :-)

Arnaud wrote:For me, it would be better that you get rid of the artificially easy, slow and clear stuff that you're listening like Français Authentique, Comme une Française and use real stuff like Cyprien (subtitled in french) or Norman or whatever pleases you that is subtitled in french
Also see Emk's log who used transcripts of series to progress.
If you like literature, listen to the audio books, too.
Choose more difficult books to gain vocab, because audio understanding is also a question of having a large and varied vocabulary.


Yes, get rid of the too easy stuff. Audiobooks should definitely be a reasonable challenge right now, they are easier than tv series (which can follow a bit later). If you want something easy for start, things like easy non fiction, popular science or popular psychology, those are good starting points. I remember my first audiobook in Spanish: the translation of Men are from Mars and women from Venus. I had found it accidentally, but I was pleasantly surprised (it was quite amusing). It was much easier than I had feared and I loved the reader's voice. Something like this can be a good introduction to the world of audiobooks and much more authentic than "authentique" podcasts for learners.

Emk's log and posts anywhere on the forum are definitely worth studying!

Uncle Roger wrote:Ah, the CEFR descriptions! Telling you all about the output but nothing about the input needed to get there! :mrgreen:
Time.

You say time, I say spaced repetition. :twisted:


The input needed to get from B2 to C2 listening: something like 250 hours pure listening (that is my number but I think it is a good illustration of what you can approximately expect. Logs of other French learners show more or less similar numbers. You can't expect miracles from one movie (many people do, which is crazy). But it also shouldn't take 1000 hours :-) ) . So, perhaps we could make an estimate of 50-100 more hours for the B1 to B2 transition. The only way to get through that: have fun. Choose stuff you find interesting and/or fun, get rid of something the content of which bores or annoys you. Such an amount of listening practice is bound to work :-)

About the SRS: Vocabulary is a very common bottle neck. It often feels like listening, speaking, or any other of the four skills is the problem (and then you get those tons of unhelpful advice like "you only improve by speaking and speaking"). But vocabulary can be a large part of it. In such a case, people are wrong about not addressing it and instead just practicing and practicing. A resource I consider helpful are +French courses by Eunoia on Memrise. They are based on the Lexique database, which is based on much more than newspapers and books, it is definitely not a classical frequency list. The order of the words you encounter may seem weird from some points of view, but I actually think it is very good for someone diving more into the real native input.

Be patient, you are doing fine! And having been observing your log and attitude, I am pretty sure you'll succeed! Have fun, that will help :-)
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Re: How to improve oral comprehension and production

Postby Carmody » Thu May 17, 2018 2:46 am

Cavesa
Most grateful for your comprehensive review. I will proceed to study and act on it.
:D
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