Hours until native listening?

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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby einzelne » Thu May 25, 2023 4:33 pm

"A native-like level of listening comprehension" requires a native like listening immersion.
There are too many variables, apart from vocabulary and cultural references — phonetic system, how closely related languages are etc.

There was a study (I cannot find a link now, sorry) and it states that on average it takes 10 years of living in the States for immigrants to start considering themselves fluent in English. Of course, they meant both active and passive skills. But I think it answers your question, since you're interested in how it feels psychologically. I seriously doubt you can quantify this. (Personally, I feel pretty confident talking to educated English speakers but some regional accents can still easily trip me over. But I don't care about it anymore.)
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Monty » Thu May 25, 2023 4:36 pm

You won't reach native level listening until and unless you're living amongst natives.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Le Baron » Thu May 25, 2023 4:57 pm

I second and fall into line with Irena's answer above me. There are only two languages I speak where I can understand 'everything' spoken: French and Dutch. Just those two. To the point where I can understand anything even if someone says something and I've still got earphones in and I catch the last 1/4 of the sentence fully. Or if someone suddenly speaks when you're not expecting it. German is not far behind for listening, but less so. I put 'everything' in scare quotes like that because it's relative. I might not understand some things for certain reasons.

However that's me and as your OP says:
Gaoling97 wrote:the question as I have phrased it might not even be scientifically testable anyway. And even immigrants who eventually desire native-level listening comprehension will probably be satisfied in most cases by "merely" reaching an advanced level and letting it gradually improve from that over the years.

That's likely me in Dutch and I've been doing it for two decades. French even longer and I can say additionally that without the constant stimulus for that language around me when I do hear, especially young, speakers off-the-cuff I can miss bits and pieces. So the question is also about familiarity in an ongoing situation. Also familiarity with different registers, accents, turns of phrase; common knowledge, like most of the town, city or country being familiar with a certain thing/event/person; shared historical 'cultural capital' passed between people etc. This is what fills-in many of the understanding gaps.

There is the question of whether what is accrued over time can be expedited with focused listening and more-or-less forced input. I think there's a limit. Clearly the position of no listening is the worst position and lots of listening creates familiarity, but only with language as an observer, not so much as a participant. The latter is what sharpens-up everything. As Irena said, to 'live your whole life' in a language for some period of time at least. At that point counting hours becomes meaningless. Counting hours is meaningless; no better than counting hours until you finish a degree course or counting hours until you reach retirement age. It has within it the notion that the period will be relatively short. So not counting in minutes, or days or years, but hours. It might make sense in a project-sense, like a 6-week challenge, or revising for an exam, but for lifetime fluency it's nonsense.

Consider these two questions: 'How do I get excellent at playing the piano? vs 'How do I become an excellent pianist?'

I underlined the important word. It's the same with a language, you must become a speaker, a user of it, it has to be the means through which you live your life. Plus time.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Thu May 25, 2023 7:07 pm

Irena wrote:Just out of curiosity, do you native English speakers understand this effortlessly?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6ZUneyU7Vo


Non-native speaker here - after the first try, I can't say that I understand the clip "effortlessly", but that has a lot to do with the sound quality rather than McKinley's accent/diction. He sounds pretty much like the actors in very old sound feature films. Nothing strange. Just something you have to get used to.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby iguanamon » Thu May 25, 2023 7:32 pm

Perfection, in a human context, simply does not exist. Most of us here learn second languages outside of a TL country. I don't use Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Catalan or any other language all day, every day unless I am traveling.

There is no "C3" designation. I have a friend who immigrated to the US at 19 years old from France. He has lived almost his entire adult life in the US. He raised his family, ran a business here. I can't compete with that. I can't achieve his level of English in any language I speak as a second language. I simply haven't had and won't have the same opportunity for immersion he's had. How long did it take him to get to this level? I don't know. I don't think he could've done it living and working in French. We always come back to the same thing on the forum- quantifying the un-quantifiable.

People in Brazil and Portugal have asked me "how may years I've lived in Brazil?". I'll accept that as "not bad for a gringo".
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Adrianslont » Fri May 26, 2023 12:15 am

:twisted:
jeff_lindqvist wrote:
Irena wrote:Just out of curiosity, do you native English speakers understand this effortlessly?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6ZUneyU7Vo


Non-native speaker here - after the first try, I can't say that I understand the clip "effortlessly", but that has a lot to do with the sound quality rather than McKinley's accent/diction. He sounds pretty much like the actors in very old sound feature films. Nothing strange. Just something you have to get used to.

Native speaker here, Australian variety. I had a lot of trouble but I’m confident it was the sound quality, too. If I listened a few times I’d get it all I reckon.

I checked out the YouTube auto transcript - it had a lot of trouble, too!

Regarding the Scottish video - much more difficult for me and I have had exposure to Scottish accents, including Glaswegian. The YouTube transcript is wild.

The YouTube transcript thing interests me. It doesn’t seem very good. I have used a couple of subtitle generators, see Krauts thread for one, and they have been much better - in fact staggeringly good. I think the YouTube one mustn’t use AI - or only very primitive AI. I might try the President and the Scottish lad with them later if I get bored!

Irena, try a thick Singaporean English accent if you want a real challenge! BTW loved your more recent post to this thread.

Edit: here’s a Singaporean video if anyone wants to try. I’d be interested in how people go with it. The young people in it seem educated and I’m guessing some of them are native English speakers with no other language (statistically half of the population speaks English at home, education is in English). It gets a lot harder as the video progresses. The transcript looks handmade or at least manicured or maybe the auto-subtitling was done with something better than YouTube’s system.
Last edited by Adrianslont on Fri May 26, 2023 3:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Gaoling97 » Fri May 26, 2023 2:33 am

Le Baron wrote:There is the question of whether what is accrued over time can be expedited with focused listening and more-or-less forced input. I think there's a limit. Clearly the position of no listening is the worst position and lots of listening creates familiarity, but only with language as an observer, not so much as a participant. The latter is what sharpens-up everything. As Irena said, to 'live your whole life' in a language for some period of time at least. At that point counting hours becomes meaningless. Counting hours is meaningless; no better than counting hours until you finish a degree course or counting hours until you reach retirement age. It has within it the notion that the period will be relatively short. So not counting in minutes, or days or years, but hours. It might make sense in a project-sense, like a 6-week challenge, or revising for an exam, but for lifetime fluency it's nonsense.


This may be a key factor. I would not go so far as to call counting hours "meaningless", but while 5000 hours (as a random "big" number) of sufficiently varied audio content might be enough (/necessary) to have a very high level of listening comprehension*, you probably do ultimately need to interact with lots of native speakers in a large number of situations to get that psychological feeling of really being in the moment. Whether this is because your actual skills themselves are improving or if it's purely a psychological thing, I'm not sure. I would guess both, because there are certain kinds of situations that you just cannot encounter otherwise. Certainly not in situations where you can really measure how much time you're spending.

*"high level" in the sense that it is technically sufficient for almost all situations, but without that strong psychological feeling of control.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Le Baron » Fri May 26, 2023 3:04 pm

Adrianslont wrote:Regarding the Scottish video - much more difficult for me and I have had exposure to Scottish accents, including Glaswegian. The YouTube transcript is wild.]


Despite the terrible background noise, I caught all but one word of the William McKinley video. His economics trails far behind Lincoln's very modern grasp. Here's what I got from it:

My fellow citizens...recent events have imposed upon the patriotic people of this country a responsibility (word inaudible) greater than that of any since the civil war. Then it was a struggle to preserve the government of the United States, now it is a struggle to preserve the financial honour of the government. Our creed embraces an honest seller, an untarnished national credit and it puts revenues for the uses of the government; protection to labour and industry; preservation of the home market and reciprocity which will extend our foreign markets. Upon this platform we stand and submit each declaration to the sober and considerate judgement of the American people.

Apparently this is not McKinley at all, but a recreation recording made by another speaker in a studio in 1901. Yet it's still in the library of Congress as McKinley.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Sun May 28, 2023 3:50 am

Native English speaker here: I had virtually no problem with the Singaporeans. I think my experience with British English helped me here.

McKinley was harder. I think a lot of that was sound quality. If I could magically watch a video of him delivering his speech I think I would understand 100%.

The Glaswegian was hardest, but I know understood more than the average American. (I’ve watched Scottish movies that were subtitled for American audiences and I didn’t need the subtitles.) My five years living in London paid off, I understood at least 75%. The slang was a real problem.

I’m absolutely sure there are Englishes I can’t really understand. It’s such a massive global language after all.
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Re: Hours until native listening?

Postby Le Baron » Sun May 28, 2023 10:49 am

I just listened to the Glaswegian. It's completely comprehensible to me. There are some odd pronunciations, like when he says (from 0:59): 'my pal cracked him once, the guy hit the floor...'. I don't know where garyb or Cainntear are located, but I assume they'll understand this perfectly, because I'm from further down in Cumbria and I understand it. It should be noted that you encounter lots of Scottish people around the upper north of England and I went to school with some people who spoke like that.

One of our neighbours, Mr Blair (not Tony) spoke like that to his son when telling him to come indoors for a bath for the 10th time: 'Paul! Get yersel in noo! Afore ah crack yer heed!' :lol:
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