Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

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Cavesa
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Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby Cavesa » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:07 pm

I really hope this short video is not geoblocked:

https://www.televizeseznam.cz/video/jak ... t-63956061

Foreign musicians were singing Czech songs. One completely failed and probably hadn't even tried. Most fought well, with better or worse results, and music usually superior to pronunciation (which had been expected). I didn't find the opera singer that interesting though, because Rusalka (and other Czech operas) actually get sung by foreigners, unlike the popular genres. So, my expectations may have been too high for that singer. One musician excelled.

Marco, a brazilian musician, succeeded completely. He is easy to understand and would be the star of any campfire singing with this performance (which is the appropriate setting, in which his chosen song is usually sang. Everybody around such a campfire will know it).

His recipe: He had played the song just six times (or perhaps the video recording was the sixth time). But he had put it on repeat and played it like a hundred times!

So, listening clearly leads to huge improvements in speaking, including pronunciation. It is a beautiful example of how wrong is the "you only improve speaking by speaking" attitude. Sure, each attitude may fit a different learner, but dismissing the "I learn to speak by listening a lot" attitude is simply unwise and without reason.
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mentecuerpo
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby mentecuerpo » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:02 pm

Cavesa wrote:I really hope this short video is not geoblocked:

https://www.televizeseznam.cz/video/jak ... t-63956061


Thanks for sharing and for your observations.

Just to give you feedback about the geographic block, I was able to watch the video from, Miami, USA. I had to watch a short ad before the video clip, for a well known brand of shampoo, featuring soccer players.

I really admire opera singers who have to switch from Italian to German, French or Spanish. Amazing guys and divas, my respect to those singers. I am sure many have a passion for language learning and speak more than one.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby iguanamon » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:24 pm

Cavesa wrote: recording was the sixth time)... listening clearly leads to huge improvements in speaking, including pronunciation. It is a beautiful example of how wrong is the "you only improve speaking by speaking" attitude. Sure, each attitude may fit a different learner, but dismissing the "I learn to speak by listening a lot" attitude is simply unwise and without reason.

Another excellent post by Cavesa, I wholeheartedly agree. Each skill reinforces the other. I would also add that course audio is not sufficient to train listening. This is a good time to remind people of leosmith's post Listening Is Everything to a polyglot
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:07 am

The video played here in Texas, too.
I sing along to a song I like, and if I really like it, I sing along many, many times. But I have done this only with songs in English. And I could see myself doing that with songs in Spanish. In French, I am not sure. There are songs in French that I like, but they don't really engage me.
Maybe learners like me who have trouble hearing and understanding words should listen to a TV episode in the target language not once or twice but dozens of times. With a transcript, of course, otherwise it might be an exercise in frustration. But even if I understood the dialogue, how long would it take before I started to go batty. Maybe it would have to be memorable or funny lines from a great play.
I also wonder whether these singers, or let's just say the Brazilian fellow, I wonder if he heard a conversation in Czech that included some of the words in the song, could he recognize the word when he heard it?
Anyway, thanks for the post.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby sporedandroid » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:20 am

I usually listen to very short clips a bunch of times in a row to boost my listening comprehension. It will probably drive most people crazy, but I like this method because it’s easy and it works.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby Lianne » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:54 am

I don't know whether the Samoan guy had good pronunciation or not, but I definitely loved his performance!

It would be interesting to see something like this in English, so I would actually be able to hear the differences. Of course I constantly hear people speak English with accents, but there aren't many opportunities to hear people who don't speak English try to pronounce it. (Notable exception: Bela Lugosi didn't know English yet when he first started acting in American movies, so he literally learned his lines phonetically, and I will never not be amazed by this.)

I definitely agree on the importance of listening to pronunciation. I don't really get all that much speaking practice, but when I'm doing a lot of listening practice, I'll notice my pronunciation getting better in subtle ways when I do say things aloud (mostly talking to myself while doing Duolingo). Lately I've even noticed my Rs getting closer to the modern standard rather than my usual trill, which I didn't think would ever happen.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby Cavesa » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:40 pm

I'm glad you like it and that it's accessible worldwide!

I'd say one of the interesting things about this video is the fact Czech had been completely new for everybody (except the opera singer perhaps). With many other languages, people have some previous experience from school, failed learning attempts, and so on. Which changes the results of such an experiment.

The opera is a special case. I have higher expectations there, because Czech is actually one of the languages that get sung from time to time (and a usual opera singer will have experience with Italian and German, which are less different from Czech than English is). It is even weird, that a few syllables in the aria in this video are now normally sung in a more German way, and a Czech actually speaking it correctly (which is not technically possible for everybody and actually shows a skill) is perceived as wrong :-D I may have had too high expectations here, so that's why I'm not too impressed by the opera singer, compared to the rest.

I'd agree with a lot of what was said about listening to short clips or relistening th the tv series episodes. I just find all this extremely hard to stick to, it sucks all the fun out of it. The songs are the only exception, and that's one of the reasons why I find them so special and valuable. Sure, not every song will help with pronunciation similarly to normally spoken audio, but there are fortunately millions of songs to choose from.

The Samoan guy: I liked his performance, the music was clearly interesting. Might be interesting to see more songs taken from the original context and redone in a different style. It happens to some English songs, rarely to others, so it's fascinating to see a Czech song transformed this way. His pronunciation was a good attempt within the range of what had been expected. (I should have said that the video is part of an amusing series presenting the impressions of the Czech culture as seen by a mix of foreigners. I've seen a few episodes and this is the one that really caught my attention).
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby Cainntear » Mon Sep 09, 2019 2:59 pm

Cavesa wrote:His recipe: He had played the song just six times (or perhaps the video recording was the sixth time). But he had put it on repeat and played it like a hundred times!

So, listening clearly leads to huge improvements in speaking, including pronunciation. It is a beautiful example of how wrong is the "you only improve speaking by speaking" attitude. Sure, each attitude may fit a different learner, but dismissing the "I learn to speak by listening a lot" attitude is simply unwise and without reason.

You've overgeneralised here, in two ways.

First up, he is not "speaking". We cannot say for sure that his mimicry of sounds is necessarily using the linguistic processes of the brain -- this may be relying on other skills (like music, for instance).

Secondly, this is not "listening" in a broad sense, it's a particular technique of listening to something he already knows more of less how to say. I remember seeing a study a few years back that found that listening to a piece of music for 15 minutes after physically practicing it led to improvement in playing, but listening to it for 15 minutes before physical practice didn't have the same effect. i.e. listening to something you have just played reactivates and reinforces the memory traces you formed while playing it, but you don't get that almost-physical practice if you haven't just played it.

There's something fundamentally different about listening to something you know and something you don't. Personally, I tend to find myself listening obsessively to a small number of music CDs in languages I'm actively learning. I also find that learning to sing a couple of songs on an album makes it far easier to understand not only those particular songs (obviously) but also other songs by the same singer.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby DaraghM » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:10 am

As a slightly crazy experiment, I listened to about 100 hours of Romanian radio, but without studying any Romanian. The results could be summed up as follows.

0 to 10 hours – No idea what’s been said. Just a stream of random noises, with what sounds like some proper nouns (people, place names).
10 to 30 hours – Romanian syllables start to become distinct, as well as word boundaries. A lot of proper nouns become distinct, as do some cognates to other Romance languages.
30 to 70 hours – Word boundaries, and clauses, become more distinct. Grammar starts to appear, as the definite article appears to be a word ending. Greetings, fillers, and a number of conjugations become memorable.
70 to 100 hours – A sense of Romanian spelling starts, based on recognising a large number of proper nouns and cognates. A vague sense of the case system starts to become apparent.

As a language learning strategy, it’s quite inefficient. I kept wanting to check up words, and find out grammar points. It helped when I was in Bucharest with pronouncing menu items and place names, but I had no conversational ability. I could partially understand what was been said though. Oddly, I ended up speaking a bit of Romanian back home, during a haircut, with a Moldovan woman, who had absolutely no English.
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Re: Listening as the key to pronunciation-a practical example

Postby Cavesa » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:18 am

Cainntear wrote:You've overgeneralised here, in two ways.

First up, he is not "speaking". We cannot say for sure that his mimicry of sounds is necessarily using the linguistic processes of the brain -- this may be relying on other skills (like music, for instance).

Secondly, this is not "listening" in a broad sense, it's a particular technique of listening to something he already knows more of less how to say. I remember seeing a study a few years back that found that listening to a piece of music for 15 minutes after physically practicing it led to improvement in playing, but listening to it for 15 minutes before physical practice didn't have the same effect. i.e. listening to something you have just played reactivates and reinforces the memory traces you formed while playing it, but you don't get that almost-physical practice if you haven't just played it.

There's something fundamentally different about listening to something you know and something you don't. Personally, I tend to find myself listening obsessively to a small number of music CDs in languages I'm actively learning. I also find that learning to sing a couple of songs on an album makes it far easier to understand not only those particular songs (obviously) but also other songs by the same singer.


I am not sure what are we supposed to disagree on here. :-D

Relying on other skills, such as music, is a problem in language learning? Isn't musical talent considered an advantage for the pronunciation? Yes, speaking and singing is different, but these two things are connected. My singing classes improved my Italian and German pronunciation a lot actually, it's not as if you were using a completely unrelated part of brain that shuts off outside of music practice. (And did the study you mention also focus on how much time have the musicians spent listening further away from practicing? You know, normally during their day. It is one of the things that is recommended in music classes and I found it very helpful) At the end of the post, you speak about the value of music, sure, but mostly in the sense of listening comprehension practice, or at least it seems so to me. But this thread is just about pronunciation. The singer may know absolutely nothing about the lyrics, but his pronunciation is great.

This is not listening in a broad sense, sure, but he has learnt to perform very good Czech pronunciation on the sample he was assigned. It is simply obvious, that lots of listening are the difference between him and the rest of the participants, who were all several levels bellow him, as far as the pronunciation is concerned.

I don't know, where do you see the overgeneralisation. Listening improves pronunciation. The more, the better.
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