Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

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MorkTheFiddle
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:50 pm

My eyes glaze over reading a study of studies like this (no offense intended to NoManches). So often, as here, vast generalizations are made from studies that have never been replicated. Like that study of 2-minute listening sessions. One study? Seriously? (To be fair, the experimenters themselves perhaps did not do any generalizing.)

Anyway, the null hypothesis of such an endeavor would be something like, “No one ever learned a language from TV input alone.” I was going to say that Herr Mutzik, my first German professor, told us he learned English in his native Germany by watching American GI movies after WW2 (well, okay, that was not TV). It was a long time, he admitted, before he understood what “Cheese is Christ” meant. But even in this forum enough people have come forward offering examples of people learning a language from TV.

Null hypothesis disproved.

To the experimenters I say, please stop spending money to pad your CVs with all these dubious language studies and use it instead to prepare useful subtitles in the original language of movies and TV shows and transcripts as well in the original language. Then host them on a web site that is not a minefield of ads and malware. THAT's what will help language students.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Cavesa » Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:53 pm

The problem is the author being a langauge teacher and most of them simply cannot support activities not requiring their presence. They need students to need them in order to survive. (And they need students not to progress too fast, so that they pay for more semesters.). It is pretty clear in parts like "Although ditching subtitles is a good start, we should remember that the listening exercises in the above studies are accompanied by some level of instruction. Unfamiliar words and phrases may have been explained ahead to time to ensure that students can comprehend the speech they were given. This is important because if we were to just sit down to watch a film, we very well may just let top-down processing kick in and rely on visuals to fill in our comprehension gaps." As most teachers, he simply cannot admit that lots of natural input could be much more valuable then his help.

I wonder whether the teacher-author has ever learnt a foreign language. I suppose he is monolingual, therefore not completely qualified to teach a foreign language in my opinion. How comes it is not a normal prerequisite? He writes about stuff he has absolutely no experience with. Oh, he knows other languages, I see it now in "about". Weird.

All the teachers I have experienced, including the otherwise good ones, were all for intensive activities and more or less against the extensive ones. And they were all wrong. If I was the only one with such experience, it would be a worthless anecdote. But I am by far not. Yeah, sure, living and studying fully in Spanish for a month or fully in French for half a year (and the C2 exam), all that are no proofs, just false confidence based on video clues :-D

I agree with the problems mentioned in this thread and there are more.
-GoT is hard for intermediate learners. Both the series and the books.
-in the part "Definitions", the author clearly proves his attachment to the "fact" that comprehension is based on analysis. No, you don't need to dissect everything all the time. And you shouldn't, unless you want to get stuck at that level.
-"So why not listen to just BBC news to improve English listening?" Because we want to talk about more stuff than just the news. Because news use a very limited part of the language. Because the situation of one speaker clearly describing facts is not natural, life is about dialogues, about other sounds blurring the speech a bit, about a mix of standard and colloquial language.
-too small samples. He compares intensive listening to tiny 2 minute long bits to small amounts of extensive listening. Small amounts of extensive activities are quite useless, the whole point is the amount of devoured input. It's like comparing two runners and cutting one's leg off before the race.

In the conclusion, he admits that the students may learn a few words from the tv series and it is better than nothing. How generous. I pity his students, who probably give up on the most valuable method because of his ignorance. Instead of supporting tons and tons of input, this person damages the students by discouraging them.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Elexi » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:16 pm

I've done lots of intensive listening by ripping French Buffy, Dr Who and Game of Thrones episodes to audio and then breaking them down into scenes. With the Hynoseries transcripts, it is possible to do exactly what the author says. I find such short bursts of study without visual context to be very useful at picking up speed of comprehension.

But I have also just watched and hoped - and used the visual/theatrical context to infer meaning. That trains another skill - one that is also part of regular language processing - even in one's own native language.

I wouldn't write off his point about audio only intensive listening - on the contrary, I think doing it is useful. But I think the author also poo-poos the effectiveness of extensive, contextual learning a tad too much.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby DaveBee » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:04 pm

Elexi wrote:I've done lots of intensive listening by ripping French Buffy, Dr Who and Game of Thrones episodes to audio and then breaking them down into scenes. With the Hynoseries transcripts, it is possible to do exactly what the author says. I find such short bursts of study without visual context to be very useful at picking up speed of comprehension.
I've started this in the past, then dropped it instantly when text and audio didn't match perfectly. I shall have to try again, and give it more of a chance.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Elexi » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:08 pm

The Hypnoseries transcripts I have used usually do match - well worth a look.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby DaveBee » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:08 pm

Elexi wrote:The Hypnoseries transcripts I have used usually do match - well worth a look.
I tried with a radio adaption of Romeo and Juliette paired with a wikisource script, then a french dub of the 1968 Lion in Winter film paired with the english language stage play text, so some differences should have been expected :-)
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby NoManches » Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:10 am

I really enjoy reading these responses!

I'd be lying if I told you that I posted this link with no desire for everyone to reassure me of how much television can help with language learning. After reading some of the responses I just got motivation to binge watch as many shows as I possibly can on Netflix.

The author did present some information that sounded legitimate and I'm glad that people were able to counter it with personal experiences. 8-)
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby Serpent » Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:25 am

smallwhite wrote:
emk wrote:
Laboriously deciphering 2-minute clips...
TV series..

Both sound like torture. I need a third option :|

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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby s_allard » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:16 am

I read the original article and tend to agree with the author. But first, I must disagree with the title of the thread. There is no case against TV. The author is not saying that watching a lot of TV in the target language is bad or ineffective. What he says is:
Students need input. The more, the better. However, despite the importance of top-down comprehension, we cannot neglect bottom-up listening skills. Even though we may feel that watching native-language television and movies is an enjoyable way to gain exposure to natural language, depending on the listener’s fundamental linguistic skills, the bulk of speech may never move from input to intake.

What the author does suggest is that periods of intensive study of short segments of audio only are an optimal way to increment true comprehension skills. The operative word here is optimal. I would say the most efficient. So, binge-watching 20 hours of your favorite series with or without subtitles may be very enjoyable - and you will learn something. But in terms of actually improving listening comprehension, a complementary approach might be something along the lines of working systematically and repetitively on a couple of short segments.

This approach is more bottom-up, meaning that it concentrates on looking at the individual words and grammatical details, as opposed to the top-down approach of simply watching the program with all the visual and contextual clues. My individual take on the author's suggestion is a bit different. It involves the following steps:

1. Make transcripts of short segments (2 - 5 minutes) of recordings representing desired kinds of speech. This kind of detailed work is very useful because one is forced to repetitively listen to the recording in order to decipher what is being said. Often one will need the help of a tutor or a native speaker to understand what was actually said. This is also good practice in writing and spelling.
2. Review and research any major elements of grammar and vocabulary. A tutor here may be very useful.
3. Listen to this segment a few times with and without the transcript. My rule of thumb is at least 12 times.
4. Shadow the recording to develop prosody and fluency.

In a short while, it is easy to have a dozen 5-minute segments with a variety of voices, accents, topics and speaking styles. Repeatedly listening of these recordings will, in my opinion, provide a very significant boost in listening comprehension that will make that extensive TV watching all the more enjoyable.

Part of the reasoning behind this approach is that speech is highly redundant linguistically. One episode of a television series will most likely contain all of the grammar and a good part of the vocabulary of all the episodes. Therefore there is something to be said for studying systematically just one episode in detail, especially if one has access to a native speaker.

I have found that watching videos with a native speaker is a very enlightening experience. My question is always: Am I understanding this program like a native speaker would? The answer is always no. There are definitely very different ways of understanding, especially for humor and regional accents.

Spoken speech is highly idiomatic. There can be different levels of meanings and usage of formulaic language that initially escape the non-native.

So, somewhat along the line of what the author of the article suggests, I believe in the didactic value of working intensively with a variety of short recordings in the target language all the while enjoying lots of TV input.
Last edited by s_allard on Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Listening vs Comprehension (and the case against TV) [interesting article]

Postby aaleks » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:30 am

The problem with some “effective” methods is that if you get bored when you are using it there will be no effectiveness at all. It happens often enough that people just stop to study a language because they couldn’t overcome that boredom.

In the beginning I used podcasts and also I worked with subtitles and re-watched one episode several times (a whole episode). Now it is just series and news online. The most progress in listening I made by binge-watching series.

And, IMHO, the 2-minutes-audio approach never gets you anywhere close to a native speaker understanding. It only will make the road longer. I wrote “close” not just “native speaker understanding” because I don’t think it is possible for someone to acquire that level of understanding without living in the language environment. I have no trouble to understand an idiomatic language of English-language series, but it seems there always will be a thin invisible layer of “foreignness”.
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