1000 hrs listening - listen to what exactly?

When we talk about the first thousand hours of listening, what is actually meant? As I understood that concept it means the brain needs around that amount of time to capture the sounds, rhythm and intonation in order to lay a proper foundation which contains the patterns of the new language. Is that right? If this is the case, does it mean that listening to the target language passively (for example radio) will be valuable too, even though one might not understand much initially, ie the brain is just getting used to the sound of it?

Passively listening at first may condition the brain to the sounds of a new language. However, in my own case, I wasted three or four hundred hours passively listening to podcasts and watching TV and movies in French without any script to follow. If listening comprehension be measured on a scale of 100, 100 being total comprehension, then 300 hours of passive listening helped improve my French listening skills no more than 5 points. No matter how often I repeated listening to anything.

Once I realized that I was never going to experience a “break through” and that, at that rate, I was going to need three or four lifetimes to understand spoken French, I stopped listening passively, including listening to my MP3 player while doing mindless chores. I went back to the more painstaking method of listening, listening while reading, and repeating.

I also made sure I started to listen almost exclusively to my level of comprehension, which, even after some 700 hours of listening, is stuck at Intermediate 1.

My two cents.

Well here is my two cents. @ donhamiltontz, I agree with you completely. I’m a big fan of comprehensible input and listening to something you don’t understand is just noise. I’m at a beginner 1 level in German, getting close to level 2 and am progressing doing things I don’t like, as I don’t really enjoy the material(don’t hate it though, just something I would never read), but I know its important to get to the next level, where I can learn more interesting stuff. It is really important to understand what your reading and listening to. For me I take what I’m doing right now, the beginner stuff and learning some grammar, as a necessary evil like lifting weights if you want to get stronger. I don’t like lifting weights but I like the results.

I like to keep a mixture of German listening material in my iPod. On the one hand I have the sound files from Lingq material that I have already gone over or are currently working through, and on the other hand I like regular radio pod-casts (Kuchen Radio is fun). Typically I listen to stuff that is quite high level, despite my vocab being quite limited (nearly at 5000 now). At the moment I am listening to GEO radio programs for example. The reason is that the ‘harder’ material is also simply natural material, not made specifically for beginners. The more artificial easier stuff was necessary when I had no comprehension at all, but already now at high-beginner, low-intermediate, I prefer to listen repeatedly to so called ‘advanced’ material. After a half dozen listens I am picking out quite a lot.

I agree with don about the pointlessness of listening to things you can’t understand at all, but I don’t advocate forcing yourself to listen to things near your level if you are not interested in it. If your comprehension is near zero and you are simply blocking it out, then it is not a very good investment of your time. However even if your comprehension is partial (say less then half), if the topic is of interest to you it is easy to be more alert and notice lots of patterns.

There is also a difference between lack of comprehension because of limited vocabulary, and lack of comprehension because of speed. If your problem is more of the second variety, then lots and lots of listening is very effective. With Japanese I started listening to regular radio programs all day long in 2010 when I still only had perhaps thirty percent or less comprehension of what I was hearing. I was also studying at the same time of course, but my vocabulary was still short of advanced. Within a few months of near full time listening I reached perhaps 90 percent comprehension of radio/TV. This is that epiphany moment Lucas talks about. I note that this finally happened after seven years of poor methods and attempts to study my way to understanding.

A few relevant articles. ^^



I recommend listening to comprehensible input. That means material where you can follow the plot, even if the details often escape you.

I’ve done about 1100 hours of Russian listening, mostly to audiobooks where I also study the text on LingQ. I can understand the main points of native level podcasts now, although not the fine detail, as long as they are speaking clearly.

I try to focus on listening to content where I understand at least 50% of it, and where I have access to the transcript. I am not a fan of listening to content that I do not understand. But some people like doing this.

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When I was a child, I used to listen to news in English, in Chinese, etc for many hours without understanding them or when I was in Paris, I used to watch many programs of TV without subtitles almost every day, but it did not really help me improve my listening skills. I’m still poor at speaking foreign languages.
In fact, although passively listening at first may condition the brain to the sounds of a new language, it will be difficult to figure out what happens without real contexts especially when listening to relatively complex topics of natural resources such as news, interview programs, talk shows, etc. We need a certain context (or a certain cultural knowledge, grammatical knowledge is also helpful…) in order to understand the topics. So picking up key words as well as social or cultural contexts while listening to random topics is also important.
Listening and reading or analyzing texts is one of solutions to improve listening skills. LingQ is a very good tool to help us do such activities.

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I met a lady from Mexico living in Arizona and she told me that she learned English totally by watching television. I don’t know how many years it took her to learn.