Is it worth the effort to listen to audio we don't yet understand?

Wrong side of the political spectrum, but I take your point.

Meant as a compliment, by the way :wink:


If anyone wants a taste of “Balko” go to…

…and click on “Vorschau” buttons to see clips. (Tip: “Kalte Rache” - you get to see a topless bird!)

You may regognize one of the guys from smaller roles he has had in films like “Lola Rennt” and “Casino Royale”

As much as I enjoy discussing rats’ piss as the next bloke (<-- I Briticised this sentence for the benefit of the audience) I’ll attempt to return this thread to its original topic. In Italian I brought my listening comprehension up to the point where I could listen to lightning fast talk radio through basically a two step process. The first “step” was amassing my vocabulary through basically reading and LingQing, I didn’t really listen to the audio portions at all. When I had a large enough vocabulary that I could read news articles and books without running into very many words I didn’t know, I started listening to talk radio (mainly Radio At first I was in the exact position as guitario, understanding individual words but not sentences. But I listened relentlessly for hours a day while driving and doing other things, confident that my lack of comprehension was not my lack of words but simply untrained ear. Within 3 weeks I was at 40% and after 3 months at 75%.

I agree that reading independently at LingQ can really increase our vocabulary and I am doing so in Czech, reading the Czech newspaper.

I do, however, find it useful to stream, on the computer or in iLingQ, listening to the audio while reading. And then try to listen without reading to the same content.

If I am listening to content where in theory I know a high percentage of the words, but just cannot make them out yet, then listening without understanding can be effective, at least in my experience. We will gradually make out more and more of these words and pick up some othes.

However, you do have to read, in my view, to get the words. Odiernod’s method would work for me.

When someone is starting out - for sure you need texts. I would agree 100% with that.

But after getting a fair toe-hold in the language, that’s when I would start going AWOL from LingQ and doing live TV or radio.

Odiernod: “…I listened relentlessly for hours a day while driving and doing other things, confident that my lack of comprehension was not my lack of words but simply untrained ear. Within 3 weeks I was at 40% and after 3 months at 75%.”

My experience exactly.

Not my experience because I didn’t do it this way - i.e. ramp up vocabulary first before doing lots of listening. However, I’m sure this approach would work for me. Looking at your profile, guitario, (3200 German words known) I had assumed your vocabulary wasn’t that advanced so this didn’t apply. If this isn’t the case (i.e. your vocab is more advanced than your LingQ stats suggest) then I’d just carry on what you’re doing as per Odiernod and Jay !

Lately I’ve been reading lots of novels in French, underlining words/phrases I don’t know and looking them up in online dictionaries, writing the meaning in the margin. This has helped to really boost my French vocabulary, as well as obviously increase my reading fluency. I notice the benefit to my listening skills, as new words pop out at me which helps eek out a few more % of listening comprehension.

I agree mostly with Steve here. I find it’s not much effective to listen to content, where I understand less than let’s say 75% (especially, if I don’t have the transcripts). On the other hand, when I started to learn Russian, I learned a lot of words watching dubbed movies and series (which I already knew very good in German or English) in Russian TV.

@JayB: Beim Fernsehen stimme ich Vera zu. Harald Schmidt hat für Sender wie RTL, SAT1 und RTLII mal den Begrifff “Unterschichtenfernsehen” geprägt. :wink: PS: Natürlich würde ich dich da nicht dazuzählen.

Some science might be a better way to progress this conversation.

" ( – The teaching of languages could be revolutionised following ground-breaking research by Victoria University, New Zealand, PhD graduate Paul Sulzberger. Dr Sulzberger has found that the best way to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns–even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

“However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical. A lot of language teachers may not accept that,” he says.

“Our ability to learn new words is directly related to how often we have been exposed to the particular combinations of the sounds which make up the words. If you want to learn Spanish, for example, frequently listening to a Spanish language radio station on the internet will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language and learn new words.”

Dr Sulzberger’s research challenges existing language learning theory. His main hypothesis is that simply listening to a new language sets up the structures in the brain required to learn the words.

“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language—which is how babies learn their first language,” Dr Sulzberger says. "


As a side comment, I understand that Steve strongly advocates listening and reading - but Steve has also previously commented that he credits listening to xiangsheng (even though he didn’t understand a lot of it) with greatly helping his Chinese. Julian Gaudfroy has made similar comments.

At some stage you need to get comprehension through reading and conversing. But just listening even if you don’t understand is not a bad thing (and this is backed by the science).

I’m not so sure. LingQ member Keith did an experiment not so long ago whereby he watched 2000 hours of Chinese TV over a two-year period and then undertook a Skype video with a native Chinese person. He started from no knowledge of the language and, while he had certainly made improvements (especially with his accent according to some of the accounts I read), it was not the progress I would hope for or expect after investing 2000 hours of my life.

I think Keith has a blog on this and there was a big thread here at LingQ at the time, but I don’t have the links.

My, totally unscientific, observation regarding “after all, that’s how babies learn”, my granddaughters certainly did not learn their respective languages simply by listening. The gradual getting to know their world allowed them to give meaning to the sounds surrounding them.

I, too, do my share of listening beyond my comprehension, but I also read an awful lot. Listening alone would not be of any use to my style of learning.

Jamie, listening and never having any way to gain comprehension is not what is being advocated.

Sulzberger highlights that listening even when you don’t understand has benefits. I’m not sure how anyone could not consider this natural and normal. We all learnt our native language this way.

Remember that babies have some context with their language learning. You wave a cup at them and say “cup”, even if you then riff on that and say “What a nice cup! Look at all the bunnies on the cup!” As a result the baby learns “cup” = drinking device, and also hears a lot of sound patterns.

„Beim Fernsehen stimme ich Vera zu. Harald Schmidt hat für Sender wie RTL, SAT1 und RTLII mal den Begrifff “Unterschichtenfernsehen” geprägt. :wink: PS: Natürlich würde ich dich da nicht dazuzählen.“

Hmm… Eigentlich müsste meine erste Frage lauten: wer iss’n Harald Schmidt!? Aber dann kämmest du wohl erst recht auf die Idee, ich sei ein Prolet von der Unterschicht! :slight_smile:

Und dabei hättest du vielleicht nicht so Unrecht? Ich wurde zwar von Spießern erzeugt, erzogen und ausgebildet, bin aber im Herzen ein wahrer Rowdy – sozusagen einer, der Bier trinkt, Krawall schlägt und Nutten vögelt!
(Okay, das mit den Nutten vielleicht nicht, aber du verstehst schon, was ich meine, nicht?)

Ja, ich gebe es zu: ich habe damals unzählige Stunden vor dem Ferseher verbracht! Ich kenne mich aus mit „GZSZ“ und „Unter Uns“; ich habe (außer „Balko“ und „Die Wache“) praktisch alle Folgen von „Alarm für Cobra 11“ gesehen!

Nein, ich dachte NICHT, dass es sich bei „Das Strafgericht“ um wahre Prozesse handeln würde…ich bin doch nicht dumm! (Naja, gut, ein PAAR Sendungen hat es vielleicht gedauert, bis ich’s begriffen habe…!)

Ein bisschen Zeit habe ich natürlich auch im Vorlesungsaal verbracht damals. Aber weißt du was ich ganz witzig finde, Sebastian? Von diesen Scheissvorlesungen kann ich mich jetzt an nichts erinnern – wirklich kein einziges Wort.

Doch diese dummen Unterschichtssendungen – die bleiben im Kopf.

“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language—which is how babies learn their first language”. - I think this comment is a bit misleading.

As adults (or at least in my case) we don’t really pay much attention if we don’t understand anything or if there isn’t any real need to communicate. If we don’t pay any attention, we might as well be listening in our sleep. Babies and infants do pay attention. And they learn from contexts that are meaningful to them at the time, be it in the sandpit or in the playground or whatever. My view is: the more we pay attention, the more we get out of it. If we understand 20%, and we tune out for 80% (although in reality it’s probably much more than this) of what was said, progress will be slow. I think you’d need to have the focussing ability of a Shaolin Monk to listen attentively (not tune out) to 100s of hours of Radio or TV where you only understand 10% or 20%, and when you have no need to communicate in the given language.

iaing, I credit listening to the Xiangsheng for helping me with tones in Chinese. Furthermore I listened to these at a point where I had a lot of vocabulary but was not always able to pick out the words when listening. The more I listened, the better I understood. I knew enough words so that I had a chance of understanding, although I did not always understand.

It may be true that just listening to unintelligible language content can help you. I have heard others claim that it does. I think it is a matter of what we like to do.

I cannot just play Czech on the hifi system around the house as background noise. My wife would not go for it, and I would not want it. Even now when I listen to Radio Prague, I much prefer to stream it a few times on the computer or on iLingQ before I listen, so I have a chance of understanding it. I do not like listening to unintelligible content in the car, while doing the dishes and all the other places where I listen to more or less intelligible language content.

I think you would need a lot, and I mean a lot, of exposure to unintelligible content for it to help. I would rather spend my listening time with content I have a chance of understanding.

Remember, in my case the language isn’t totally unintelligible. I recognise a lot of words and I can obviously hear a clear gap between every spoken word. It is not a slur by any means. To my ears it sounds almost exactly like English… just English I have trouble following. (in my opinion German and English are very similar in spelling style and pronunciation)

I understand that if I was to just suddenly start listening to Greek without knowing any words, then I may not be much better after 6 months of it. Thing is, my ears are tuned in to the language but the problem I have is that the words are spoken too quickly for my brain, and I can’t make sense of the words that are being thrown at me.

My word count at LingQ is only about 2300 or so but while my vocab is not extensive, I do know a lot of ‘everyday’ words passively.

I think that’s exactly right, Guitario.

(If you were a square-one’er, I wouldn’t be suggesting TV or radio - but you already have a pretty solid base on which to build.)

Guitario asked a question earlier and I don’t think anybody answered it: AJATT is an acronym for a website: All Japanese All The Time. It’s well worth taking the time to check it out. Khatzumoto has a lot of good ideas about language learning on his site.

But regarding Guitario’s main question: Go for it. Is video alone an efficient way to learn a language? Not really, it will take quite awhile, but if you don’t have exams or some other pressing need to learn German faster, who cares? Life is short and if you are learning a language for fun, go for the fun stuff. You may decide that you want to try other ways of learning later on or you may not. It doesn’t matter. You are the only one to judge whether you are doing the right thing.

But as I said yesterday I am very lazy about my language learning.

Any language learning approach which tries to follow one single technique, is doomed to fail. That’s my experience.

Watching movies, from zero knowledge, has taken me to a broad passive ability in a language, several times. I do trust this approach. But alone, it’s pointless. With other techniques, it’s excellent though,