Listening from different 'angles' to raise your awareness

To maximize your learning when interacting with any given text (referring to both the audio and the script), it’s important to listen to and read it a number of times, paying attention to different aspects of it each time.

To this end, when I listen to a dialogue from ChinesePOD, I adhere to the following sequence:

  1. I listen to the dialogue without reading to attune my brain to the text aurally first.
  2. I listen to the text while reading along in English
  3. I listen to the text while reading the pinyin and occasionally looking at the English translation
  4. I listen to the text while only looking at the words in the vocabulary list
  5. I listen to the text again without reading
  6. *I repeat any of the above steps as necessary, time and interest permitting

Because none of the hundreds of dialogues from ChinesePOD are any longer than 2 minutes in length (even at the Upper Intermediate level), I can do all of these steps in relatively little time. Once you can understand most of a text without reading, it’s important to listen to it many times without reading - that is, your listening should always greatly outweigh your reading, so that your learning is primarily auditory. This is especially true for beginners with very little listening experience. In my experience, the opposite (that is, more reading than listening) will have a detrimental effect on your pronunciation.

When I want to listen for a long time and simply expose myself to a lot of vocab, I just load up my media player with a few hundred dialogues and listen to them without repeating while reading the English and pinyin script when necessary, which show up in the media window in Windows Media Player or iTunes, and on some mp3 players.

By following the above steps, you give your brain the chance to interact with the text from many different ‘angles’, thus greatly improving the learning experience.