Listening trouble

Anyone else have as much trouble with listening to second languages as I do? It’s quite frustrating. I have a good memory, so vocabulary comes easy for me. Speaking comes quite naturally to me since I have a lot of motivation, resources, and techniques to speak a new language right away. The problem is that listening requires far more time rather than effort. I would say I’ve spent around 70% of my time listening to Portuguese (via Youtube videos or movies), while listening seems to be my weakest link. Sometimes I wonder if I should focus on what I’m good at and allow my comprehension skills to improve naturally over the years. The problem is that listening is such a crucial aspect of fluency and without an advanced level, it can create a major road block to my ability to converse with a native speaker.

I have the same problem. Right now I’m listening to audio I ripped off of youtube from videos about astronomy. I understand a whole lot but I just don’t get the whole picture yet. Just keep listening. You’ll never know enough words to understand without the listening practice.

I have a horrible time with listening. It seems to tire me out more than just about anything else related to language learning. I find it difficult to listen, even in Russian, without having a text. And youtube and the movies are some of the hardest things to understand

Obviously it depends on where you’re at in your language acquisition, and the content, and the speaker. My “known” words here is getting fairly high, but I share everyone’s pain when listening. Many bloggers on YouTube, however, are the easiest verbal material for me to understand. Many of them are not talking complicated subjects, of course. But even there it depends on the content and the speaker.

This video I was able to understand almost 100%: - YouTube

Whereas this guy is very hard for me to follow: Bad Science - YouTube

This guy is somewhere in between the two for my comprehension, but I find lots of his stuff very entertaining: TheBrianMaps - YouTube

This last channel, and some others, you’ll find, actually have “real” Russian subtitles on many videos, i.e., not auto-generated nonsense. That’s really useful.

An advantage of these bloggers is that their clips are usually not too long. And it seems that when watching a very interesting one I get so into the enjoyment that I stop stressing about the language and seem to understand more while trying less. The visuals aid understanding, of course, so missed words don’t matter as much (radio is the hardest!). I’ve got dozens of channels bookmarked (I don’t login, so don’t subscribe); there’s certainly no shortage of material.

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Absolutely! Listening comprehension is both the most important skill and the hardest to acquire. Just be patient! Also be aware that there are different levels of difficulty. Dircct face to face conversations tend to be easier than canned content or lectures. Movies are almost as difficult as it gets. Don’t forget, you’re using that content as training material, it’s not an exam. Don’t worry, keep going and you’ll improve.

When reading, you can stop and look up words and phrases which you don’t understand, but at the same time you are not being exposed to how those words actually sound, so that you may or may not be able to understand a word that you are already familiar with when you hear it.

When talking, your are engaged in a conversation which typically doesn’t require an expansive vocabulary and you always have the opportunity to ask the other person to speak more slowly and to ask questions if you don’t understand what they are saying.

But when listening to audio/video content, you more or less have to utilize all of your language comprehension skills at once.

To improve your listening skills, you might want to spend half your listening time listening to video with adequate subtitles (that is, fairly accurate matching subtitles in the target language) and the other half of your listening time testing your listening comprehension skills without subtitles.

When testing your listening comprehension, I suggest that you listen to online newscasts, interviews, or talk shows where there is more than one person speaking in any given segment.

The main problem with talk shows, however, is that, not only is everyone usually talking really fast, but in some cases it’s in a kind of “hyper speak” (I don’t know what the right term for that is) that is not found in everyday conversation and that is sometimes difficult for even native speakers to follow.

What I do to practice my listening skills is:

If I find part of a news broadcast or tv show particularly interesting and I feel that I can reasonably understand the content (as well the accents) and follow the gist of the conversation, then I will audio record a 3-5 minute segment.

I record .wav files through my computer’s stereo mix, then convert them to .mpg files.

I always assume that part of what I am listening to is above my level, but I’ve also reached a level where I can make out words and phrases — even if I don’t always know their meaning. This way, I’m always learning new content and building vocabulary.

Sometimes I slow the recording down to 80 percent or even as much as 50 percent, especially when I’m having trouble with a particular accent or a particularly fast speaker, but otherwise I try to listen at normal speed.

After listening two or three times, I transcribe all or part of the recording.

Then I submit my transcript to a native speaker and ask them to listen to the recording to determine whether I heard and transcribed it correctly, and to make corrections.

This way, I create my own content and listen to what I want to listen to.

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Has anyone else found that sometimes faster speach is easier to follow than slower? I’m not sure of the effect, but it seems that if there’s not time to mull each word and fully parse each construct, then it’s easier to avoid the mental translation trap.

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Yea. With Mandarin Chinese it was way easier to follow the fast spoken phrases than the deliberately slowed down, syllable by syllable pronunciation. Korean on the other hand…

It just requires lot and lots… and then some more patience. Listen passively without letting what you can’t understand frustrate you. Being able to fully understand real content at full speed just takes a long, long time to reach… but you’ll get there if you just stay the course.

yes if it clearly enunciated i think that is the biggest difficulty rather just speed many natives don’t enunciate their own languages when speaking in normal situations

Yes, enunciation, certainly. Also the accent, particularly if the target language has wide variations in pronunciation. We native English speakers know how hard it is to understand certain other populations of native English speakers.

Russian pronunciation doesn’t seem to vary nearly as much as English, though some speakers really like to trill those Rs and to accentuate hard consonants. Ukrainians and maybe Belorussians tend to pronounce G as H, but otherwise I find Ukrainian speakers of Russian easier to understand than many Russians.

I think in Belarusian G is pronounced kind of like a French R. It’s a fricative at the point of articulation of the G just like V is a fricative variant of B.

^^This, as well as what usabeliefieber said. Listening comes last often times. For me, unassisted Spanish movies is generally the toughest part, especially if they deal with subtext and implied meaning. Looking at your stats at LingQ, your word count is pretty low, especially for someone looking to tackle movies, YouTube, and things beyond simple exchanges, discussion, etc. You need lots of known words and hundreds of hours of listening. Try listening to the simpler content in the LingQ library, do more reading, and keep on going. it will come.