Saturation helps language learners

I’ve always been a fan of listening to foreign languages even if I don’t understand a word, I think it’s fun. So, it seems that I might have not just wasted my time :slight_smile:

It would be interesting to know some details. How much time yields how much progress? Is casual listening as effective as intensive listening? Does the effectiveness of listening vary according to how “different” the new language is than the learned language? And, of course, how valid and reliable are Dr. Sulzberger’s conclusions?

I think it is a matter of what we like to do. I do not enjoy listening to foreign language content that I do not understand. I do not feel that I gain much from doing this. However, for people who enjoy doing it, it may be of benefit, although I doubt that it is as beneficial as listening to content that you partly or mostly understand.

I’ve read that it takes about 1500 hours of listening before you can really distinguish the words of a language in most real-life situations. Unless you spend that 1500 hours listening to meaningful content, I believe that although helpful to developing your listening skills, you are essentially wasting time because you could have been to learning content and developing listening skills at the same time.

I don’t know what the 1500 hours refers to but if we can read and study the text of what we are listening to, I would think that much less time is needed in order to distinguish the words.

If I put in an hour a day, most days, then I have only 30 hours or so a month. Usually I can distinguish the words quite quickly, within 3-4 months, or one hundred hours or so. The problem is learning the meaning of the words, in other words acquiring the vocabulary. That takes longer. Still with one year of listening, reading and LingQ one can make considerable progress toward fluency. That has been experience.

Not endorsing and necessarily agreeing with everything Bernd Sebastian Kamps says, but he explains the 1500 hours as:

Have you recently listened to people speaking unfamiliar
languages? If you haven’t, turn on your TV set or go down
onto the streets and spot groups of animated people speaking
foreign languages. Listen attentively. You will soon notice
that humans produce continuous streams of uninterrupted
speech. The overall impression? Phonological porridge,
polenta, bouillie.

A porridge-like sense of unintelligibility prevails even
after years of language classes at school. You are able to
decipher a restaurant menu and order a dish of spaghetti, but
comprehension vanishes as soon as the waiter starts talking.
The same happens with taxi drivers and hotel employees –
again polenta and pea soup. Many of us conclude that we are
inept at learning other languages and never try again.
Speech comprehension is a triple challenge: slicing
speech into words (“Where do single words begin; where do
they end?”), endowing them with meaning by matching them
with thousands of words stored in your word brain, and,
finally, doing all this in real-time without giving it a second
thought.

There is only one way to meet the challenge: continuous
exposure to human language. Fortunately, babbling humans
produce 10,000 words and more in a single hour. Even
though, it will take between 1,000 to 2,000 hours of intense
listening to achieve ‘semi-perfect sequencing abilities’.

http://www.thewordbrain.com/thewordbrain_shortedition.pdf

I had a quick look at the summary of his book. He says a lot of the things that we do at LingQ. The main issue in language learning is words. acquiring lots of words, and mostly, in my view, passively. Understanding what native speakers are saying is the base from which all the rest flows, in my view. Hence LingQ. However, 1,500 hours of listening is not necessary in order to understand quite a bit, but it is necessary if we want to be fluent.