I’ve just begun watching El Gran Hotel on Netflix, I can get some of what they’re saying without subtitles but it’s not enough to follow the plot. It’s not that the words or structures are too complicated, I can understand almost everything by reading the subtitles, and I only have to look up the odd word (so far), but they just speak too fast for me at the moment. Native speakers run words into other words, they slur sometimes (we all do this to some extent), they pronounce things less clearly (to a learner’s ear), they use slang etc.
The best thing about this show is that, so far, they don’t use much slang as it’s set in earlier times, it’s probably easier to follow for that reason. What I’ve found is that some people naturally speak slowly and clearly, you don’t really notice it in your own language because you’re an expert at understanding pretty much anything, however it’s said, but there are others who speak at a gazillion mph, running words into each other, and it just sounds like jibberish. Sometimes I can’t even separate and hear the words they’re saying after reading the subtitles and repeating the line over and over, it’s just a total blur of sounds.
I don’t really know how one would go about making a breakthrough with T.V shows by just listening, even if you know every word, it’s simply too difficult to catch it at full speed, unless you are at a very advanced level. What I’m doing at the moment is playing a scene, seeing if I can understand any of it, then skipping back, playing each line with the subtitles, pausing, playing it again, trying to comprehend it, then skipping back again and again until I feel I can hear and understand the words without the subtitles. I then move onto the next line and repeat this for the entire episode. Sometimes I can understand first time without the subtitles, and sometimes it’s just a tiny part of the sentence that I don’t hear, so it’s not quite as tedious as it sounds, but it’s hard work, no doubt about it.
I’m not really making any real effort to learn new words etc, I’m just trying to practice hearing and understanding the language as best I can when it’s spoken at full speed. I remember watching a video where Steve was saying that the biggest mistake people make is spending too much time in the beginner phase, and I think this applies to the early intermediate stage too. I’ve been guilty of this, I definitely spend too much time listening to slightly slowed down conversations aimed at learners. I think this has hindered my progress. I now believe that the way to practice listening to natural speech is to actually listen to it, and hopefully, in time, you’ll start to improve.
I’ll just say, I have no idea if what I’m doing is an efficient way to study, but it’s exposure if nothing else, and that’s probably the most important thing.