Friday, April 27

Listening and Understanding

I wish I could remember the point in my life when I heard "don't touch that" and knew what it meant because I knew what the words "don't" "touch" and "that" meant. Of course we know based on the corrective tone and fierce look in our parents eyes. But when do we "get it"?
It reminds me of the classic Far Side comic:

Brendan over at Peeling Mandarin and Edwin at Tower of Confusion have both mentioned this. During one of my Practice phone calls I told Vera that I struggle to understand what I'm hearing in the Podcast dialogs. When I hear or read the words out of context I understand most of them.

It all points to something Steve Kaufmann has said was essential: tons of time spent listening to the target language. I admit that I neglect this, much to my chagrin. I believe part of it is laziness (just being honest!). The other part of it is lack of comprehension. My brain just hears it all like the dog in Gary Larson's comic. Sure there are words I understand from time to time but the rest is meaningless. But what really gets me is that if I stop and see a transcript from a lesson I know some of the words I was unable to distinguish when I was listening.

Now that I've stated my delima, I'm hoping that some fellow language enthusiasts will post about their experience in regards to comprehending their new language.


John B said...

It took me a long time to be able to just understand Chinese, and it came in stages. First I could understand fragments and try to fill in the rest, then I could figure out whole sentences (though sometimes not strictly in real-time), but only if I knew the topic. Finally I progressed to being able to pick up conversations in mid-course, and pretty much understanding everything that was being said to me.

I think you know the three keys to success already: practice, practice, and practice. Listening to things while you're reading the transcript, and then listening to them without the transcript, and then listening to them some more, should help.

I don't really remember when Chinese went from being a blur of sounds to being a series of words that I understood, but I know that it took a lot of practice.

Sorry, no shortcuts :)

Hell said...