Posted on | March 5, 2007 | 10 Comments
“You need at least 400 hours of ‘effective listening’.”
This was an advice given to me by an advanced French learner in regard to improving my listening. After pondering the meaning of ‘effective listening’ for a while, I found it more fascinating to think about ‘ineffective listening’.
I have been spending most of my time for my French study engaging in repeated listening exercises. According to my iTunes log, my most played French clip has been played 53 times. Imagine how much time can potentially be wasted if I am not doing it in an ‘effective’ way. Eliminating the ineffective elements thus becomes crucial in speeding up my learning progress.
I have identified 3 common mistakes contributing to ineffectiveness that we should avoid when engaging in listening exercises.
1) Repeatedly listening to materials that you don’t understand
When trying to make a sense out of a piece of material by repeatedly listening to it, I don’t think we can get anymore out of it after 3 or 4 times of listening without additional aids. What we understand remains understood, and what we don’t understand remains incomprehensible. Any additional listening attempt is considered to be ‘ineffective’.
Remember, after a few times of listening to the material, if you still want to understand more, you either need a direct translation or a transcript from which you can look up the meanings of the words. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.
2) Trying to get the meaning instead of the words
This is a subconscious mistake I often make. I often have the delusion of understanding a complete sentence even when I can get only 2 or 3 words out of it. What am I thinking? I have read the transcript! I have looked up the words. I already know the meaning! I should not try to understand the sentence again by repeatedly listening to it!
Remember, the whole objective of the repeated listening exercise is to identify each word you hear, not to understand the sentences. You already know what they mean.
3) Not referring to the transcript enough
Often depending on the environments in which we are doing the listening exercises, we might not have the transcript with us. We would keep listening to the material again and again, even realizing that we cannot get more words out of it. What we actually need is to do at this point is to refer back to the transcript. And we need to do this frequently.
We must allocate times to study the transcripts, and also times to simultaneously listen to the material and read the transcripts. I find this difficult myself, but there seems to be no shortcut.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on any ‘effective listening’ tips that you have.