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Extreme Listening December 20, 2006

Posted by Edwin in French, Listening, Mandarin.

Listening to podcasts is a good way to improve your listening. Do you have a tendency to settle into listening to the “easy stuff”, so that you could just listen once and understand most of it, or are you willing to go for the “extreme stuff”?

I have been working on my French listening in the past month or two. In the last few days, I have been trying what I call “Extreme Listening”. The idea is to go for something that is way out of your comfort zone, something that you can make absolutely no sense out of at first, then spend time to analyze it piece by piece, and try to understand its content gradually through repetitive listening.

I picked a French sermon I found in Allan Rich’s website. I cannot find a transcript, but a good thing about this podcast is that Allan maintains another website which provides an English podcast translated directly from the French version.

The sermon was about 20 minutes long. The preacher spoke so fast that in the first-pass, I could only pick up 5-10% of the French words. I missed most of the keywords that I could hardly make any content out of the podcast at all. But I persevered and listened until the end.

Then I listened to the English translation provided by Allan with his cute French accent. Now I had the idea of the content, I went back and listen to the French version again. I found that I could now pick up about 20-30% of the words.

Then I placed the 2 podcasts side-by-side in my ipod, and listened to them segment by segment, English first, then French. Each segment was about 5-10 sentences long. If I didn’t get the words, I would go back and replay the segment. In this third-pass, I could figure out 50-70% of the words.

I will listen to the same podcast again and again until I get over 90% of the words. Then I will pick another podcast to work on.

I remember doing the same sort of activities when working on my Mandarin a year ago, only without translation. I found a radio show from Beijing on the Web. In each episode, they would have 3 talkative ladies chatting with each other, and they spoke extremely fast. Whenever 3 women jam together … Well, you know what I am talking about! It was really an “Extreme Listening” to me!



1. chris(mandarin_student) - December 25, 2006

Yup extreme listening is a great sport I have been doing it my Mandarin for some time. I think in the right doses it can really help. I found your blog through a comment you left left, you have some interesting posts. I am only attempting Mandarin at the moment and that is keeping me busy enough :).

2. edwinlaw - December 25, 2006

Thanks for your encouraging comment. I hope we can motivate each other in the future. You surely have motivated me through your blog. I really like your idea of writing progress report. This way, the whole world is holding you accountable.

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