The most helpful thing that I could tell anyone about developing listening skills in a language is that it takes time. Lots of time.
Currently in language acquisition study there are different kinds of listening skills that are said to be able to be “used” by language learners during the l.a. (language acquisition) process: using different processing when listening (top-down, etc.) listening for specific information, etc. Some of these might have some value in helping you adjust to the language, but sometimes I think it misses the main point of it all…Which is…
To get better at listening, you have to listen more. A lot more. And through the thousands of hours that are spent listening, your listening comprehension will slowly move towards the native-level side of the listening ability spectrum. That’s how it works. Currently I’ve been listening to the same CD of Japanese sentences for nearly the past two years. The CD is about an hour long, and it’s starting to sound more and more natural, more like I’m listening to a CD in my own native language. My language understanding is heading towards the more subconscious level, instead of consciously trying to understand. It’s like listening to a music CD that is fuzzy and difficult to make out in the beginning, but with the song gradually becoming clearer until your listening through beats by Dr. Dre.
That’s what developing listening skills are like, and I think that a lot of the difficulty that comes from trying to compartmentalize and use different aspects of listening skills, or as they say in Japan “考えすぎる” (over think) the whole thing, just listen instead. Listen and grow in your understanding, and if you keep progressing, in the end you’ll be able to understand without even trying.
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