Comprehensible input

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Comprehensible input

Postby jimisgek » 30 Mar 2012, 09:10

I've been reading a lot about comprehensible input. From what I've read, I believe the only way to really improve and consolidate my grammar and vocabulary is to listen. My plan is to use every bit of time throughout the day to listen to a wide range of sources.

The question is what should I be listening to?

I've heard it quoted that you should listen to something that you understand 60 to 80% of. This is quite hard to gauge. I've been listening to the news which I enjoy, but I think I'm probably more like 50% depending on the content. I've been listening to childrens stories and picking up a lot of vocabulary because I understand a lot of it but, it varies. I've also been listening to as many textbook recordings as I can get my hands on. This seems to be really good because it's easy to find your level and there is a big overlap of vocabulary however, the recordings are often quite unnatural and I'm thinking that I might be better off listening to real conversations.

Any advice would be welcomed.
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Re: Comprehensible input

Postby ironlady » 30 Mar 2012, 10:00

60 to 80% is nowhere close to what you need to acquire language as a beginner. Try 90% and up -- 100% being optimal.

The answer is, there are few places you can get this sort of input. A good CI-based tutor or teacher will do it, but they are difficult to find in Taiwan, where people tend to teach traditionally. Podcasts are not really highly comprehensible for the most part.

This is the common problem with most of the "less commonly taught languages" and CI approaches -- there's not much out there. We're making materials as fast as we can but the other problem with that is the lack of a broad market. It takes a lot of time and money to produce good materials, and if there's no return or very little return, there's not much incentive to do a really polished product that's usable by someone else, as opposed to scribbling some notes in the margin to use next year when you teach the same thing again.

Maryknoll was sort of interested in this approach in the past for Taiwanese -- it would have been nice, but it never went anywhere. I doubt you could get Shi-Da to even think about it for Mandarin. :loco:
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Re: Comprehensible input

Postby jimisgek » 30 Mar 2012, 20:34

So what would you suggest I do as far as listening material. Considering I'm at an intermediate level (just finishing practical audiovisual Chinese book 4) do I still need to be aiming for 90% plus understanding in anything I listen to? At the moment I'm at a language school but was thinking of hiring a private teacher. Can you recommend anyone?

I've got a couple of really good language exchange partners. Can you make any suggestions as to how to make the most of the time I spend doing language exchange?

Thanks for all your help :)
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Re: Comprehensible input

Postby ironlady » 30 Mar 2012, 22:13

How automatically and accurately do you know all the "patterns" and to a lesser extent the vocabulary that have been presented in the AVC series? That's the key question.

If you have them completely, totally, to the "they woke me up with a flashlight in my face at 3 am and I could still use the 'ba' construction correctly without thinking about it'" level, then you can probably deal with less comprehensible materials, because the structural competence you have will fill in (just like a native speaking child learns more vocab after acquiring all the grammar of the language).

If you just "know" them (memorized), or have to pause and think when you apply or decode the patterns, then you would benefit from material that is more comprehensible. The purpose of CI at the early stages is to get the correct grammar of the language into the learner's head where it functions unconsciously and correctly. Most students who get out of the AV series don't *really* know all those patterns -- they've "covered" them. But the boredom factor means that people want to "go on" and do new things, and false beginners/false intermediates are difficult to teach for that reason.
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Re: Comprehensible input

Postby JimmyTheSaint » 02 Apr 2012, 22:00

jimisgek wrote:So what would you suggest I do as far as listening material. Considering I'm at an intermediate level (just finishing practical audiovisual Chinese book 4) do I still need to be aiming for 90% plus understanding in anything I listen to?


My level's similar to yours. I recommend trying chineselearnonline.com (discussed and compared a bit to Chinese Pod and Popup Chinese in another thread). It's scripted, so the delivery's not natural, and the topics aren't entertaining, but if fluency with mundane stuff is your goal, it's the most immersive I've found at this level. Their systematically varied speaking speeds also help. Starting at level 3, they just keep rattling on in Chinese, and my comprehension stayed above 90% through level 6. With level 7, I'd say I've dropped to 70%-80% comprehension. I mean on the first listening, of course. I've gone back and reviewed some lessons for passive listening while riding the bus, etc., and that background listening has shown I've actually acquired new stuff, I guess because they're systematic about repeating and reusing vocabulary in a way the other two web sites aren't.
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