How To Cope With Not Understanding & Learn To Tolerate Ambiguity When Language Learning (Podcast!!)
First I think it is helpful to differentiate between listening and reading here: Because I generally assume that acquiring reading comprehension is easier than acquiring an equivalent level of listening comprehension. For example reading a transcribed podcast is often far easier than listening to it. That is, listening comprehension requires more time to develop, this seems to be especially true with Chinese. Therefore this is probably the domain in which we will experience most discomfort from ambiguity.
Discomfort in reading is easier to bear. If you read intensively, for example here on LingQ, you have various tools at your disposal that make life easier: dictionaries, community hints, translations, synchronized audio etc. Outside of LingQ, my favorite were always bilingual texts. Extensive reading normally presupposes a rather high 98% comprehension rate, which shouldn't incur any particular discomfort anyways.
But listening to fast, colloquial speech is challenging. Especially in the case of podcasts which lack the visual element. If you're listening and reading along to a transcript ambiguity is probably not too big a problem, but active listening and especially passive listening can have a high degree of ambiguity.
I think the main problem, aside from psychological discomfort, that comes with ambiguity is the danger of zoning out, losing concentration.
There is this one weird little trick that has helped me:
Making study active. Here are some ideas:
- Physical activity. Especially if listening passively, go for a run, walk, move.
- Shadowing: paradoxically it seems to be easier to remain focused when multitasking (moving around, listening, speaking, and/or reading)
- Deliberately sit down to listen to something (podcast /audiobook) and make an effort to write everything down you understand, this helps to focus
- try stop periodically and summarize what you understood (ideally in the target language)
Set small listening hour and word goals in the beginning to keep the persistence and reward the progress that the learner has made every time they feel discouraged.
Personally, I just hunt for the numbers on lingq and know that the higher something is, the better the progress and that is already motivating in itself.
Yes!!! I gave up video games to learn chinese, and basically turned the whole thing into grinding for stats and numbers - which is working out fantastically.
Number go up every day = progress
Also getting addicted to cdramas helps a lot - eventually you get so used to the tropes that if you miss stuff, it doesn't matter since it is obvious what's going to happen. Also watching a lot of silly bilibili videos - do i understand wtf the 弹幕 means? no. is it hilarious anyway? yes
I have struggled in the past with ambiguity for reading, and I've found the best is to just skim through a translation before each chapter if the book is above your level, (you need a certain level of chinese to read bad or machine translations, but hey it works). That way you don't have to worry about missing plot details or characters and can really just concentrate on being with the chinese in the moment without struggling or getting frustrated. (And then you can read a lot faster along with an audiobook which I 1000% regret not doing from the beginning).
Eventually you need to look at the translations less and less until the magic moments of "oh wait, holy shit, i think i've learned chinese???" hits
This entire time I've tried to treat the language module part of my brain like how they make goose liver pate - just keep shoving chinese into constantly regardless of whether or not I can digest all of it.
I guess basically perseverance and realizing that you can understand some words and that with time it will all make sense. I used to think of it like a puzzle and that every hour i listen im seeing and placing another piece. If you are actively studying and listening you should be able to eventually get there just with time. I realized too that the more i studied anki and memorized the words the easier listening was.