What are the Pros and Cons of Books(with Audiobooks) vs TV Shows/Youtube Videos (with transcripts)?
Any recommendations for Brazilian podcasts with transcripts?
See this LingQ thread where we collected some Brazilian Portuguese podcasts with / without transcripts: https://www.lingq.com/pt/community/forum/open-forum/help-brazilian-portuguese-list?post_id=292360
All the research says reading a book is good for you. Better even than listening to an audiobook or reading one on an e-reader. It reduces stress, promotes comprehension and imagination, alleviates depression, helps you sleep and may contribute to preventing Alzheimer's. Reading is active; watching TV is passive.
Reading books is a huge stress relief!
One weird aspect when discussing reading books for language learning is the fact a lot of people just don't read in general, so when the subject comes up they automatically think of this activity as a chore they have to engage in -- and that's part of the reason why so many people try to jump on the "Learn with Netflix" bandwagon, because they saw some video on youtube of someone doing it and it seems so "easy," compared to the "work" of reading books.
So this is sometimes a weird conversation to have because for me the fact that I can read the same books I would wanna read anyway, but can also learn a language from them at the same time, is a complete no-brainer. Ten years ago I used to listen to audiobooks in English during my commutes -- today I do the same but with French, German, and Spanish, because that what I enjoy doing in general.
But when someone doesn't have the joy of reading, it's difficult to explain to them how good this process is at building your language skills. The truth is, if the idea of being able read books in your TL doesn't immediately spark interest and anticipation of the fun ahead, you're at somewhat of a disadvantage as far as reaching advanced levels in a foreign language. And I don't mean fluency here, you can be conversationally fluent and be illiterate at the same time. I mean advanced levels where your vocabulary reflects intellect, and your conversations are fueled by an understanding of the culture and history behind the language.
"One weird aspect when discussing reading books for language learning is the fact a lot of people just don't read in general,"
Funny you say this. I didn't read much prior to learning Japanese. Now that I'm reading Japanese books, I find myself reading more English books too.
The major issue with Japanese are the characters - if it weren't for kanji, I'd be able to read A LOT more (luckily LingQ makes difficult books easier to read). Slowly piecing things together though.
you can be conversationally fluent and be illiterate at the same time.
Or the other way around: You can be literate, but a "fluency disaster".
Been there, done that - never again.
It´s not "either - or", but "both - and".
This is currently where I'm at with my Russian!
Super annoying that I can read novels without much issues, but I can't even put together simple sentences correctly. On the other hand I'm very happy that I can read literature in Russian as it's super interesting.
But, how did you solve the fluency disaster problem? Would love to know if you managed to fix it. :)
I'm trying now to build a playlist on LingQ with more conversational material. and hopefully that will boost my own conversation skills.
And I also have 1 - 2 x 1h ITalki lessons a week.
Well, first my French got "much" worse. After a break from French of about 18 months (because of the army), I was a wreck in all areas of French (listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar, and culture).
For the first two semesters, it wasn't even clear if I'd really survive studying French, at least at a university level. But, I was able to reverse that trend 180 degrees in the following semesters :-)
What I did? Everything. That is: Reading a lot (esp. magazines and newspapers), listening a lot to the radio (esp. the news), speaking, writing, translating, and grammar exercises.
But that wasn't enough. The real "boost" came from working and studying in France for about 15 months because this is more than a simple question of "skills" (knowing enough language patterns in an automatic way, for example). Fluency is more of a "mind" thing, i.e. the feeling of self-assurance coupled with a certain nonchalance to be able to express yourself in the target language - even if you don't have the vast knowledge of a native speaker.
Can you achieve this level of fluency without living in a foreign country where your target language is spoken? Definitely, esp. with all the media we have at our disposal nowadays!
So, what could you do?
- At your level (B1-B2 / B2 or above), you can still follow @t_harangi's advice to read contemporary popular fiction (e.g. crime novels),with lots of dialog (if you haven't done so far). However, you should use audiobooks or audio dramas to complement your reading. But this isn't enough if you want to achieve oral fluency in everyday interactions.
- Listening a lot (!) to fast-paced everyday conversations between two or more native speakers is key, in my opinion. This can mean listening to talk radio, interviews, podcasts / (Youtube) videos with guests, or contemporary and realistic TV series (soap operas, sitcoms / comedies, dating shows, etc.). However, you should avoid media formats that aren't contemporary / realistic (e.g., "The Witcher", "Vikings", "The Last Kingdom", etc. and their Russian pendants) or have low word-density (like many movies). News is also not so helpful in this context as it usually contains too little everyday interaction (but it's also an ok choice at the beginning when soap operas / sitcoms, etc. are still to difficult to understand).
- It's best to import the transcripts / subtitles of the episodes into LingQ and start with assisted listening. For example: reading first, then listening 3-5 times unassisted. Or: reading and listening simultaneously, then listening 3-5 times unassisted. Or: reading first, doing some SRS exercises, then listening 3-5 times without help, etc.
- You can combine points 1-3 with some active speaking and writing exercises by making an oral/written summary of each episode / book chapter. You could then use these summaries both in speaking sessions with your tutors and in other writing forums.
- You should talk to your tutors about 1-2 times a week. But the most important thing is what you do outside of these sessions (= points 1-4)! This includes:It's a good idea to be prepared in these sessions (almost) all the time, at least in the beginning!
I could write much more about these topics, but I think you get the idea.
When will you see a big improvement in oral fluency?
It's hard to say and it depends on several factors (e.g., the target language, the topics, your prior knowledge, etc.), but from my personal experience I'd say after about 400-500 h of listening and about 100-150 h of speaking with your tutors or other native speakers.
Note: It doesn't have to be "active" (fully focused) listening all the time. An active and active / passive listening "mix" should be enough. For example as follows:
- Session 1: Comedy XY, episode 1: reading + active listening using LingQ (with / without SRS).
- Sessions 2 and 3 (or more): Just active-passive listening while doing some mindless activity and using a dedicated device like a "dumb" MP3 player that you can use "everywhere".
Hope that helps
Thank you so much!
That's some great advice. will try to adapt as much as I can.
Though working in Russia is unfortunately out of the question, I still think many of the other points are more than doable! :D
And sounds reasonable with the 500 hours. Listening. Currently I'm at a measly 150 hours on LingQ so 500+ is a good goal to set. :)
I'm also watching a bit more anime now as they usually don't do the "Show, don't tell" and just describe everything they are doing. But I think there's a difference between translated shows and native shows, so gotta find some Russian series I can watch. :D
It would be great if you could give us an update on your progress in Russian in a few weeks.
It's always interesting to know what worked for you and what didn't!
Sure will do, if I remember to. :D
Sorry to remention this guy again who tracked his numbers but he just released a very detailed video to summarize his daily routine/activities for how he passed the fluency exam in 1.5 years from 0. Although he never appears to mention doing any 1 on 1 speaking sessions so I'm not sure how well his speaking ability is so definitely keep Peter's numbers in mind for that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEAcSXGxXgQ&t=3s
I used to be inspired by videos like this, but after having gone through my own journey with multiple languages, I often find these "how I did X" videos somewhat pointless for a few reasons:
-- Their suggested methodology is reconstructive, meaning, in real life, the narrator likely didn't have such a structured and disciplined approach during their journey, they're just retroactively summarizing either the parts they found most useful or the parts they feel a structure should be applied to, even though they were just feeling it out at the moment.
-- A large number of them are really based on time commitments and geography that's not applicable to most people. You can learn an enormous amount on any subject in 1.5 years if you have the luxury of allocatable time. In 1.5 years, even if you only do 1 hr each day, you can become conversant in a language. With 1.5 years of 2 to 3 hrs each day fluency becomes doable, but of course that's way more time than most regular students can dedicate to a language.
And with 1.5 years of "this is all I'm doing" -- AND I'm living in the country while I'm doing it -- you'd have to be academically challenged not to get into the high proficiency levels.
-- And finally, a lot of internet polyglottism is what I call "performative language learning." The very goal of engaging with the activity is to do it faster, better, easier, so they can make a video about it. That's why you'll end up seeing videos like "how I learned French just by channel surfing."
This is not how most of us experience language learning, and that's not why most of us do it.
Of course one can get some good ideas from these videos here and there, so I'm not saying don't watch them, I'm just saying take them with a big grain of salt as a lot of their claims are inevitably exaggerated.
Well said. Most videos with these titles must be taken with very big grains of salt. Since I don't know the guy, and even if I did I wouldn't be able to say if everything he said is accurate without being his shadow. But I will say I've gone through the "how I did x" gauntlet for language learning and have narrowed down over time what is/isn't useful information pertaining to myself about practices used and benchmarks achieved over period of time as well as what results are more likely realistic vs being just plain BS results. So overtime I've boiled down a pretty fine list of people/forum posts/blog posts/videos that have really done well at speaking well about how someone went about achieving a language goal in the high fluency range with a relatively strict specific course of action and outside the country of their target language (him included). T_Harangi you are one of these people for me on a couple posts I've found of yours on LingQ :-) And this guy I honestly have to say has probably produced the best instructional guide shrunk down into a half an hour video (instead of a 300+++ video language channel) which essentially follows a path created by the AJATT personas but he leaves out explaining all the "Whys" and doesn't waste time defending methods. He just says and visualized very well with tables, pictures, and stats what his goal was and step by step how he did it even while being a full time student, having a job and learning an Asian language but living in Germany. He's not married with kids and his job didn't demand any attention outside of his work, so yes, what he did is no replicable by many. But as you said with 1 hour a day you could achieve a lot in a 1-2 years with consistency obviously. But this just happens to be his story, and not many people lay out EXACTLY what they did and it's helpful to have someone else's map to look at as we can make a guide for ourselves, even if we can only replicate a certain % of it.
Yes, I agree. And thanks for the kind words, Stewart!
what level books are being discussed like harry potter or like higher level literature? Im just curious what level of books are ideal?
Many (longer) novels in print, e-book or audio format are definitely great for our mood-and-mind management. And some of them are even works of art. But I'd say (longer) novels in general aren't that useful for language learning (at an A1-B1 level), esp. pre-1950 or demanding novels, e.g. "Nouveau Roman" texts.
For mastering everyday language the following text categories are, in my opinion, better suited:
- Non-fiction texts like Hararí s "Sapiens"
- Articles in newspapers and weekly / monthly magazines
- Blog posts
- Shorter stories like "Le Petit Prince" (I just love this text - in any language!)
- Wikipedia articles
- News scripts
- Scripts from certain podcasts
This doesn't exclude novels once and for all. But I'd say that learners are "much" happier reading novels once they reach an advanced level in their TL, i.e. B2/C1 and above.
Why aren't novels useful for language learning?
Vera Birkenbihl has recommended novels for language learning. She argued they get easier after 30 pages, as the authors usually then start repeating the same vocabulary. She recommended especially crime novels as translations. But even with crime novels it's best to start from the easier ones.
Für mich ist Agatha CHRISITE (in der Übersetzung in meine derzeitige Zielsprache) immer der letzte Test, ehe ich zu Original-Büchern in dieser Sprache übergehe.
Birkenbihl, Vera F.. Sprachenlernen leichtgemacht!: Die Birkenbihl-Methode Fremdsprachen zu lernen (German Edition) (Kindle Locations 1781-1782). mvg Verlag. Kindle Edition.
Why aren't novels useful for language learning?
Let me first start by saying that I'm being in "experimentation mode" here, so I'm neither dogmatic on this subject nor a "novel hater" (in fact, I love all kind of novels).
1) Not all novels are created equal
Try to read some advanced novels like Robert Musil's "The man without qualities" iin German, and you'll see they don't get easier after 30 pages :-)
2) A lot of words of older novels (esp. pre-1950) are just obsolete.
For example, a few months ago I re-read Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" in French. I studied this text at university, I know the plot / movies, and I "love" Flaubert (he's one of the all-time greats!).
Nevertheless, I kept wondering "how outdated" many expressions (manners, problems, and ways of life included) have become nowadays. I'm not sure how many words have fallen out of use, but my guess is it's about 10-15 per cent.
Should you read Flaubert? Of course!
Is "Madame Bovary" a good read at an intermediate language level? No, it isn't.
3) It really depends on the learners' language level
Language learners who are at an advanced level can try to read everything they want.
But, novels aren't suitable for beginners because they're much too difficult and long (exception: graded readers for beginners, see point 6). And long (young) adult novels are even for many intermediate language learners a tough nut to crack.
Concrete example: I'm at an intermediate level in Brazilian Portuguese right now, and I know stories like "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings" inside and out. I can read these texts in German, English, French, and Spanish. But, in Portuguese it's extremely tedious for me - even with the help of LingQ!
In contrast, reading (and listening to) a non-fictional text like Harari's "Sapiens" feels like a walk in the park compared to "The Hobbit / LoR".
4) Short stories and non-fictional texts (articles, blog posts, etc.) are just easier to digest than novels.
Novels are the most complex non-specialized texts we know. Therefore, many language learners at a beginner / intermediate level who focus mainly on non-fiction texts and short stories will improve their language skills much faster than they do with long novels. (thesis 1. Note: This thesis isn't about effectiveness, but about efficiency!).
And thesis 2 is: Language learners will be much "happier" when they try to tackle more or less long (young) adult novels on an advanced level.
5) Crime novels, pulp fiction stuff, etc.
They're great when they're short and their vocabulary isn't too outdated.
However, if someone wants to learn how people talk about everyday things nowadays, dialog-heavy YT videos, podcasts, and TV series are probably the way to go.
It doesn't make much sense to me to learn dialog structures that our grandparents used in the 1920s, 1930s, etc., when I can study thousands of current dialogs on Netflix, for example :-)
6) Graded readers / abridged classics
As in point 5), they can be helpful if the texts are interesting and short.
But, when referring to short(er) stories, I include abridged Penguin classics à la "Treasure Island," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Frankenstein," "Dracula," etc.
OK, I get your point, I think. Obviously some books are better suited than some others, depending on your level and preferences. Birkenbihl said translations are the best/easiest. Probably in the case of classic novels, one should try to find a recent translation, too.
I find it's more enjoyable to read novels without LingQ where a long text can get a bit tedious. If I'm reading it on Kindle I can easily look up those words that seem essential to get the point in a paragraph (if necessary). But the key is to resist the temptation to look up too many words. so paper books probably work best.
Yes, I agree, depending on our language level, prior knowledge and interests / preferences, we need to find both the right medium and the right format for us.
By the way, I purchased some English "classics" in e-book format a few weeks ago (hard-boiled crime novels, pulp fiction, etc.). If I find the time, I'll give you some more concrete statistics.
Unfortunately, the number of words I've read in English on LingQ so far is already quite high (almost 2.3 million words, and many more outside of LingQ), so these stats probably won't be as useful as if I were an English learner on a B1/B2 level.
Peter: Any recommendations for Brazilian podcasts with transcripts? I haven't found many.
You're right, Stewart. A Brazilian Portuguese podcast with transcripts seems to be a rare species compared to other languages like Spanish.
Anyway, my "go to podcasts" for BP are / were: Ta Falado, Lingua da Gente, Fala, Gringo!, and Café Brasil. See: https://www.secondhalftravels.com/best-portuguese-podcasts/#Brazilian_Portuguese_Podcasts
I also tested "BrazilianPod101": https://www.portuguesepod101.com/
They have some interesting texts / audio files on their website, too.
But it should be enough if you download some of their audio files to your computer and import some of their texts into LingQ during the 7-day trial period. A subscription isn't necessary, in my opinion, since you already have content flexibility through LingQ.
Besides, I'm a big fan of BBC News in many languages. So here's "BBC News Brasil" (text + audio) on LingQ: https://www.lingq.com/pt/learn/pt/web/course/766996
Hope that helps
This is a great post! I agree with you. Videos transfer more information than language itself when we are watching them. That may distract the attention. More also, I like audiobooks because I use the time in commute to learn language after I convert Audible audiobooks to MP3 (with https://www.tuneskit.com/audible-aa-aax-converter-mac.html)
I was wondering how people deal with reading subtitles from movies or videos is the process always watch then read? Without watching it alot of context is missed depending on description of what is going on but is it possible to just read subtitles without watch and it be fine?Obviously books are better at this but books have alot of useless words for someone if they dont care about novel in their target language and more about media etc. Its hard to choose idk really.
If it's a shorter video (10 minutes or less) I'm usually fine reading subtitles first. If it's long form, especially for movies, I load up LingQ on one side of the screen and video on the other side and enable the Language Learning with Netflix/Youtube plugin so I have a finer tuned control of the situation. But this process is so time consuming, I haven't had the energy to do this very often. Or I just don't even LingQ it, I just watch with the LLN and don't worry so much about it.
For me, it depends on my level in the target language:
Beginner level (A1/A2):
1) Either reading first without listening or reading and listening at the same time. This can be with or without LingQ.
2) Listening (usually several times) without reading to see how much I understand.
3) When I rely on LingQ, I use its SRS (later Anki) and listen again several times.
Intermediate or advanced level (B1 and upwards):
1) Always listening without using any technical crutches because I want my brain/mind to get used to the pace of the native speaker(s), do some guessing, and get used to the ambiguity of the content
2) Reading without listening
3) Sometimes I use an SRS, sometimes not.
3) Listening again one or more times without technical aids.
For movies, I don't anymore essentially...at least in LingQ. You're correct, there's a lot of context lost and it gets extremely confusing knowing who's talking and there may be sentences that don't make a lot of sense without the visual. To me it wasn't particularly enjoyable in this manner. So I've added LLN for this, if I'm interested watching a Netflix series/movie. And I simply do it for entertainment. It is NOT a primary source for learning for me.
Youtube videos tend to be a bit better for importing into LingQ. For one thing, you do have the video if you want to follow along, but also, at least the things I'm importing, most of the content makes a lot more sense in terms of reading as there is either nothing visually happening, or there's a lot more background/description of the topic at hand. These I will import into LingQ and study.
what kind of youtube videos do you watch and how do you go about looking for them?
I like "real life" type of videos and documentary like videos. I found "Easy German" early on. I'm a patron and you can get the transcripts for the you tube videos and podcasts. I import these. From there I mostly just would check certain videos/channels that would pop up and see if they had real subtitles ( not autogenerated). I think a lot of these I found on a post one of the other members here (Sergey I believe) updated with good youtube channels that often had good subtitles.
Another thing I can recommend is create a separate channel from your main youtube account and dedicate it to the language you are learning. Add new channels there, search in the target language and you'll start getting other recommendations in your target language.
I agree with pretty much all of this. Books with audio are superior as far as a study method.
TV shows are a fun way to enjoy the language and build on what you've learned. But as a primary method, they're kind of a waste of time -- not because you won't learn from them, you will -- but because the amount of words you will learn vs. the amount of time spent will be a lot less comparatively to books.
Regarding radio plays, I've listened to them in the past, but I must say I find it to be very hard format for language learners unless you're at a really high level. The whole point of a radio play is to deduct the context, and deduct the story itself strictly from the dialog and some sound effects -- as compared to an audio book that tells you a story and adds dialog within the context of that. The visual evocations and associations are a lot more vivid with an audiobook and they build comprehension a lot better for most learners. Also, because of this constant high end detective work you have to do to deduct the story of a radio play, I find them to be not such a relaxing experience for passive listening. Another disadvantage is that transcripts are hard to find -- at least they were back in day when I tried listening to Radio Tatort -- which makes it harder to use them as active study material.
Of course if you enjoy radio plays, by all means you should listen to them -- I know this is a very popular format in Germany, for example, and they can be fun for advanced learners.
My only point here is that I found that the radio play format is not as advantageous for someone who's not at the highest levels yet, and books with audio will have more benefits for students at the intermediate to upper-intermediate levels.
You need to push through that difficulty and stick to it. For example, let's say, if you are used to jogging or walking, then, I will tell you to do HIIT for 20 minutes, no doubt first week will be hellish, but with constant exposure, your ability to do HIIT on a daily basis will get better as your body gets used to it.
I must say that we have never tested the true ability of our brains because we want to avoid that difficult path. Initially, I started with 2% comprehension. I stuck to my guns. I have listened to roundabout 50 radio plays. Now I can understand them at the rate of 60-70%.
We never try to activate the ability of our subconscious mind. If a laptop is our conscious mind, then, our subconscious mind is like a supercomputer. You will be amazed at what it does if you go for a tough route. We will never know what kind of hidden secrets God has bestowed upon us inside our bodies and they will remain hidden from our conscious eyes. if we do not test unchartered territory and always stay within our comfort zone.
My subconscious mind has done some crazy things during the process of learning German that show me that we still do not know so much about the human mind.
Just to give you an example - my subconscious mind guessed the meaning of a german word while listening to a radio play. It meant "without" in English. One day I went outside visiting a bakery ordering a coffee and it used the same word in a different context at the bakery but I was not sure if it used the same word in the right context but the lady hearing upon the word all of a sudden got a lot of happiness on her face and she understood its meaning correctly and prepared the coffee accordingly.
Later I heard the same word being used in the same context in movies (when a waitress asking for a coffee and the other person used the same word in the same context, the way my SUBCONSCIOUS MIND used it at a REAL BAKERY).
It is an uncanny experience for me. Similarly, what it does whenever you buy a new car, all of a sudden you will start witnessing the same model of the car vividly everywhere
It is nowhere written in stone that this way or that way is the surefire way to do things.
I agree with pretty much all of this. Books with audio are superior as far as a study method.
TV shows are a fun way to enjoy the language and build on what you've learned. But as a primary method, they're kind of a waste of time (t_harangi)
In my experience, you need "both".
- If you want to have a rich vocabulary, (audio-)books are the way to go.
- If you want to get accustomed to the fast pace of native speakers dialog-heavy YT videos / podcasts / TV series are the way to go. And I agree with Asad, audio dramas are also a great tool in this context!
To give you a concrete example:
I'm at an intermediate level in Brazilian Portuguese right now. I don't have much difficulty understanding Harari's book "Sapiens" in Portuguese - neither in reading nor in unassisted listening.
But I immediately break down when I watch a dating show like "O crush perfeito". Even something like "Altered Carbon" is extremely hard to understand in Portuguese, although in other L2s like English, French or Spanish it's pretty easy for me.
In short, having a "rich / varied" vocabulary is simply not enough, esp. if you want to live in a foreign country for a longer period of time (months / years).
And my "personal fluency test", at least for listening comprehension, is this: If I don't understand comedies like "Friends", "Aquí No Hay Quien Viva", etc. or dating shows like "O crush perfeito" unassisted and while doing some mindless activity (washing the dishes, etc.), I wouldn't call myself "fluent", at least not on a B2 level.
In other words, the ability to listen to dialogs of native speakers at a fast pace without tech crutches isn't something that comes simply from reading a lot. Rather, this kind of listening is a complex activity that requires a lot of training (beyond vocabulary)!
BTW: "achieved a high level of comprehension in a shorter period of time than the ones who focused exclusively on TV/Youtube input with subtitles." (Stewart)
It depends on what you test.
- Readers, esp. the ones who avoid audio, tend to have immense difficulty understanding fast paced dialogs.
- People who rely only on TV/YT tend to have a limited vocabulary.
Therefore, an L2 learner who wants to "master" his or her target language should practice both.
TV and radio plays may be harder to understand than the spoken language in real life.
That depends on several factors:
- How long is the conversation you are having ?
- Are the native speakers artificially slowing down for you ?
- How deep / superficial is the interaction?
- How many native speakers are talking (at the same time) ?
- What is their level of intimacy?
- How complex is the topic?
- Do the native speakers use dialects: yes or no? (for example: even as a native German speaker, I don't understand certain dialects from Swabia, the Cologne area, Bavaria, etc.)
The main point is: listening is a "complex" activity, reading and having a rich vocabulary are simply not enough. If an L2 learner wants to be fluent in his/her target language, listening a lot is a must. It doesn't come naturally by simply reading a lot.
Fluency is then quite a lofty goal. It took me at least 30 years before I started understanding British TV programmes without subtitles and some years more with the American ones. I still prefer having subtitles.
Fluency is then quite a lofty goal.
"Fluency" in itself is often a very vague term. Here's my take on it:
But it shouldn't take you decades to understand most TV shows without subtitles / scripts in your target language. A few hundred hours of "high-quality" listening (initially with the help of technical crutches à la LingQ) should be enough.
Unfortunately, I can't give you an "exact" number of hours to reach this level.
no, but I had no trouble understanding English in real life well before I started enjoying TV shows without subtitles. Well, I still don't enjoy most of them (boring) but that's another story.
Let's say you're going out with friends (most of them are native speakers) and they're having fast-paced conversations to which you as an L2 learner want to contribute. If an L2 learner has a lot of trouble understanding TV shows in the target language without tech crutches, he/she will probably also have trouble understanding these fast-paced conversations between native speakers (especially in a noisy environment). And he / she'll also have trouble contributing.
This is not only my personal experience (I lived in France / Spain for about 1.5 years), but also, for example, that of our new family member from Colombia, who has been living with us in Germany for a few years now.
And if a learner of German still has difficulties with something as simple as "Die Tagesschau", he / she will most likely also have great difficulties understanding something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XW4BJ2B1uU
I had no trouble understanding English in real life
The United Kingdom is "notorious" for its countless dialects. Even American native speakers sometimes wonder what kind of English some of these British dialects are. So understanding English "well" throughout the UK is highly "relative".
That's why I'm always skeptical when, for example, learners of German say that they understand "everything" in everyday German life, when there are many dialects / dialectal expressions in my country that even I as an adult German native speaker don't understand.
I would, by the way, be even more skeptical if the same learners of German said they understood "everything" in everyday German, but had difficulty with " Die Tagesschau" because the latter is a walk in the park for adult German native speakers.... :-)
Peter, I don't know why I can't reply to your comment below, but I think you are right about understanding everything. My "personal fluency test" is then just less demanding than yours. Watching those tv shows could still be useful. I prefer audiobooks, which have also helped.
now this comment is shown in the right place even if I replied to another message. Strange.
One intensive immersion guy (German actually) made the rounds on language youtube channels last month who immersed 3-4 hours a day in Japanese and tracked everything in a very detailed spreadsheet an passed the highest Japanese proficiency test (JLPT N1) after 1.5 years from level zero and no background in any other language but English. He is able to pinpoint when certain skills came to click in place but he'll be the first to admit he has a long way to go. Anyway I reached out to him and asked how long it took him to understand an "everyman" conversation in Japanese near 100% the first time around, he said 3,000 hours at around the 2 year mark. Granted, Japanese not related to Japanese in anyway so obviously we can all aim for a much lower number if our L2 overlaps with our L1. He also said if he could do it all over again he would have started extensive reading much much sooner but also add doing much much more intensive TV listening exercises in his immersion (break down an episode line by line and review it over and over until he can understand it 100%) to speed up listening comprehension.
His last retrospective video
I don't know why I can't reply to your comment below, (ville761)
Unfortunately, this is a restriction of the forum software.
Watching those tv shows could still be useful. I prefer audiobooks, which have also helped.
I agree, both resources are useful.
It´s probably a matter of personal taste to find the right "mix".
Thanks for the info and the links.
extensive reading much much sooner but also add doing much much more intensive TV listening exercises.
I agree. That´s an excellent combo that corresponds to my "both-and" logic.
But, 3000 h of Japanese. WOW!
Peter: "O crush perfeito" is very entertaining. I agree with your fluency test, since I live in Brazil currently I target content that's more true to life for my listening skill so I was thrilled to find that show along with "The Circle". As boring as Big Brother is in general I wish I could find a transcript for that show as it's just endless amounts of content of people sitting around chatting, chatting chatting, but I haven't found a source yet. But ya, for passive listening it'll take a lot of grinding to be able to tune my ear to listen to shows like that passively and understand it to a high degree so for now I'll use short audiobooks to be more productive for passive time.
By the way I highly recommend you watch one specific episode of the USA version of O crush perfeito, "Dating Around". Go to season 2, episode 2 (Ben) and you'll witness the most awkward dates.... OF ALL TIME. Thank me later.
Yes, for improving our listening comprehension of everyday Brazilian Portuguese shows like "O crush perfeito" or "The Circle" are ideal.
A tip in this context: the Netflix - LingQ combo: You can find "O crush perfeito", "The Circle", "Dating Around Brasil", etc. on Netflix. Then, if you use the LingQ extension (for Netflix), you can import the subtitles of the episodes of these shows into LingQ. This makes life "sooo" much easier for us language learners!
Go to season 2, episode 2 (Ben) and you'll witness the most awkward dates.... OF ALL TIME
Sounds like a high cringe factor beyond my current imagination :-)
My experiment with using short books/with audiobooks this week has been quite interesting. I noticed the books (aimed at kids with a total word count between 2k to 6k) have so much more unique words per lesson than a standard tv show I've been watching (about 2x as much for the same amount of words). The audiobooks are also so much more comfortable for passive listening, I don't have to strain at all to figure out what's being said with all the sound effects removed and no cross talk. So I've found it to be much better for building up my vocabulary and reviewing this week and will continue prioritizing more on these than TV series for the mean time.
The exposure to individual words per minute heavily outranked when working with books w/ audio as opposed to movies with subs. A typical audiobook is read at a pace of about 2000 words every 15 minutes. So in 1.5 to 2 hrs of engaging with it, you may be exposed to 12,000 to 16,000 total words. A 1.5 to 2hr movie on the other hand could contain in the neighborhood of 4,000 - 4,500 subtitled words -- at least the last one I checked. So that's a factor 3.5X to 4X more of overall exposure to the language with time spent on books as opposed to movies.
This is one of the reasons why, as far as the active study time with LingQ, books are a way better choice.
To the argument that "you need both." Yes of course you should watch movies -- I watch a ton of TV in various languages. But you don't "need" to import subs into LingQ if you're already reading books on LingQ. You will learn the same words from books as you would from a movie -- and you'll learn them faster. A large percentage of a book is dialog, and it gets just as slangy and colloquial as a movie. It's just not performed as fast. But if you learn it from a book, you'll encounter it at movie speed when you're watching TV for fun.
What about radio plays? I'd expect you get more vocabulary from those than from TV but you still get dialogue. Podcasts/radio programmes also include conversation, but are often easier than radio plays. It seems it's not necessary to watch any TV at all.
I agree, the word density of texts, independent of the format (print, e-book or audio), is second to none. In other words, they're the finest tools we have for vocabulary building!
- But 1: Should we use "novels" on a beginner or intermediate level for language learning? Maybe not, because non-fictional texts could be a better choice for non-advanced language learners (see my comments to @Hagowingchun and @ville761 above).
- But 2: Watching TV series or listening to podcasts with a lot of dialogs related to everyday life, e.g. comedies, dating shows, etc., is less about enriching our vocabulary, esp. colloquialisms and slang expressions, as language learners. It's more about training our listening comprehension, i.e. getting used to syntagmatic intonation patterns (beyond the sounds of single words), the fast pace of native speakers, the overall rhythm of the language, and so on. This also includes learning more about the nonverbal dimension (like hand gestures, etc.) in communication situations with native speakers of the TL. That is: Audio books and many movies are simply not the right media for this kind of training, However, audio dramas / radio plays can also be quite helpful in this context.!
As soon as you live in a foreign country for some time (let's say for a few months) and try to interact with the locals, you'll experience that having a large vocabulary without an adequate level of "oral fluency", i.e. good listening comprehension and speaking / pronunciation skills, is simply not enough.
And this perspective corresponds to Boris Shekhtman's "do-more-with-less" view on communication (see: https://www.amazon.com/Improve-Your-Foreign-Language-Immediately/dp/0967990750).
But of course, having a rich vocabulary is a great thing, because it can help you reach a high level of "oral fluency" much faster.
I probably should've clarified that when I say "novels," I usually just mean "contemporary popular fiction," which is pretty much all I read and listen to. Lee Child, Jean-Cristophe Grange, Sebastian Fitzek, etc. The vocab in these books is very contemporary, and their dialog is pretty much what you'll hear in a movie, because some movies are actually based on these books. I specifically don't recommend reading classics as a language learner unless that's what you're really, really into.
"Should we use "novels" on a beginner or intermediate level for language learning?"
I have done just that. I started learning Spanish by doing comparative reading (of a contemporary popular fiction book.) It's a very good way to do it, but of course it may not be for everyone.
It's a very good way to do it, but of course it may not be for everyone.
Reading (longer) novels at the beginner / intermediate stages is definitely "effective", esp. compared to shenanigans like Duolingo. But, I'd say it's not the most "efficient" way.
My thesis is that focusing on the most frequent words (via SRS), less complex texts (non fiction / short stories, manga / comics, etc.), and dialog-heavy media (esp. podcasts, videos, Anime / animated series, and TV) is both faster and less tedious than reading long novels (contemporary or not).
Once a learner reaches a more advanced level (B2 and above) reading contemporary or classic novels will be much easier and more enjoyable - and from that point on it's an endless journey.
Of course, it depends on what a learner wants to achieve first: a rich vocabulary or oral fluency?
But, at least from my own experience, it's an illusion to believe that reading a lot leads directly or automatically to oral fluency. It doesn't.
You can test that yourself: Once you've finished some novels in Spanish, just watch a few episodes of a Spanish TV series like "Elite". You might be in for a surprise :-)
So, reading (and writing) rather enhance(s) oral fluency. And this is the way native speakers usually learn and improve their L1, because no baby can read when he or she is born.
I should add that if "efficiency" isn't an issue, this discussion doesn't matter.
So if someone is simply fascinated by a novel, go for it, because the beauty of flexible audio readers à la LingQ is that they can help us tackle texts that are normally above our league.
"normally above our league"
It's surprising how much it's possible to understand from a novel without knowing many of the words. LingQ takes some of the fun out of it for me. But it depends a lot on the novel. If the story is unusual in some way, it can be hard to understand what's going on.
As for the efficiency, I don't really know. I have understood the "comprehensible input" should ideally be something just above the current level, but not too much.
I have understood the "comprehensible input" should ideally be something just above the current level, but not too much.
"According to the Input Hypothesis, a learner improves best when the material is one step ahead of their current level. If their knowledge could be described with ‘i’, then the optimal learning level would be ‘i+1’. The materials, in short, need to be just beyond their current abilities." ( https://eslauthority.com/blog/comprehensible-input/)
The problem is that it's much more complicated in practice than it sounds in theory (i = current level, i+1 = next level):
1) It depends on the text category.
For example, there are some texts, esp. demanding novels, technical, scientific or philosophical texts, that are intrinsically difficult - even for native speakers.
In other words, the difficulty of a text depends not only on its vocabulary, but also on the subject per se (and the intertextual relations within a network of texts).
2) It depends on the prior knowledge and experience of the reader / listener
Example: It's hard for me to understand "The Lord of the Rings" in Brazilian Portuguese at the moment. But it's much easier to understand Portuguese texts on international politics, (military) history, sociology or computer science because I studied these subjects at university. So I'm familiar with many research traditions (terminology, methods, theories, and the relevant research questions).
3) The quantity of unknown words in a text
How many unknown words does "+1" exactly represent in a new text?
4) The quality of the unknown words in a text
Not all words are created equal. Some words, e.g. termini technici, might be crucial for understanding a text, but other words might just be of marginal importance.
5) Words can be entry points to textual networks, i.e. theories, philosophical approaches, etc.
Example: When you read something about "object-oriented programming" in a non-specialized text, it's not enough to understand what an "object" means in the common sense.
In computer science, this expression refers to a specific programming paradigm as compared to other (functional, imperative, etc.) programming paradigms.
So, in order to "really" understand what "object-oriented programming" means, you need to know what "classes", "object instances", etc. represent in this context. And you also need to have some practical programming experience.
Otherwise, a reader might "think" that he/she under- stands this expression, but, in fact, he/she doesn't - due to lack of background knowledge and experience (see point 2)).
6) Knowing the vocabulary by reading isn't enough
An L2 learner may understand certain words in his/her target language when he/she reads them. But he/she might not understand the same words in a fast-paced conversation due to lack of processing time, omissions, contractions, unclear pronunciation, word plays (à la verlan in French: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verlan), etc.
7) Audio readers à la LingQ
These tools are awesome because they allow us to tackle texts that might be at an i+2, i+3, etc. level.
But again: If the subject is intrinsically difficult, even audio readers aren't enough because you might also need a lot of background knowledge and experience (see points 2 and 5).
Therefore, even German native speakers aren't able to read Hegel's "Phänomologie des Geistes" ("Phenomonology of Mind") just like that. It takes years of intensive study to understand how brilliant this approach is.
See, for example: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Phenomenology-of-Mind
In my experience, the "i+1" hypothesis is really mostly in play for unassisted input. Any assistance you use will increase the number after the + sign. If you're reading on LingQ, you may be able to do "+2-3" and if you're doing comparative reading, you can tackle material higher than that.
As I mentioned above, it's feasible to tackle advanced material from the very beginning with the use of comparative reading. In my experience, this method speeds up your levels of comprehension significantly.
(Note: This post does NOT imply you do not need speaking practice or exposure to other media. -- I should add this as a signature to all my LingQ posts.)
I think we need some more detailed stats in this context.
I just purchased Grange's "Crimson Rivers" in Portuguese, and I'll test it in terms of reading comprehension with "The Hobbit" and Harari's "Sapiens" for Brazilian Portuguese at an intermediate level (B1).
Being in "experimentation mode" here I've got a few theses:
Thesis 1: (Long) novels are the most complex, non-specialized texts we know so, for beginners / intermediate learners (levels A1-B1), it might be more efficient to resort to short stories and non fiction texts first and use novels later (at an level B2 and upwards).
Note: This is a pure efficiency perspective. It's not about the effectiveness of novels for reading comprehension. And I agree with @t_harangi that we can also tackle more advanced novels by resorting to bilingual reading and AudioReaders.
Thesis 2: It's not reading that makes you fluent. It's fluency training (listening comprehension, pronunciation training, and speaking) that makes you fluent. But reading all kinds of texts is a practice in expanding one's vocabulary, which enhances fluency. In short, reading brings fluency to a higher level, but it doesn't produce fluency (automatically).
This includes that it isn't necessary to read 1.5-2 million words first before you can start your fluency journey.
My position here is: It may be more efficient to achieve fluency first (by speaking early or not), and then focus on vocabulary enrichment as an L2 learner. That's the modus operandi of native speakers: speak fluently first, then expand your vocabulary.
Thesis 3: Not all novels are created equal when it comes to SLA.
- Some novels are intrinsically difficult - even for native speakers. So, as an L2 learner, knowing many words and using AudioReader doesn't change that fact. A little test for English native speakers: just try to read Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" :-)
- Non-contemporary novels aren't a good choice for SLA (levels A1-B1) because too much of their vocabulary is obsolete.
- However, even some contemporary novels, e.g., from the fantasy genre, may not be a good choice for SLA (levels A1-B1) if the vocabulary is too difficult or not useful for everyday interactions.
- Criteria for contemporary novels that are useful for SLA (levels A1-B1)? The're
- not too long
- have a simplified vocabulary
- contain a lot of dialogs,
- and are related to everyday interactions.
Personally, I'd say this is the case with graded readers and abriged text versions (even shortened classics when the vocabulary is "modernized").
Let's see if Grange's "Crimson Rivers" fits this category.
You are pretty much spot on. Just add radio plays there as well. More closer to real conversations. My listening skills in German have improved quite drastically thanks to listening to such radio plays. A lot of characters are speaking at the same time to keep your mind engaged at all times so less chance of zoning out which you do more often than not when listening to an audiobook. They are usually 45 mins-3 hours in length. Mostly, you are done with them in one sitting.
Woah I never thought about searching for radioplays. I hope I can find some. Thanks for that idea.
I think you already hit most of the main points.
>But I venture to say the ones I know who focused the majority of their time on Books/Audiobooks achieved a high level of comprehension in a shorter period of time than the ones who focused exclusively on TV/Youtube input with subtitles.
I'd say people who like to read books are generally more studious than people who like to watch TV, so that could account for the difference you see.