I know this is a question for Steve but I'll try to give my own take on it.... I've been at Spanish for a number of years now (off and on) and TBH, it's not like the fog 'begins to clear' suddenly, it's so gradual that it's barely noticeable. Having said that, along the way there are moments where you suddenly realise you're understanding something better than ever, only for your excitment to be taken away the very next day when you listen to something else and you can barely understand a word of it. :)
One thing I will say is that what you do today will pay off months later. There's this weird delay in improvement where you can go at it intensively for a period without seeing any improvement, then you step off the gas and then a while later you feel like you've made progress after seemingly doing very little in comparison to that earlier intensive period. It seems like the brain needs time to process what it's learning, It might be working on it subconsciously, maybe through many sleep cycles, I don't know, but it feels rather strange.
My own personal experience is that there are many moments where you feel like you're suddenly hearing the language better, but it's not a case of the fog clearing suddenly and you can understand everything in the same way, it's lots of moments of feeling like you're understanding followed by lots of other moments where you feel like you don't know anything, but overall there IS an improvement, it's just hard to see it sometimes (can't see the forest for the trees type scenario).
Anyway, I'm still an intermediate so maybe that fog will suddely clear for me in the future and I'll understand almost everything I hear, but TBH I doubt that's how it works, but instead it's just a continuation of what I've mentioned until it gets to a point where you have fewer and fewer of those bad days.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I am sure you are correct. I do notice how much more I understand but being more comfortable communicating definitely lags behind better understanding.June 06 at 21:55
You said it so well Hellion, I just want to add one thing: I've found this applies to all areas of language learning.
I have only been speaking to a tutor for just over two weeks now (speaking every other day for a full hour). Two sessions ago, I spoke the best that I ever spoke. I wish I recorded it because I actually felt like I wasn't making a complete fool of myself and my tutor was understanding at least 70% of what I was saying!
Then yesterday when I spoke I was stumbling, lost for words, couldn't structure sentences properly... I felt like an idiot, but then caught myself and reminded myself that it's all a part of the process.
There are some days where I've found my listening, reading, speaking or writing to be better than others. I don't stress about it anymore because I am simply used to it now.
To give a less abstract answer to your question, things started to seem to click for my listening at around 200 hours. I am not sure why, but at around 200 hours I seemed to be understanding a hell of a lot more than at even 150 hours.
Maybe it was because I was missing some core vocabulary that I didn't have in between that small gap, or I just became more confident in myself, but I will always consider 200 a significant number.
I am of course nowhere near native level at listening but I also no longer feel like I can only see one centimetre through the fog, which is quite nice :)
Disclaimer: I have a different brain than you or the next guy, so the number might be more or less than that for you or you might not have such a direct association of clarity with a specific number ;)June 07 at 01:54