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Why you can read but can't listen.

#1
I'm not sure how many, but I'm pretty sure some of you are like me, able to read and understand sentences but somehow unable to understand sentences when spoken.

Then one day when I was trying to improve my listening comprehension through subtitled Japanese dramas, I realized the reason why I had this problem.

What I think how the word sounds like was actually very different from how it actually sounds like when spoken by a native speaker.

For example, a simple word like きょうしつ which I would definitely have understood if written, but when spoken I didn't know it was that word until I saw the subtitles.

That's because when reading I've subconsciously decided on a single pronunciation on that word based on my feel on the language from passive listening until when I realized that the actual pronunciation can be quite different depending on people, which was the reason why I would always have problems trying to decipher words from listening.

I hope this little insight helps in your journey in learning Japanese.
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#2
This is also due to the way a lot of people learn the hiragana, by relating them to romaji without a good knowledge of how the syllables are actually pronounced. There's a tendency for people to think that if they learn "し = shi" they've mastered that. But actually the consonant there is not the same as the "sh" of English, and in the case of しつ both the "i" vowel and the "u" vowel are going to be clipped or elided. So it comes out sounding like "shts" where the "sh" is a sound that's not exactly the "sh" in English.
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#3
Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
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#4
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Find something fun that involves listening and do a lot of it. For me, it was reading VNs.
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#5
Vempele Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Find something fun that involves listening and do a lot of it. For me, it was reading VNs.
Shadowing's been helping me a lot lately. You should give that a shot.
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#6
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Language learning takes effort.
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#7
I'd say that "you need to practice listening to improve listening" is something of a truism on this forum. "How do I improve my listening?" is an oft-asked question, and a lot of crowd wisdom and even software (e.g., subs2srs) has accumulated around it. A few of the more pre-eminent threads on this subject:

http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=12633 (The Wall of Listening Comprehension)

http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=12900 (What's a good method of learning to speak/hear better?)

http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=6840 (buonaparte's audio and text links)

http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=2512 (Use subs2srs to Win Friends and Influence People...or, something like that)
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#8
yudantaiteki Wrote:Language learning takes effort.
NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo...
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#9
yudantaiteki Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Language learning takes effort.
Serenity Now!

Opps.

I mean Japanese Now!

A little Seinfeld for you all.
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#10
I've found watching stuff in your target language with subtitles in that language is useful, but it takes a long time to be able to catch everything.
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#11
Vempele Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Find something fun that involves listening and do a lot of it. For me, it was reading VNs.
My suggestion is watching anime with Japanese subtitle. You can get them at kitsunekko.net and retime with AegisSub. Most video players support their use. I like Vempele's suggestion better because it's less work.

There's two tools I know of: AGTH (anime games text hooker) + TA (translation aggregator) or VNR (visual novel reader)
You should try each and see what works for you. If it's an easy enough game you won't need any tool.

I saw the VN Hanahira! recommended in two different places as an easy to read (for Jap beginner) VN and I confirm this recommendation. If you're looking for recommendations according to your skill level, try here: http://japaneselevelup.com/difficulty-le...-japanese/ Try also here: http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=6366 <- might be hard to use because there's no index. You will need one that has full voice or near full. You can find on vndb.org how much voice your game has. Hanahira! has full voice.
Edited: 2015-09-06, 7:13 pm
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#12
yudantaiteki Wrote:But actually the consonant there is not the same as the "sh" of English, and in the case of しつ both the "i" vowel and the "u" vowel are going to be clipped or elided. So it comes out sounding like "shts" where the "sh" is a sound that's not exactly the "sh" in English.
A nitpick, but I'm taking a class on standard Japanese pronunciation right now and it was mentioned that in words that contain a sequence of two morae whose vowels can be devoiced only one of them will actually get devoiced, so it's not exactly "shts". According to NHK's pronunciation and accent dictionary, only the し in 教室 gets its vowel devoiced, so it's more like "shtsu". Although I dunno, maybe in some dialects the devoicing does go as far as "shts" - as you probably know, here in Osaka normally no vowels get devoiced.
Edited: 2015-09-07, 5:19 am
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#13
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Once you're advanced enough, listening to radio is probably the best way, because it has the most words/minute of any audio material, it's much easier to follow along than an audiobook, it has relevant, every day language and up to date cultural references, etc.

Radio shows (the ones that are done by actual radio talent, not celebrities who happen to also do radio) air for 20-30 hours every week, and cover a wide variety of topics.

So you really just need to find one you love, and you can pretty much take your language skills from advanced to near-native just by developing the habit of tuning in to that one show every day. It's one of the main ways I got really good at English.
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#14
jcdietz03 Wrote:
Vempele Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Find something fun that involves listening and do a lot of it. For me, it was reading VNs.
My suggestion is watching anime with Japanese subtitle. You can get them at kitsunekko.net and retime with AegisSub. Most video players support their use. I like Vempele's suggestion better because it's less work.
If you use media player classic you can press ctrl+6 then find the current line and right click and set current and it will adjust the timing for all of them. Sometimes you have to do it again after the intro but it's pretty painless.
Edited: 2015-09-07, 1:43 am
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#15
vonPeterhof Wrote:as you probably know, here in Osaka normally no vowels get devoiced.
Huh? Plenty of vowels get devoiced in Osaka.
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#16
Tzadeck Wrote:
vonPeterhof Wrote:as you probably know, here in Osaka normally no vowels get devoiced.
Huh? Plenty of vowels get devoiced in Osaka.
I did say "normally"; probably should have made it clearer that by that I meant "when speaking the local dialect". Devoicing of "u" and "i" between voiceless consonants and word-finally isn't a feature of Kansai dialects. You've probably heard people saying です and ます in a way that almost sounds like "desuu" and "masuu", or 来て with the pitch accent on the "ki" (that's where it was originally in the Tokyo dialect as well, but it shifted to the "te" due to devoicing). Sure, many Osakans do devoice these vowels to varying extents when speaking standard Japanese, while many others don't bother. At any rate, my point was that there's dialectal variation with respect to vowel devoicing and if some regions pronounce しつ as a fully-voiced "shitsu" then there might be those where it's "shts" for all I know.
Edited: 2015-09-07, 5:37 am
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#17
I'm in the same boat as OP. There are things I can read, but somehow can't pick them out while watching/listening to Japanese media.

The reason I've come to is that in my head, I read Japanese in a news announcer's voice. This is CNN. Slow, steady, and clear. But people don't actually speak like this.

I really like Raulsen's suggestion of shadowing. I think I'll do that more often.
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#18
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Lots of thoughtful replies, but... Am I the only one who thought this was meant to be a joke?
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#19
James736 Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Lots of thoughtful replies, but... Am I the only one who thought this was meant to be a joke?
Give this man a gold star! Yeah it was meant to be a joke but since I do, in fact, struggle with listening, not a big deal. After so many years of learning Japanese I'm a bit cynical when meeting Japanese who want to "study". So these days I don't really have any regular friends from Japan to speak with and never get speaking/listening practice aside from dramas and TV shows.
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#20
vonPeterhof Wrote:I did say "normally"; probably should have made it clearer that by that I meant "when speaking the local dialect". Devoicing of "u" and "i" between voiceless consonants and word-finally isn't a feature of Kansai dialects. You've probably heard people saying です and ます in a way that almost sounds like "desuu" and "masuu", or 来て with the pitch accent on the "ki" (that's where it was originally in the Tokyo dialect as well, but it shifted to the "te" due to devoicing). Sure, many Osakans do devoice these vowels to varying extents when speaking standard Japanese, while many others don't bother. At any rate, my point was that there's dialectal variation with respect to vowel devoicing and if some regions pronounce しつ as a fully-voiced "shitsu" then there might be those where it's "shts" for all I know.
Hmm, I see what you're saying. I don't really buy it though. I only notice what you're talking about with です and ます in women who are 40+. Plus, there are some vowels that seem to always be devoiced (like 'yorosh(i)ku').

It could be that there is less devoicing in Osaka. Then again, in reality it's quite hard to pinpoint whether someone is speaking dialect or standard since a lot of people speak in such a jumbled mix of the two.
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#21
Tzadeck Wrote:
vonPeterhof Wrote:I did say "normally"; probably should have made it clearer that by that I meant "when speaking the local dialect". Devoicing of "u" and "i" between voiceless consonants and word-finally isn't a feature of Kansai dialects. You've probably heard people saying です and ます in a way that almost sounds like "desuu" and "masuu", or 来て with the pitch accent on the "ki" (that's where it was originally in the Tokyo dialect as well, but it shifted to the "te" due to devoicing). Sure, many Osakans do devoice these vowels to varying extents when speaking standard Japanese, while many others don't bother. At any rate, my point was that there's dialectal variation with respect to vowel devoicing and if some regions pronounce しつ as a fully-voiced "shitsu" then there might be those where it's "shts" for all I know.
Hmm, I see what you're saying. I don't really buy it though. I only notice what you're talking about with です and ます in women who are 40+. Plus, there are some vowels that seem to always be devoiced (like 'yorosh(i)ku').

It could be that there is less devoicing in Osaka. Then again, in reality it's quite hard to pinpoint whether someone is speaking dialect or standard since a lot of people speak in such a jumbled mix of the two.
I once watched a video of regular people of various ages from Kanto and Kansai counting from 1 to 10 and there definitely seemed to be much less devoicing in Kansai-ben, although there still was some.
Edited: 2015-09-07, 10:06 am
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#22
James736 Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Lots of thoughtful replies, but... Am I the only one who thought this was meant to be a joke?
I think that if you already understand the written counterpart, then it's only a matter of listening while reading what you're listening to. I think japanese subtitles is a good way to achieve this. If you really understand the subtitles, then I think it's just a matter of getting used to listening (with the help of the transcript, which is in a format you already understand).

I did this with english and it required little to no efford. I watchet all the dr. House and by the end of it I went from no listening comprehension at all, to 99,99% listening comprehension.

Obviously I know the japanese language is quite different, but I think the most effort is required in acquiring new words, intended as linking the word with its meaning/s.

I tried this with the first episode of Death Note, and the greatest effort was to actually learn all the words I didn't know the meaning of. Once I did this, the listening comprehension was only a matter of watching that episode a couple of time with japanese subtitles, and then without.

Now when I listen to new contents, if they use those words I catch them 80/90% of the time.

Then I tried the second episode and the only difficult things were again the new words.
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#23
Tzadeck Wrote:Huh? Plenty of "vowels" get "devoiced" in Osaka.
He said devoiced.

heh heh..

Devoiced yeah

heh heh...

That reference is way too old...
Edited: 2015-09-07, 12:11 pm
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#24
cophnia61 Wrote:
James736 Wrote:
TheVinster Wrote:Well how do I become a better listener with little-to-no effort on my part? Do you have a solution? That'd be great thanks.
Lots of thoughtful replies, but... Am I the only one who thought this was meant to be a joke?
I think that if you already understand the written counterpart, then it's only a matter of listening while reading what you're listening to. I think japanese subtitles is a good way to achieve this. If you really understand the subtitles, then I think it's just a matter of getting used to listening (with the help of the transcript, which is in a format you already understand).

I did this with english and it required little to no efford. I watchet all the dr. House and by the end of it I went from no listening comprehension at all, to 99,99% listening comprehension.

Obviously I know the japanese language is quite different, but I think the most effort is required in acquiring new words, intended as linking the word with its meaning/s.

I tried this with the first episode of Death Note, and the greatest effort was to actually learn all the words I didn't know the meaning of. Once I did this, the listening comprehension was only a matter of watching that episode a couple of time with japanese subtitles, and then without.

Now when I listen to new contents, if they use those words I catch them 80/90% of the time.

Then I tried the second episode and the only difficult things were again the new words.
Well in my case, I know a lot of words. Going on 35k. But it's the speed and the way the words are put together (or slurred) that kill me. I find watching with Japanese subtitles not effective because I just read the subtitles with no issues and I don't find that the listening comprehension improves. Right now if I use subtitles, I only turn them on after I hear a passage I don't quite get. I've put thousands of hours into vocabulary and reading. I've read about 60 or more light novels. It looks like you have to be equally devoted to listening to get good at it. My regiment now is trying to watch the NHK news (30 mins and no subtitles) and maybe an anime/drama (sometimes subtitles) during the day. I am not too happy with my progress.
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#25
PotbellyPig Wrote:I find watching with Japanese subtitles not effective because I just read the subtitles with no issues and I don't find that the listening comprehension improves.
I'm was having the same problem and what really helped me was practicing "pure" listening without any text/images . I usually listen to some podcast before sleeping for 10-30min every evening, eyes closed and 100% concentrated on comprehending the voices.

By far the most interesting 番組 I have found so far is ラジオ版 学問ノススメ, it's fairly easy to understand and the stimulating content makes paying attention easy and rewarding.
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