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    • Join Date: Dec 2005
    • Posts: 1

    Question Difficulties in Listening Comprehension

    Mandarin Chinese (tonal) is my mother tongue. Iím a native Chinese from Taiwan and have lived in the U.S. for many years now. I consider myself better than average in the English skills except for listening in certain situations. Iím an active person using English daily. I even translate text from English into Chinese on a regular basis. Normally I can carry a conversation with people just fine. At times, people even compliment how good my English is and how native I sound like.
    When I listen to people, their accent and speed affect my listening comprehension tremendously. For instance, the British English is very difficult for me follow and understand. My comprehension of it can go down to zero. The same thing can be said about Ďother accents.í Iím also very analytical in my listening. I care very much about word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase when I gather the intended ideas. As a result, when I donít understand something, I find it difficult to continue listening to the rest. Listening without interaction is worse because it shuts my mind easily when something is unclear. Sometimes I donít understand what people are saying at all in movies, plays, or songs. And yet I know the content (or the text) is not all that difficult to understand. Oftentimes, people who are less fluent in English can understand much better than I do in these situations. I feel terrible about this struggle of mine.
    Please help me with this subconscious mental block or shutdown which is seriously frightening to me.
    P.S. I also read more slowly than average. Would this be another hint of something about me? Or would this be a separate issue?

  1. Editor,
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 60,670

    Re: Difficulties in Listening Comprehension

    It seems to me that you are trying too hard- you want to follow spoken language "word-for-word", as if it were the same as written language. If you do this, it's natural that you will find it hard to continue once you miss something. However, spoken English isn't word-for-word; we squash things together, use forms so unstressed that they are virtually inaudible, run several words together into a single unit, add sounds to make the flow better, cut sounds for the same reason. Spoken language is usually improvised so it often lacks the organisational clarity of written text- we start, stop change, go back, reormulate, drift, etc. It strikes me that you might be trying to impose an artificial model os expectation on the language you hear. You should try not to go for the word-for-word approach, but to go with the flow. Spoken language can be disjointed and seem messy in comparison with written and we make many changes to words. You should try to use the same analytical techniques that have enabled you to reach a high level of proficiency with written text. Try to focus not on the individual words, but try to step back and try to look at what we do with the sounds and how we try to organise our idea, but don't try to match it to the patterns of written communication.
    Do you practise listening specifically?
    When you say you read more slowly than average, what's the average? If it's the average native speaker, I wouldn't lose any sleep over that- given the language differences, it may take more processing time. Have you any idea of your approximate reading speed? Also, how fast a reader are you in Mandarin?

    • Join Date: Dec 2008
    • Posts: 1

    Re: Difficulties in Listening Comprehension

    Hallo,I am from Lithuania. I have the same issues with comprehension of spoken language. It dont necesarilly happens with english, with my other languages too. Other symptoms are the same as yours. Have you reached any progress on that?

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434

    Re: Difficulties in Listening Comprehension

    Welcome to the forums.
    Quote Originally Posted by hameg View Post
    Hallo,I am from Lithuania. I have the same issues with comprehension of spoken language. It doesn't necessarily happens with English, with my other languages too. Other symptoms are the same as yours. Have you reached any progress on that?
    This thread is three years old, so it is unlikely that you will hear back from the poster.

    It is a fairly common complaint, and you might like to look at the threads in the forum for Pronunciation where there are discussions on how to improve comprehension.

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