Focus of the week: listening exercise

Why I find it so hard to improve my listening

I am used to roughly dividing listening practice into two different activities:

  • Passive immersion: just let an audio run in your target language, you don’t have to pay special attention to it or try to understand what it says.
  • Active study: work on a short audio adapted to your level. You can either look up words, write down what you hear or repeat after the speaker, etc.

Being the lazy person that I am, I have always wanted to believe that doing the first activity would be enough to improve my listening. As language learners, we certainly all have heard stories of, or know people who have learned a language by watching films or listening to their favourite music band. Every time I hear such a story, it revives my faith in passive learning and I feel motivated to immerse myself in a Japanese environment.

The thing is that it never really worked for me. Listening passively to Japanese never seemed to have helped me to increase my level dramatically. It certainly helps, but not so much that I can measure it. Well, some people might be more receptive than others and able to get better results from a passive exposure to their language. I am definitely not one of these persons.

How the drama シグナル helped me improve my listening at last

On the contrary, working on an audio last week has helped me considerably. When I say “considerably” I mean that I can actually feel a difference between “before” and “after”.

I already talked about it last Friday, but I am watching the drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』. Instead of just watching it passively, I have tried to transcribe a whole episode (a 45 minutes episode takes me several days to transcribe). This exercise allowed me to go from “I understand almost nothing” to “I understand almost everything”. Of course, I could not understand every single word the actors said, but I could follow the drama without looking at the subtitles and I could explain what they were saying. There were even some scenes that I could transcribe word by word.

So from now on, I have decided to put in the extra effort and actively work on my listening instead of waiting for a miracle.

This week, I will focus on doing this transcription exercise and continue to use the drama シグナル for that. It will be this week’s challenge!