I always get offered the pretty, popular girl roles, but I want to do something dark, really challenge myself and get out of my comfort level.
I want to avoid becoming too styled, too 'done' and too generic. You see people as they go through their career, and they just become more and more like everyone else. They start out with something individual about them, but it gets lost. - Emma Watson
apparently my school has an app now
well guess what keeps crashing
fashion encyclopedia: Badgley Mischka spring 2015 rtw
There are a lot of polyglots and linguists who spend a fair amount of time arguing over the value of passive listening. (In case you are unfamiliar with the term, passive listening refers to listening to material in your L2 without trying to understand it. Think background noise.) There are many people who argue it contributes little to nothing to one’s language learning and is a waste of time. Many have quite a few studies they can cite to attest to this fact.
There are others who argue vehemently on the other side. They note that most L1 listening is passive and that one needs such a large amount of L2 exposure that constant active listening is not really a feasible option. They state that given enough exposure, one will eventually pick up words and phrases and begin to learn as they did as a child. Some also note fringe benefits such as beginning to dream in the target language.
I happen to believe passive listening is important to incorporate into your language learning studies, for three main reasons. And here they are:
1. Increases your frustration tolerance
Most of us start exhibiting signs of frustration when reading if we know less than 92% of the words. That means you can only miss up to 8 out of every hundred words to avoid frustration. While listening may have a slightly higher tolerance, it’s still safe to say we start getting frustrated pretty quickly when we don’t know what’s being said. If you need an example, think about going to a work function with a significant other whose occupation differs dramatically from your own. Chances are you’d feel lost pretty quickly in that conversation.
So when you suddenly confront a new language head on, you are GOING to be overwhelmed and your frustration triggers are going to want to go off like crazy. Consciously making the choice to put on L2 music or podcasts in the background can help you overcome this. Your brain gets used to the language and starts being able to recognize what it is. You train your brain to say “This is not something to worry about. This is something normal.” Training your brain to stay in a relaxed state rather than panicking because it can’t understand more than the occasional word means you’ll likely pick up more during your active listening time.
Sidenote- I feel this especially important when listening to languages you have had little previous contact with. I could always pick out that something was Spanish, because growing up I heard it frequently in my hometown. But when I started Japanese, I realized quickly that I was one of those people who thought all Asian languages sounded the same. A few weeks of passive listening for minimal amounts of time fixed that and I can now easily distinguish between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
2. The more input, the better
If you can overcome the issue of frustration tolerance, then really the more input in your target language, the better. Even though you are not actively listening, you are likely to pick up on repeated phrases more often than you think. How often have you found yourself singing along to a song on the radio that you never intended to learn? (Heck, sometimes it’s even a song you detestbut since radio people INSIST on playing it you have no choice but to accept the memory space it has acquired… but that’s a rant for another day… :P)
We also all tune in and out of the noise we fill our background space with. So while you are working on that paper and start daydreaming off about what you’ll do with that college degree and/or freedom, you may also find yourself tuning into the chorus of that Hindi pop tune.
3. PASSIVE LISTENING DEVELOPS PROSODY
Can you tell I think this is mega-important?
First of all, what is prosody? Google defines it as “the patterns of stress and intonation in a language.” I like to call it the rhythm when I’m explaining it to my friends.
Here’s the deal folks- studies show that it is prosodynot pronunciation that ultimately determines how comprehensible we are to a native speaker. That’s right- the rhythm of how you talk is more important than the individual letter sounds. (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.) A good example in most of our L1s is the difficulty many United Statesians have understanding Indian English. The pronunciation of the individual sounds is actually not that different- certainly no more different than that of British English- but the RHYTHM is VERY different. That’s not to say don’t work on those individual sounds, but understand the importance of prosody.
It is difficult to isolate and work on prosody. We learned a few tricks in TESOL class using a rubber band to help accentuate the rhythmic patterns, but honestly they aren’t my favorite choice.
I have often been complimented on my speaking ability in Spanish and it was after I learned this term that I realized why. My pronunciation was okay but not spectacular and my grammar wasn’t that great back when I was first being complimented. My rhythm though was impeccable. I attribute this to lots of conversational practice and listening to my ESL students talk in Spanish. Oh, and listening to a LOT of Spanish music in thecar. Music in particular helps you develop this because it has accompanying percussion beats and notes to help you develop phrasing in speaking. My good friend who learns Japanese will attest to the power of music in helping him develop his own prosody. (He’d also point out it helped him improve his pronunciation as well. I think this has merit- I first learned to roll my r’s while singing- I think sometimes your vocal muscles are more open to new sounds in this venue.)
Now, to clarify, it is still essential that a language learner spend some time doing active listening. (I.e. paying attention to the L2 sounds (s)he is listening to.) Your brain has to make active attempts to decode and comprehend this new linguistic information in order to move forward. But in my humble opinion, passive listening can most certainly give you a boost.
That’s all for this tired blogger. Perk up those Ears Polyglots and may you find time for some listening practice of your own!
Have fun, be yourself, enjoy life and stay positive.
Girls get mocked for liking high heels and lipstick. Girls get mocked for liking sports. Girls get mocked for liking tea and books. Girls get mocked for liking comics books and video games. Girls get mocked for liking math and science. Girls get mocked for liking boys. Girls get mocked for liking girls. Girls get mocked for liking both. What the fuck are we supposed to like? Water? Air? Come on, tell me. I’m dying to know.
Ellen Page photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for W magazine, October 2014