Saturday, March 21, 2009

An obversation? A wish... ?

I noticed something when I was watching anime earlier today - the sounds were much clearer than before. By that I mean that if you told me to write down (in kana) everything I heard, I would feel very confident doing so about 95-98% of the time.

At first I figured it was because I just had better sound quality - I was watching the DVDs on a laptop that's less than 2 months old. But just now I went on youtube on my usual computer (which is a few years old) and started listening to J-pop, and the effect was the same. Obviously music doesn't have the same rhythm as regular spoken language, but even so...

There's a part of me that won't believe this; I'm half-convinced that I'm imagining this or something. As I write this, I am 104 hours into the experiment. That might sound like a lot, but remember how I said that babies/toddlers take 8-11 thousand hours to pick up their first language? Even if we assume that I (at the age of 18) am "smarter" than a newborn baby, it still strikes me as being too early into the experiment for visible results. If I had had to guess how long it would've taken for something like this to happen, I would've guesstimated a thousand hours.

Either my imagination has rum amok, or I've really underestimated my own ability to pick up/get used to foreign languages.


  1. i think you should just write out all the kana and post/ask someone. cause you might be mistaken... there's really no way/proof (not to say that you're wrong but it's a possibility)

  2. Well, to be fair, at 18 years old you are quite smarter than a newborn. You may not know how to express your thoughts in Japanese yet, but you have 18 years of life experience. Consider when you discovered what 洗濯(せんたく)meant. Seeing all of the objects and actions associated with the doing of laundry you were able to use your past experiences to give meaning to that word. A baby has no clue what clothes are, let alone a washer machine, and so they are at a severe disadvantage.

    As for your listening progress, I certainly believe it, the same happened to me several months ago. It only gets better from here. Soon you'll feel where each word starts and ends. From there you begin to recognize common phrases. From there you begin to feel what words are coming next before they are said. And from there, fluency. Keep at, the fun is only beginning.

  3. Solar Wind is right about the listening. After you've been with a language a while, the brain gets a sense of how the sound system works even if it doesn't know what the sounds mean. Then it figures out where the units of meaning start and end. Otherwise, you wouldn't even be able to learn new words from listening in context in your own language! Congratulations on passing an important marker on the way to listening proficiency.

  4. That's some great news Maya. (This is my first post here, by the way). I've noticed that when I concentrate on what is being said in a show that I've seen a few times I can usually repeat it back and write out the kana for it, but not really for first time listening. It's not really surprising that you're experiencing this after 100 hours of audio-visual input. Congrats. :)

  5. Some excellent posts here Maya...particularly the article about children encapsulating whole grammatical scenarios into single generalised utterances early on in their development. You seem to be making some real progress, and this renewed feeling of clarity in what you're hearing is very similar to what happened to me after I listened to hundreds of hours of Russian music. I'd be really interested to find out what's happened since March 2009. Is the experiment still running?

    Best wishes from Teango (HTLAL) :)

  6. This is an interesting experiment and I will continue to follow your blog.
    We have recently started a website that helps people learn a language (currently: Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and English). It is Free and it uses videos from youtube or new articles (that you would normally read or watch) and translates them to hep you learn. You can also click on those words you are having a problem with and that puts them into a word bank that you can take quizzes with to test your knowledge of those words. Please check it out and let us know what you think,
    Lisa Powell
    CMO StudyStream

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