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How long was it before you could understand speech?

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How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby kentaku_sama » Thu 04.09.2009 5:27 pm

I'm just wondering how many years it took for one of you NOn native japanese speakers to begin to understand common spoken language at full speed. I'm sure it takes a while and lots of practice and expirence :D
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby CajunCoder » Thu 04.09.2009 7:19 pm

That's a hard question to answer. To what extent do you mean?

Likely, you could pick up simple phrases you know right off the bat -- though to understand long series' of sentences, you will have to get used to the way Japanese is spoken. Most likely, though, you will get used to that way before you acquire the knowledge of grammar and vocabulary you will need to understand such sentences anyway.

When listening to a language, our brain actively anticipates, and "fills in the gaps." We usually, without thinking even, know what kind of words to expect, and what kind of words are out there. So even if someone is mumbling, or speaking fast, you can usually understand them because you're following their train of thought, and relating what you hear to words that you know. If you don't know those words in the first place, or aren't familiar enough with grammar to string them together, however, you can't do that.

If you're having trouble even catching simple words/sentences you should know, however, you might want to consider some audio-resources. I recall using Pimsluer(spelling?)'s Japanese audio courses when I began. The Japanese spoken on them is of course slower and more cleanly pronounced than in day-to-day Japanese, but it's not horribly unnatural either, and serves it's purpose, which is to get you used to hearing and understanding the language.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby tōkai devotee » Thu 04.09.2009 9:52 pm

If you mean, how long it took to understand native Japanese people speaking at normal speed in a normal day to day setting, I myself did not achieve this until having lived in Japan. Despite having studied Japanese language for 3 years, it wasn't until I had lived there for a while that I fully understood conversations that were going on around me. In fact, I'd say it took about 3 months before I really understood them, and that was when I was working with Japanese speakers daily and none of them spoke English, so I had to learn to understand them in order to survive!
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby furrykef » Thu 04.09.2009 10:22 pm

CajunCoder wrote:Likely, you could pick up simple phrases you know right off the bat -- though to understand long series' of sentences, you will have to get used to the way Japanese is spoken. Most likely, though, you will get used to that way before you acquire the knowledge of grammar and vocabulary you will need to understand such sentences anyway.


That's if you're practicing listening comprehension. I'm nearly fluent in written Spanish, but I'm utterly horrible at spoken Spanish... I can understand it when it's spoken slowly and clearly, but that's not how natives normally talk, so everything's just a blur. But if I watch Spanish TV with closed captioning on, I find that I can suddenly understand both the written and spoken text -- the cues provided by the written words fills in the gaps in my understanding of the spoken language. But turn the captions off and I'm completely lost again...

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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby kentaku_sama » Thu 04.09.2009 11:18 pm

No I can understand and write (in hiragana) most anything spoken and repeat it That is in romaji NOT translation. It's just I don't know enough to anticipate the diologue, however slowly I'm guessing what they say before they do with some stuff (very little) . Ex: If the sentence is desu, masu, adjective type sentence with verbs like do and love, yeah I'll understand it, but if it's grammar I don't know, heck I can't hardly make mush out of it. LOL Hmm how would I live in japan for a year or 2? I live in NC USA.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby CajunCoder » Thu 04.09.2009 11:29 pm

furrykef wrote:That's if you're practicing listening comprehension. I'm nearly fluent in written Spanish, but I'm utterly horrible at spoken Spanish... I can understand it when it's spoken slowly and clearly, but that's not how natives normally talk, so everything's just a blur. But if I watch Spanish TV with closed captioning on, I find that I can suddenly understand both the written and spoken text -- the cues provided by the written words fills in the gaps in my understanding of the spoken language. But turn the captions off and I'm completely lost again...

- Kef



Really? Interesting. Maybe I practiced listening comprehension more than I realized, then. I didn't make a point to practice it specifically, but I did watch a lot of Japanese TV and listen to other media, and I would occasionally try transcribing and fully understanding parts that gave me difficulty.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby AOISORA619 » Fri 04.10.2009 12:44 am

I'm still not at "full speed" when it comes to comprehending spoken Japanese. But after watching a lot of Japanese television I've gradually improved to the point that subtittles can actually annoy me sometimes because the translation is a bit "off". If you want to get better in speech comprehension you have to watch Japanese TV. It's the only way to hear the language spoken in it's natural enviornment. Even the Japanese you learn in class is just that...text book Japanese.

I recommend watching a tv show, movie or drama without the subtittles first. Then watch the same show/movie/drama with the subtittles to get a "feeling" of the dialogue. Do it as many times as you have to.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby Infidel » Fri 04.10.2009 2:38 am

Hrm,

If I'm hearing vocabulary and grammar I know, and I'm not translating in my head, I can understand just fine. But once I start converting to English my understanding lags behind the speech and eventually I get left behind.

I suppose it's common, being able to understand many sentences I'd never be able to articulate. Need to try to speak/write more Japanese instead of just passively listening and reading it.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby tōkai devotee » Fri 04.10.2009 4:19 am

It is hard when you have limited opportunities to speak the language. There are ample opportunities to hear it, such as watching the Japanese news on TV or watching an anime or something like that but when you don't live in Japan, and aren't actively studying in a class, there's not much chance to practice.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 04.10.2009 9:58 am

I could participate in most conversations at about 2-3 months, however, I didn't understand ever word or grammar principle. I always had a small dictionary that I could look up words on the fly. Remember I had only had 2 months of language training up to that point as well. I'd say I was comfortable speaking and exchanging conversation at around 3-6 months.. After that it was a matter of learning different and more grammar principles.

I think right about 5 months I was able to think in Japanese or at least not have to translate back to English then back to Japanese.. But proselytizing everyday, all day kinda puts a fire under your ability.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby Harisenbon » Sun 04.12.2009 9:51 pm

Also, it really depends on the person.
As with all things: what you put into it is what you get out of it.

I know people who have lived in Japan for 10 years and can't have a full conversation in Japanese, or who get confused when dealing with anything outside the realm of casual conversation.

But of course, you also have to consider what you mean by understanding speech. Like what kind of speech? Casual speech is easier than formal speech. A conversation with your friends is (usually) easier than reading an instruction manual.

My wife is a native Japanese, but I'm better at reading technical manuals and having technical discussions than she is, if only because I do that kind of thing all day long. Likewise, she could have a philosophical discussion with someone and I wouldn't probably understand half the words used.

So really, it's a broad question with no real answer -- it all depends on the context in which you are learning Japanese, and the conversations that you are trying to understand.

in either case, I could participate in short conversations after a year of studying in HS, without thinking about it too much. Coming to Japan sped things up a lot though. I would say I improved more in Japanese studying in Japan for 6 weeks than I did in 2 years of studying in HS.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby 8werner8 » Tue 05.05.2009 1:44 am

kentaku_sama wrote: Ex: If the sentence is desu, masu, adjective type sentence with verbs like do and love, yeah I'll understand it, but if it's grammar I don't know, heck I can't hardly make mush out of it. LOL


For grammar I would recommend:

A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui

There is also "intermediate" and "advanced" but the first volume should get you started - worked wonders for me.
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Re: How long was it before you could understand speech?

Postby ryuubu » Thu 05.07.2009 9:31 pm

I studied about 7 or 8 years at high school and university and I thought I was pretty good only to get completely shot down when I started to work at a Japanese restaurant.

Being surrounded by Japanese is a catalyst for listening comprehension, 6 months there and my listening improved tenfold.
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