Hello. I thought your TV method sounded pretty cool so I started it with Thai recently (well, yesterday). I'm not going as hardcore as you are, but I'm trying to watch at least one drama episode per day.Hello Thomas! I'm excited to hear you are giving the TV method a go. Right now you are in an adjustment period. It will take some more time before the language becomes clearer and until then it easy for your mind to start wandering. You also will be getting used to this style. That is, instead of being occupied with a task like studying does for you, you will become an observer. You will adjust to this observer mode.
Naturally I understand almost zero of what is said in the Thai dramas. My ears are still getting used to the sound and rhythm of the language. I don't expect to pick up many words for a long while yet, so I'm not stressing it. I actually enjoy it. It's mysterious and musical.
Anyway, I have a question. When I watch, I find myself spacing out a lot from time to time. I try to concentrate and really listen the whole time, but it's my mind's tendency to wander away from the mystery talking and towards thinking about everyday things. Sometimes I'll snap back and realize I wasn't really listening to the drama for the past 5 minutes or so. When you watch your DVDs all in one go like you do, does this happen to you too? Any tips on how to counter this?
At this early stage, you will observe what is happening. To keep your attention on the story, you can use your imagination. If you see a man and woman arguing, you will just imagine what it is they are arguing about. You will guess what their relationship is and keep your eyes open for clues that will tell you whether you are right or wrong. By the end of the series, you will know more than you did about it when you started. When you watch it again, you'll understand better what is going on and try to look for things you missed the first time.
Another thing to do when you feel like it is to listen to all the different sounds the language has. When you do this, think about how in the world these people can make those sounds. How much air or friction do you hear in each sound? When you find a peculiar sound, listen for it again.
I have heard (or rather read) people say that they need a description of how sounds are made and that they would never be able to get the sounds correct even if they listened to the language for hundreds of hours. Of course, they never tried listening for hundreds of hours. They are the people who give up right away and cling to something which they can "do" in order to give them some sense of progression.
In my experiences, the sounds will sound differently after you have heard them long enough. The sound you may have first thought was just like an English "sh" sound will become distinctly different after you've listened to it long enough. Sounds that are similar to English become noticeably "not the same."
Another thing I did sometimes was to look at the decorations in the background of the scene. How are the houses or apartments furnished? Do dramas always revolve around wealthy people? I also looked at the people in the crowds or walking on the sidewalk in the background. Sometimes you can find editing inconsistencies. Such as, there was a scene where the character in the story was writing on a big piece of paper, and then the angle changed but the paper was small. Just funny things like that are mildly interesting. I was surprised at how many there actually are!
If you want to notice words, you should be able to recognize greetings. Do the people greet each other when they meet or leave? Is the greeting the same? Some languages have the same words for hello and good-bye. What do they say when they answer the phone? Greetings are really a prime example of where a translation is unnecessary clutter. As a beginner, all you need to do is to recognize the fact that it is a greeting. The actual meaning of the words doesn't matter.
In the beginning it is better to not know what each word means so that you don't start asking questions that don't have answers. For example, in English we say, "Good Morning." Now, a student from a language which doesn't talk like this might ask, "Why do you always say good morning? What if it's a bad morning, then what do you say? How come this other guy just says Morning? Why doesn't he say good? How am I supposed to know which one to use? Is one more polite than the other?"
One more thing I tried was to see how well and how long I could hear the language. If you can just hear each syllable and then let it go so that you hear the next syllable you'll find that what is required is an ability to not get caught up on some word. I don't know if this might be easy for you since you don't yet know words or if this will be challenging. The language is kind of a blur in the beginning. It's interesting to notice how the clarity of the language will change for you over time.
So those are some ideas for keeping your attention on the dramas when you don't understand much yet. This adaptation stage is letting your brain know that these foreign sounds are important. Your brain will do the work for you, so just let it happen. Remember, your brain is one smart cookie!
Let us know if you start a TV method blog! Yours would be the first to go from zero knowledge of a language using the TV method.