I will reprint the post below:
OK. Allow me to narrate my experience about the language learning through TV watching.
In the beginning of the 1990th the USSR collapsed, Azerbaijan gained independence and iron curtain was lifted. During the reign of the Soviet Union only couple of state TV channels were available; some in Azeri language, bur majority in Russian language. As an independent Azerbaijan failed to produce its own quality TV channels, the Russian channels still were in demand. However, another country's TV channels started to challenge the position of the Russian TVs and consequently Russian language. Those were Turkish TV channels. Actually, Panturkism ideas were one of the pillars of the independence. So it was not surprising that Turkish channels were so successful. From here I will relate the learning Turkish and Russian through the TV separately.
1) Turkish language and Azeri language both are from Oguz branch of the Turkic language and therefore have many things common. First my encounter with Turkish language was on TV in 1994 (I was 11 years old). At first it seemed to me funny language, as I could understand some words similar to my own language but I could not comprehend the conversations. It took me 6 month more or less to start to understand the sentences and the differences in our languages. After 3 years I could understand nearly everything. I had not taken any Turkish language courses, I had not read any Turkish book or conversed with any Turkish speaker. I just watched TV. I watched it at least 1-2 hours per day. After 2000 I had couple of opportunities to visit Turkey and first time to try my Turkish. Soon I realized that although I don't have any problem understanding, I had huge problems expressing myself. Usually, after saying the sentences I was realizing that I actually used Azeri words in some occasions rather than Turkish. As Turks themselves were exposed to the certain extend to the Azeri TVs as well, it was not big problem. In worst case scenario, they could ask me what that word meant. After couple of visits to Turkey, the problem with the expression had gone away, although still I could use some Azeri words unconsciously. I haven't had any formal test regarding the Turkish language, but probably my Turkish knowledge is C1 in listening and reading, B2 in speaking and writing.
2) As I was born in the USSR, probably I have been exposed to the Russian language since my birth. However, my first conscious encounter with the Russian language was at the second year of the primary school. We had Russian class once a week. These classes lasted 10 years, without teaching any useful stuff, apart from the basic grammatic structures. I started to watch the Russian language TV in 1993 and primarily because of the cartoons. First I could understand only little, but steady increase in the comprehension was obvious. It took me 4 years to me to understand that, I could nearly comprehend everything on TV. After that I started to read classic Russian literature; Dostoyevski, Pushkin, Lermantov, Chekov,Tolstoy, etc. Those were joyful times. During the reading or watching I had never used dictionary. Actually still I don't have any Russian-Azeri dictionary. On contrary, I started to learn English language with Russian books, including English-Russian dictionary which I used to learn English words. By 2000 I had confidence in my Russian. But I must confess it was a little bit funny knowledge. I had never written in that language and although we did have huge community of the Russian speakers I had practiced it rarely. And in the reading, although I could understand nearly everything, there were the words, which exact translation I did not care to know (This is true for my own native language as well). For instance, I knew that word "мансард" means part of the house, but I did not know which part exactly. The reality of my Russian language came to me, when I traveled to UK to study English language in 2006. I met there a lot off Russian speakers, and first time I was involved in active conversation with natives. I must say, sometimes it was embarrassing. As with the Turkish, I could understand everything but could not express myself properly, making a lot of gender related mistakes, having a slightly archaic language.
Fortunately, I was involved in a relationship with a Russian girl and after one month active contact with her, my Russian looked like proper, modern Russian. Nowadays, I would estimate my Russian as C1 in listening, reading, B2-C1 speaking, B1 writing.
As can be seen, the TV helps only with the passive knowledge, which requires activation.
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