Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the TV method answers

The following are answers to the questions from my previous post, two thousand hours. I'm glad to see there are still some people interested in the TV method. Thanks to all my readers, especially those who left a comment or question.

The first set of questions came from William.
  • How well do you feel that you understand dialog in TV shows?
I feel I understand the dialog well enough to enjoy what I'm watching. I know what people are saying, for the most part, and I can tell what's up, even on the first viewing. I generally understand what's going on. Certain themes and situations come up frequently in life, so I've seen those situations many times and have heard the same expressions uttered quite often.
  • Do you think there's any point that you could have sped things along by studying, or were the benefits of learning naturally worth taking it slower?
I still feel the supposed benefits of studying are offset by the damage it causes. I still would not start a new language by studying. I still believe that the natural pace of acquisition will have a higher or better outcome than one can obtain by studying just to "speed things up."
  • Did you have any initial problems with boredom while watching Chinese shows, since you couldn't understand them? If so, at what point did the shows become fun to watch?
No, I didn't have any boredom from watching when I first began. I was interested in trying to guess what was going on. However, I did watch my first drama series twice in a row and decided that that was enough.  If I would have watched it a third time in a row, I would have been bored.

Our next question come from Bakunin, who is also a TV method enthusiast blogging about how best to learn naturally.
  • Why do you want to record your very first conversation in Chinese? Do you want to demonstrate that the TV method leads to fluent speaking without any transition period?
If I wanted to demonstrate that the TV method leads to fluent speaking without any transition period, then I would definitely want to record my first conversation. However, I would have to wait longer before having my first conversation since I don't know enough Chinese yet to be able to really say what I would want to say during a conversation. Since I am not able to provide that demonstration, I am recording my first conversation for a Language Time Capsule. We'll be able to look back in time and see what my speaking skills were like when I had my first conversation. Also, there are other people who are curious to know how well I would be able to speak now that I've completed my almost unprecedented 2,000 hour silent period with the TV method. I could just go and have a conversation or two and then report back on how I did, but I don't think that would build any trust with my audience.  I know there are people who do this and continue to make claims without providing anything to back them up, but I'm not going to be like that.  Instead of making any claims, I would just like others to see for themselves and decide for themselves.

Next, there was a question from Slucido about listening skills.
  • I am curious about your listening skills. How much do you understand? 70%, 90%... If you listen isolated audio, like Mandarin radio, do you understand anything?
I can't estimate my listening skills right now. It all depends on the situation that is going on. There are still plenty of situations that I need more experience with to understand them. When I get to 100%, then I'll say so. If I were to listen to isolated audio, I would be able to understand it as well as the TV drama if the audio was similar to the situations I'm familiar with. An audio with just a monologue, not a conversation frequently exchanging between two participants, would be much more difficult and I would surely understand very little.

Then there was a comment from Kanjiguy. I like that name. He just recently came from out of the blue. I now see he has a blog with some TV method posts and a Natural Language Learning theme. I'll have to check that out!
  • I'm interested to know how well you can understand and how you feel about your fluency listening/reading(if you began studying reading yet)/etc.
As I stated above, I can understand pretty well. At least I am thoroughly enjoying my level of understanding. The level of understand keeps on improving, even though you can't notice its incremental steps. Since watching TV is easy to do, one can spend more time on it than any other tool they might actively use.  Before I started the TV method, I did spend a couple of months at LingQ reading a few short articles. Because that site provides a recording of the text, it was easy to do. Another thing that made it easy for me is because I'm already used to looking at Kanji. I'll have a huge headstart when it comes time for me to learn to read Chinese. Since I began the TV method, I have not done any reading at all.

The Arabic Student also left a comment for me.
  • I too am very interested to see how this has worked so far. Even if you are just able to do basic things I would call it a success! I envy you...
I think I would be able to do very basic things. We'll see how my first conversation goes and try to judge from it. I'm expecting the first conversation to be a little shaky with a bit of stuttering stumbling, but then I expect to smooth things out very quickly after that. I just want to get that first one over because I have more off-camera opportunities, so right now I'm missing out a little bit.
  • Just an idea, but could you make a list of all the shows (or at least some of them) that you watched in your 2000 hours?
I already have a list of all the shows I have been watching. The link to it has been on the front page of this blog the whole time. It's actually a Google spreadsheet shown as an html page. There are two tabs! The first tab has the list of shows, approximate hours in the series, number of times watched, and total hours watching each series. Although, I've hidden the Doraemon entries because I had divided it up per disc since they weren't a continuing series, I figured I could watch some of them separately without needing to rewatch the rest of them. The hours spent watching Doraemon (in Chinese) is included in the total hours, even though the entry is not published. I only watched them once, though. The second tab has the history. It shows which show I watched from when to when.

Well, that covers all the questions. Thanks for watching!


  1. I think I am a skeptic of the TV method in its pure form. But your posts got me interested in investigating. I won't try the 'pure' version, but will definitely watch more TV!

  2. "I don't know enough Chinese yet to be able to really say what I would want to say during a conversation"

    When I first read that you had completed 2000 hours of silent TV exposure, I felt a certain incredulity, both because of the impressive level of motivation you must have needed to accomplish this, and because I couldn't believe you actually thought this would work. But now, having read the sentence I quoted, I simply feel pity.

    If you HAD been studying for 2000 hours, or supplementing your listening with study and oral practice, you most certainly WOULD know what to say in a conversation. And that's just plain obvious.

    I've probably done half those hours in Japanese over the last 2 1/2 years (I've no idea, but I study about an hour a day). As a result, I speak with Japanese people on a regular basis and we have full conversations. I can also participate in other people's conversations. If I couldn't do that after twice the hours, I'd be incredibly discouraged and I'd figure something was wrong with my method. And to be honest, when I read between the lines of your entry, when you discuss your level of comprehension or lack of conversational skills, I can't help detect discouragement. At the very least, I feel discouraged.

    While I think you took the lazy approach, I also want to encourage a fellow language learner and I really hope, for your sake, that the talking phase reveals that your efforts were not wasted. But I'm incredibly skeptical.

    I really wish you'd document your first dialogues/monologues on Youtube. After all, you are advocating on the web that this method should work. You are running a public experiment. You need to have the honesty to display the results. We all want to see the results.

  3. I'm very interested in seeing how your conversational ability progresses (not just seeing the first one). Some people might entirely base the failure or success of the TV method on that first conversation, but having the 2000 hours of exposure behind you could just mean much faster progress towards speaking fluent, natural Chinese.

    People not familiar with children growing up in multilingual environments may fault that environment when the child isn't at the same level as their peers in any one language at say, three or five years old. However, by the time they reach eight or ten years old, those children are now at the same level as their peers in all their languages! I think judging the "success" of the TV method based only on that first conversation could be akin to judging these multilingual children too early.

    Incidentally, are the shows you watched more than others the ones you liked more? Or did you watch them more to gain better understanding of the stories?

    Also, having watched LoCH, you should get your hands on Return of the Condor Heroes 神雕侠侣 (1983 version).

  4. Incidentally, there is a thread discussing something similar to your approach. It even has a reference to your previous post. You might want to reply to it.

  5. @Melissa -- What kind of "faster progress towards speaking fluent, natural Chinese" are you expecting?

    A person who's put in 2000 hours of study could already be speaking fluently. If you are implying that after the 2000 hours, Keith's progress is going to be so spectacular that he will not only catch up on where he'd be, had he properly studied, but that he will actually surpass that level eventually, how long do you think this is going to take?

  6. I agree with Melisa. I think he will progress very quickly.

  7. Sounds impressive Keith, looking forward to your progress.

    Don't worry about the nay sayers, eventually the quality of your ability should be a lot better.

  8. @Alexandre -- I don't have any expectations. I'm just a spectator and speculating. And, I guess what I'm looking at is native-like language ability, which most learners don't need to reach. How many hours does it take someone to reach native-like language ability? How long would it take Keith, having started in this manner (if he were to work towards that elusive goal)? When will he catch up to the former? Will he ever catch up to or surpass the former? No, I don't have the answers to these questions, and I don't think we ever will. All I'm saying is using his first conversation to judge the success or failure of the method would be premature and unfair.

    (I know I said "fluent, natural Chinese" in my previous comment and it became "native-like" here. That's because I realized that everyone has different definitions of fluency.)


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