My challenge ends tomorrow, so I’ll do a proper wrap-up post then, but I wanted to post one last update.
I finished season one of La Casa de las Flores a few days ago! I’m definitely going to keep watching the show, though probably more sporadically when the challenge is over. There are some things I’m very confused about in season two already, but I believe the show is deliberately withholding information from the audience, haha, because there was a time skip between the seasons, and a lot happened during that time for the characters.
I also finished watching 夢プロレス－dream on the ring－ #4, which spotlights 真中ひまり (I’m linking instead of embedding this one because, once again, there are some images/footage from 真中ひまり’s gravure work). ひまり loves saunas, so maybe if she isn’t able to become a TJPW wrestler, she’ll be able to find a place in DDT Pro Wrestling as part of The 37Kamiina faction .
I cheated slightly on Sunday. I ended up counting Forbidden Door (the All Elite Wrestling/New Japan Pro Wrestling crossover pay-per-view show) as my Japanese listening practice, despite the fact that I watched it with English commentary. But the ring introductions for all of the wrestlers were in English and then Japanese, and there were a few (English subtitled) Japanese promos in the video packages, plus occasional Japanese phrases yelled out by the wrestlers. And of course, the English-speaking crowd managed to yell out a very loud 風になれ! when the chorus of Minoru Suzuki’s entrance song hit.
It was pretty neat to see an event like that happen in America. I’m happy for the Japanese wrestlers that they were so popular and beloved with the American crowd, to the point where the crowd often cheered for the NJPW wrestlers instead of their AEW favorites. It was also really amusing to hear some of the clips from Japanese commentary when the video footage failed, like this one, where they have some fun with American accents (blood warning for when the footage comes back).
Regarding the matter of extensive/intensive listening, I’ve found that I’m effectively unable to do intensive listening. I can do intensive reading and then pair that with listening (which does help my listening comprehension), but intensive listening is basically impossible for me.
So my approach with listening is basically just to take it as it is. If it’s way above my level, that means I’ll likely gleam very little from it (like with wrestling commentary, I just catch a few words here and there and rarely understand full sentences). In this situation, I don’t even try to pay too much attention. I just let the sound exist in the background. I’ve found that I pick up more and more the more words I add to Anki from my reading.
If it’s moderately close to my level (like if I’m able to understand 80% with native language subtitles), then that tends to be enough for me to watch at normal speed without pausing and understand enough of it in order to roughly follow it and still enjoy the story without getting too frustrated.
If it’s at my level (like I’d say the Duolingo Spanish podcast is, where I can listen without a transcript and understand 90-95%), then I’m able to listen while walking, doing dishes, knitting, etc… It takes just enough brain focus that I have to pay pretty close attention to the words if I want to understand it, but I don’t have to give it my complete undivided attention if I want to have any hope of comprehending.
As far as I can tell, all of my big leaps in understanding with listening have primarily come from doing intensive reading (especially intensive reading paired with SRS). That’s where I pick up new vocab, new grammar, etc. It’s how I get used to unfamiliar sentence structure and get faster at taking in entire sentences.
However, what listening is great for is applying and testing the vocab/grammar that I have learned. Watching La Casa de las Flores hasn’t really taught me more words or grammar, but it has helped me get much, much better at processing Spanish at the speed it’s spoken at. I realized how much I’d improved when I heard my coworker helping someone in Spanish, and I was able to follow a large portion of the conversation.
I don’t think I’d have been able to do that if I hadn’t been listening to the Duolingo podcast and also watching La Casa de las Flores. Those things sort of primed my brain for being able to match the sounds to the words that I know and process the meaning before the conversation moves on. With just reading, I think you’d probably get there eventually, but listening really forces you to think faster.
So I guess instead of having three different approaches with extensive/intensive listening, I do purely extensive listening, and just get different things out of it depending on the difficulty of the material and my current level:
Impossibly hard material — Low effort background passive immersion. Requires little effort, but I don’t get a whole lot out of it.
Slightly too hard material — Requires very high level of focus (as well as native language subtitles) for mixed results, but is also probably the most rewarding, in terms of being able to watch and enjoy interesting content.
Material that is at my level — Requires moderate focus, and is moderately rewarding. This is where I get the most out of it for the least amount of work.
Admittedly, with Japanese listening, most of what is available to me at my current level is either impossibly hard or slightly too hard. I’m much further along with Spanish. So the majority of my Japanese listening practice is either passive immersion, or intensive reading paired with listening reinforcement.
But, even so, I can still see myself slowly improving! A lot of it is just continuing to fill in the holes of my understanding with reading, then practicing/reinforcing what I do know with listening. I think as I continue to improve, active listening practice will become more and more useful. I’m not really worrying too much about it, at this point. I can focus on reading intensively, and then just let listening be purely about whatever I can do and still enjoy the experience, regardless of my level of comprehension.