Listening and Self-Study in Asia

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2013 at 6:17 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

Listening to foreign languages: The young cool English teacher brings a Friends episode to the classroom once or twice a semester. And this is the only time most of the Asian students hear any real English (English intended for native speakers). Since you need 800 hours of listening to learn a language, this 50 minutes of Friends won’t have any real impact on the student’s language learning. In fact, it will detract from their learning, because they will miss 50 minutes of class time. But, on the European model, the idea of university is for the professor to inspire the students to go explore, study and research on their own.

So, brining in a Friends episode as a way of leading students to explore American TV series on their own is a good idea.

Even in the American school model, why do future bankers have to take French and woodshop class in high school? Because by exposing students to a variety of intellectual pursuits and interests, you will hopefully help them uncover interests and passions they were never aware of. Also, we hope to avoid producing what the Germans call “Facchidioten” people who are so intelligent about a single subject that they can’t even tie their own shoe laces.

It’s great to be the best financial analyst in the world. And that probably pays a lot better than being an expert on 16th Century Norse Lesbian Poetry, but if you could be a financial analyst who also knows something about 16th Century Norse Lesbian Poetry maybe you will be a better, more creative financial analyst. Or maybe you will just be more interesting to talk to at a cocktail party.

The problem in Asia is that students are not taught to explore, study and research on their own. In fact, no one ever told them this was a good thing to do. In America, I realize a lot of students don’t do this, but most students have been told that this is the ideal. In Asia, the whole model is non-existent. If you show a Chinese class two episodes of Friends, the vast majority if students will see exactly two episodes of Friends and derive the linguistic benefit of watching two episodes of Friends which is zero.

The only way to develop native like pronunciation is by listening. The most likely way to learn how natives interact with each other is by observing. Movies and TV create artificial, concentrated, focused ways of studying the interactions of native speakers with each other in a variety of settings and circumstances. It takes hundreds of hours of listening to learn a language. As the entire paradigm of classroom teaching will not at any time soon be turned on its head, students will need to do this copious listening on their own, outside of class.

When I was a German major at Tennessee State in 1992, the university owned about 10 German movies on VHS tape. At that time, a movie cost about $60 USD. Today, with downloads, internet, streaming, and youtube unlimited content is available in most languages FOR FREE. If language learners developed the habit of watching several hours of these free broadcasts per day, by the end of a single year, they would see a marked improvement in their language fleuncy.


Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on




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Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

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