I’ve met a lot of people who do SRS (spaced-repition software) or flashcards with audio. Whoop-dee-do. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have the extra stimuli, but it’s not a great way to practice listening. Flashcards aren’t meant for audio, they’re made for facts.
Two flashcards don’t usually have any relationship. Knowing one flashcard doesn’t mean you’ll know the next. But listening is different. If you can’t tell the difference between “min2″ and “ming2″, you probably can’t tell the difference between “pin2″ and “ping2″ either. If you hear 2nd tones when you should hear 3rd tones, then you’ll have major problems understanding (and speaking) Chinese. A good listening drill needs to keep track of the mistakes you’re making, whether tone, finals, or initials. SRS doesn’t do that.
Sadly, SRS doesn’t tell you to pay attention to your ‘j/q/x’ or you ‘s,c,z’. But most people are happy to do their reps while playing the occasional sound and calling it “listening practice” (or whatever they call it). If people studying Chinese spent 1/5th the time doing listening practice (or even basic pronunciaiton drills), they’re Chinese would be much better. But listening, even though it’s more important than any other language skill, just doesn’t have the appeal of SRS (a.k.a. the secret to never forgetting anything ever again).
Hopefully, this post will help you remember this fact:
Don’t belive me? Here’s what AJATT had to say:
Let me be clear.
That is the “order of priority”, the “order of operations” as far as getting used to a language is concerned.
The number one killer of fluency is insufficient listening = hearing = passive exposure = shadowing time. Ultimately, Japanese people suck at English, Anglo-Americans suck at Spanish, English people suck at French and foreigners suck at Japanese and Chinese not so much because their various ministries of education suck, not because they didn’t have sweet-looking plans and curricula, but because they simply have not clocked the passive hearing hours with their L2. It’s that simple.
You can’t game this. You can’t sentence your way out of this. You can’t magically SRS this away.
Bottom line: SRS is for memorization, not comprehension. So watch 2000 hours of TV, listen to the radio (or podcasts). And do useful listening drills. Not SRS with audio.