I came across this article, which, while dated (2009), it reinforces much of what I believe we already should know:
“Our ability to learn new words is directly related to how often we have been exposed to the particular combinations of the sounds which make up the words. If you want to learn Spanish, for example, frequently listening to a Spanish language radio station on the internet will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language and learn new words.”
I’ve always been a strong proponent of this methodology, and believe that learning the sounds first before learning any of the phonetic systems–regardless if you’re using Pinyin or Zhuyin–is far more valuable than starting with entire chapters devoted to initials, finals, etc. That is, it gives you even more immersion in the language until it becomes background ‘noise’ that actually has some benefits for concentration and learning.
There’s even an interesting study that was done (found here) that explores the benefits of ambient noise on cognitive ability. Often times, while at work, driving to take care of chores, or even while walking around, I’ll put on some sort of audio to listen to. I have a collection of news, music, talk shows, food shows, movies, and podcasts that provide enough variety to listen to on a regular basis without getting bored or sick of what I am listening to.
That said, I will still try and repeat what I listen to a few times so that I can become more and more familiar with what is being discussed and get used to the nuances in the way different people are speaking. It’s a really great method to get Chinese into your subconscious so you can still learn without necessarily focusing on it.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting together various sources and recommended items to listen to. I added a new section, Audio, where you can easily find more posts in this category and hopefully find some audio you’ll enjoy listening to to help practice.
If you have any you’d recommend, please share them in the comments below!