I had my first Spanish exam yesterday, and our instructor already had our tests graded to give back to us this morning. I got an 81.5. I wasn't surprised. Most of the exam was based on an audio recording of two people speaking at a normal conversational speed in two different accents (one Mexican, the other Colombian). We heard it twice. I could understand about 15% of it.
I have a hard time listening to poor-quality audio amplified in large rooms, because I have a slight hearing impairment. It's never been diagnosed, but what happens is some frequencies just turn into noise, like analog distortion. I can hear things, but I can't always understand the words. The impairment is subtle enough that it hasn't affected my life much -- though it does affect the lives of my friends, who have to put up with me constantly saying, "What?"
But I can't completely blame it on my hearing. The speakers were talking fast, and they sounded very different from anyone I've ever heard speaking Spanish. The woman totally swallowed her S's. S is kind of an important letter to leave out, I think.
The second part of the exam consisted of a synopsis of a movie in Spanish, mostly in words and syntax we haven't studied yet, and then questions about it. The idea -- this is a technique that's used a lot in our textbook -- is to skim the text for cognates (words that are similar in English) and then try to guess the general sense of the paragraph. This part was a little easier, though most of the class objected to a few of the questions, which were tricky considering we've only been studying this language for 5 weeks.
I'm frustrated. It's not like Biology where the material is just difficult and complex, but I know if I study like a maniac I can get it. A foreign language is difficult and complex, too, but I'm doing well with the written stuff. I know the grammar. But listening comprehension is an intangible skill. I don't know how to study it. We don't do much listening in class. Not even in lab, which I think is supposed to be for that. Lab is a waste of time. We'd be much better going to a Mexican restaurant and ordering in Spanish, or watching a Spanish TV show, or anything where we could be listening to people actually speaking the language.
I'm going to get some tutoring.