Again today, I taught the listening section of the TOEFL for those whose scores ranged from 40 to 50 (so I assumed). Some have lived in the U.S for a couple of years, while others just came back to Japan. But they still have a hard time handling a lecture, no matter the length. They are much better at understanding a conversation.
I am not surprised to see them struggling to get the gist, because I also followed a similar path to theirs. At first, I gradually understood a short conversation, which made me try to listen to a short lecture, which was still too hard. I then got back to a longer conversation. Having practiced long conversations for a while (a while being as long as years!), I started to listen to lectures.
When I thought lectures were OK, I listened to British English. It then reduced me to just a novice learner who understood only a couple of words out of one long news article. When I finally overcame the accent, I tried to get back to conversations…in the film. Virtually zero understanding. Then I focused on the spoken English in the film, in which lots of slang expressions, unmentionables, curse words, technical terms were used in different accents.
Now I could get 30 (out of 30) in the listening section of the TOEFL any time… after all these discouraging experiences.
My students today have been exposed to English for about one or two years. Maybe they just started a long, long path to glory.