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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Discussion Details

Title: Speeded listening, and audio learning
Submitter: Caroline Fery
Description: A few words about speeded listening, and audio learning.
Blind persons can understand spoken language compressed to 17 syllables per
second (we are used to a speed of 4 to 6 syllables in the same time), they
are trained to this ability very early in their life, at school, so that,
as adults, they have an efficient way of acquiring knowledge.
As far as I know, no research effort has been devoted to the question
whether it would be profitable for non-blind children/persons to develop
the capacity to listen to speeded speech, even though the advantages of
listening are evident as compared to reading. We are a highly acoustic
species, and language remains primarily spoken. We acquire the faculty of
writing and reading at a great cognitive cost, and a fair amount of
individuals never acquire it fully, even though they have spent several
years learning it at school. By contrast, we understand spoken language
early in life and without apparent effort.
The new industry of audio novels or The Teaching Company are developing
rapidly, and meet an evident need. The transmission of texts does not
really need a written support, as we have devices allowing us to listen to
them whenever we want. As compared to reading, it appears slow and
uncomfortable to us adults, but this is, I think, just an impression, and
correlates with our education and habits, which is based on the written
text. In fact, we are not in a position to make any comparison.
Suzanne Romaine was talking at the CIL conference in Seoul about the
difficulty of maintaining minority languages. She mentioned that for lots
of children, school is equivalent with learning a language.
Good teachers and buildings for schools may be too expensive in some
countries or in some parts of countries, but in a better world, education
could partly be based on acoustic material. Children in remote parts of the
world, girls in Afghanistan, children working in mines or in textile
industries could have an MP3 player at their disposal, maybe financed by
UNICEF or by charity organizations, with good educational programs in their
own language, adapted to their need and age.
I would be interested in comments on these ideas. Do they sound illusory?
Or are there somewhere organizations working on the development of this
kind of education?
Date Posted: 11-Aug-2008
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Writing Systems
LL Issue: 19.2479
Posted: 11-Aug-2008

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