Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Extreme Usefulness of Computer-Generated Listening Exercises

Over the last few weeks and months, most of my concentrated listening practice, aside from reading audiobooks, has consisted in using a computer program from Cochlear. Called "Sound and Way Beyond," it has a fairly wide range of listening exercises, from background noise appreciation to voice differentiation and word/sentence recognition to music appreciation and pure-tone discrimination. All of these have been helpful tools for me to practice with, but honestly - whoever came up with this program had to be a bit odd, to say the least. I'd much rather sit down with a real person and try to listen in a real, applicable context, instead of putting up with some of the ludicrously random things the program throws at me. A few gems:

From the environmental sounds module:

- A snowboard. Maybe for an Olympic skier - but really, this noise is that important?

- A person saying, "Ouch." Thus enabling me to immediately recognize and help someone in need.

- An elephant trumpeting. Because, you know, in real life this might save me from being inadvertently trampled.

- A bat noise. Ditto; can't be too careful about those bats.

- Tree falling. Again, computer program is helping me avoid life-or-death situations.

- Dentist drill. This one isn't as ridiculous as the others, but it's a bit traumatizing.

From the word discrimination module:

- In the color category: amethyst, camel, garnet, ochre, vermilion. Because I use these words oh so often.

- In the family category: fraternal, heir, Dutch uncle. Creative.

- In the time category: everything from a mere "two o'clock" to sunset and Mountain Standard Time and the Ides of March. Try to take it all in, why don't you.

From the everyday sentences module (note emphasis on the word "everyday"):

- "A zestful food is the hot cross bun."

- "Dispense with a vest on a day like this." Yes, because everybody talks like that.

- "It's a dense crowd in two distinct ways."

- "The slang word for whiskey is booze." All right, so someone might say this to me in college.

- "Smile when you say nasty words."

- "Note closely the size of the gas tank." Hmmm, impending explosion?

- "Pluck the bright rose without leaves."

- "The rope will bind the seven books at once." This doesn't even make any sense.

- "Thieves who rob friends deserve jail."

- "Always close the barn door tight." Finally, something that almost relates to my life.

It's helpful in theory, but how on earth is some of this supposed to be practical? And shouldn't practicality be the main point right now? (Yes, at least the minds behind this program were creative. Props to them.)

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