Tuesday, April 23, 2013

O Alaska!

Things are starting to accelerate. I went to see my auditory therapist this morning and, after working on a few fine-tuned open-set short-phrase exercises that targeted specific sounds that have been more difficult for me to recognize, we moved to what has honestly become my favorite listening exercise: open-set paragraph information. If you'd told me not too long ago that I'd be able to listen to streams of speech, understand them, glean new information, and actually savor the stimulating challenge of such moments, I would have told you, Are you crazy? The crowning moment this morning: my auditory therapist read me a few short informational paragraphs about a random subject. In this case, the subject was Alaska, but that's all I knew about what she would say to me. She stepped behind me, where I couldn't see her at all, and began to speak.

I now know that the U.S. purchased the Alaskan territory from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. I know that Alaska is twice the size of Texas. I know that Alaska is home to a multitude of natural resources, particularly ore mines, and that it was a destination for the gold rush after California in the late nineteenth century (although many people who went there went broke, even if some found gold). I know about the colorful flowers that appear in Alaska in the summer. And so on... I couldn't have told you any of those things before this morning. They were not familiar tidbits for me to recognize.

I learned all of these things by listening alone, without any context or any other information.

AND I got them all on the very first try.

Sitting there and listening to these foreign pieces of knowledge enter my mind, and somehow penetrate and linger there, gave me a feeling of total wonder. This is what language does. This is what language is. Being able to listen to it, learn from it, and use it, all in real time: wow is all I can say.

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