In my last post, we discussed building your own word lists. Now let’s review how best to use those lists in your home practice.
Repeating words read aloud can help reinforce your auditory memory. However, over time you may experience two shortcomings of this practice tool: (1) You may memorize the words after some practice and/or (2) The process may become boring.
After repeating words from your lists, try using them in other ways. Here are some tasks that might be performed using your word lists in enjoyable and challenging ways that will encourage you to practice your auditory skills. These tasks require you to use abilities other than auditory perception. You might use judgment, auditory memory, and your sense of humor. Tasks may require implementing world and linguistic knowledge, social understanding, and more. Therefore you should expect to find these tasks more challenging, even if you have already easily identified these words as they were presented to you from a list. Don’t hesitate to ask your practice partner for repetitions.
Speech perception tasks that involve understanding and thinking (not just identification of a single word from a known list) serves to better simulate the communication challenges you experience in everyday life. So now, after this long introduction, let’s move on to some practical examples.
Foods: Instead of simply reading the words, ask the person who is practicing with you to share their shopping list for his or her next supermarket visit. You can also ask them to read you a list of ingredients and then you could guess what might be prepared with those foods (e.g., "What might be prepared with vinegar, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt and garlic?"). If there are words that you’ve not practiced before, include them anyway (and add them to your list).
Numbers: Instead of simply repeating random numbers, ask your trainer to read you useful telephone numbers and then feel free to add them to your contacts. Hey, how did you manage not having the phone number of the best pizza take-out in town? If you easily recognize one-digit numbers, ask them to read you phone numbers as a group of two 3-digit numbers (e.g., 202-354-097-1). If you can grasp two and three-digit numbers, ask them to read you prices of products. You can also ask them to occasionally tell you the wrong price so you will have to initially recognize the number you heard and then to decide whether it is correct as a price. You can ask your trainer to tell you about their relatives' ages, or even practice solving simple math problems using your auditory perception skills.
Letters: Instead of reading you random letters, ask your trainer to spell out the names of family and friends (or places around the world). After you cite the word, have the person tell you something you did not know about it. Another exercise might be to ask your trainer to spell out short words but to state the letters in reverse order. If you recognize letters very easily, your trainers can say more than one letter at a time, which can be great training for your working memory (e.g., a/I, r/p, l/a, n/e).
Find the word that doesn't match: Ask your trainer to say four words, each word separately or two at a time (e.g., train, bus, car, bicycle) and identify the word that doesn't fit.
Auditory perception of a word in a sentence: Your trainer could read simple sentences, including target words from your word training lists. You could use speechreading to help you grasp the entire sentence—except the target word or words will be voiced with a covered mouth—no visual information would be provided for these specific words. Prior to the sentence presentation, you need to define the semantic field (or topic of the target words. For example, days of the week: "I am taking Yoga class every Monday" and the covered word would be Monday. Or sports activities and days of the week: "I am taking Yoga class every Monday" with the covered words being Yoga and Monday. Or names of the states: "Which state has the larger population—Maryland or Ohio?"
Syntax and morphology: The first step would be to set the task words; then you could be asked to judge whether the covered word is in the correct form. For example, for have/has/had: "She have a birthday last week" or walk/walking/walked: "I saw him walking away".
These examples illustrate some of the ways you can practice identifying specific words in meaningful contexts while reinforcing auditory understanding in communicative situations.
Before we conclude, I want to address the important issue of preventing access to speechreading while practicing auditory skills. There are different ways to do so. For example, you could ask your trainer to sit or stand behind you. I personally do not recommend that particular approach because it precludes any eye contact between the person practicing and his/her trainer. This makes the exercise unrealistic and not very pleasant.
Rather, you may want to sit side by side and agree that during the training, you will not look towards the speaker's face. Tasks that require a combination of speechreading and auditory-only perception (such as in a sentences that should be presented visually with certain covered words), the speaker can use a sheet of paper to cover the lower part of their face. You should guide your trainer to do it in a way that will prevent visual information or speechreading but not distort the sound (i.e., avoid placing the paper on the mouth).
In future posts, I will offer more ideas for auditory training exercises involving not only single words but also complete sentences, telephone use, auditory memory skills, listening in different acoustic conditions, listening to different language materials, and more.
All that remains for me is to encourage you to continue practicing, being creative, and enjoy your auditory training!