Transcription – Helps with the Little Words

So on Monday this week we had our first class for the year, for our course Te Aupikitanga. As is usual for these kinds of things, we all had to go round and introduce ourselves. And I noticed an interesting thing, which is that some people were missing out particles, the little grammar words like i, and ki. 

Now, the interesting thing is not so much that they were doing this – speaking on the spot in a second langauge can definitely make you miss out a few, if not many, words – but rather that I noticed it, and I think this might be due to the practice I was getting with my transcription work.

What often happens, when I’m listening to te reo Māori can be shown in this English example:

  • I (am) go(ing) (to) the shop (to) buy some chip(s)

So what I frequently hear is just the key words like “I go the shop buy some chip” and I don’t register all the grammatical points in brackets. (As you can see, in a relatively uncomplicated example, you can still get plenty of information to understand the sentence.) What happened on Monday is that I was listening and thinking, why do they keep missing out words?! Which is great – because previously I would never have known they were missing out words because I usually didn’t fully register all the words anyway!

I think that by working on transcription, where I had to write down every single word and couldn’t get away with just “I go the shop buy some chip”, where I kept rewinding to check if that was i or ki, has helped train my brain to pay attention to and listen to those “little words” (at least a bit – we still have some way to go yet).

So, I think that if you notice that in your own listening you are missing certain things, try to really focus on practising hearing those things. I think that actually writing it down is better than thinking “oh, I’ll just listen harder” because there’s not much motivation there for your brain to do the work (brains are naturally lazy, this is an actual science fact). If you write it down, it knows it actually has to make an effort and can’t fake it. For this kind of exercise, you don’t need to be able to check if you’re correct – and you don’t even need to understand what’s being said! – because you are only focusing on training your brain to hear and pay attention.

Let me know if you have had any similar experiences (in any language)!

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