in touch with real speech
In touch with real speech

37 – Earworms 2 – Would you like a … July … liar?

Last summer (2016) I was invited to IH London to give a two-hour seminar to teachers of English from the Basque country. They were amazingly enthusiastic and very receptive. I had given (as I usually do) a talk/workshop on how to prepare students for their listening encounters with normal everyday speech, focussing on examples of fast speech.

At the end of the session, one of the teachers came up to me and told of her experience shopping at a local supermarket, and more particularly, a question that she was asked at the check out. The question was ‘Would you like a receipt with that?’ but it was spoken so fast that the teacher had – at first – no idea what had been said. She was utterly bamboozled. Quite how she got from being bamboozled to knowing what the words were (I regret to say) I did not find out.

But, I thought I might make another ear-worm out of it, for the purposes of demonstration at the latest IATEFL conference in Glasgow. At the conference I justified the use of ear-worms such as this by arguing that they will stick annoyingly (or amusingly) in the heads of learners, and thereby get them accustomed to short stretches of rhythmic sound substance. My hope and belief is that such repetitions would accustom their short term memory and their mechanisms of speech perception to better decode the stream of speech of the language they were learning – in this case English. So below, in the table you can hear the Greenhouse, Garden and Jungle versions of this question. The Greenhouse and Garden versions contain just one run through, but in the Jungle versions you will hear them twice, interrupted by July and liar. 

 Greenhouse Would you like a receipt with that |wʊd juː laɪk ə risiːt wɪð ðæt|
 Garden  Wuhju lykuh receipt withthat  |wʊʤjuː laɪkə risiːt wɪðæt|
 Jungle – July  Wuh julyuhareseewithat?  |wʊjuːlaɪərisiːʔwɪðæt|
 Jungle – liar  Wuhyouliareseewithat?  |wʊjuːlaɪərisiːʔwɪðæt|

The reason that we have a July  version of the Jungle version is because part of the sound substance (the end of would the whole of you and the beginning of like) is hearable as July. And the reason we have a liar version is because part of the sound substance (like – with the |k| dropped, thus giving us lie –  and the indefinite article a) is hearable as liar.

Those four parts were stitched together to give us the following:

I am not teaching at the moment, so I don’t know myself whether these ear-worms are as useful as I like to think they are. But they certainly got my audience of teachers very much amused. But that, is not (of course!) proof of their usefulness.



2 Responses to 37 – Earworms 2 – Would you like a … July … liar?

  • Of course they are useful, I am telling you! Your approach to teaching and learning how to listen has made a lot of teachers become aware of the real need to help our students be able to decode real common speech, which you have wisely named as jungle listening. Thank you very much for your help and constant and open support from speechinaction!!!

    • Hi Gonzalo, Sorry for the delay in approving your comment. Glad you like this approach to listening.

      All the best, Richard

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