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In my previous post I suggested using a variety of real-life activities for practice purposes, to keep up motivation and tailor your training to your lifestyle.

When you’re serious about sport, mixing up different activities and sports is known as cross-training, aiming to strengthen muscle groups not exercised by the favoured sport – which is a good analogy for the therapeutic opportunities offered by certain TV programmes. The TV is thus a fairly standard and accessible piece of equipment most of us have and you might as well get something extra for your licence fee . . .

A single programme can offer different exercises that enable you to broaden the vocabulary you can understand; listening without lipreading or subtitles; distinguishing between voices; hearing in noise; and music.

As I write, Strictly is back! Love it or hate it, Strictly Come Dancing (UK) and Dancing with the Stars (US) provide lots of listening scenarios. In the UK edition, Brucie’s jokes are absolutely dreadful, painful in fact, but useful. Because you can see the punchline coming a mile off, it’s a good handle on what he’s going to say next and an exercise in understanding without lipreading.

The scoring represents listening to speech in a semi-closed format: you know the subject, and the numbers are easy to listen for. Now how much of the judges’ critique can you follow without the subtitles? Their feedback is also semi-closed as it concerns the dancing: posture, expression, rhythm, storytelling, with the odd googly of a technical term thrown in: heel pivot, extension, promenade, for example. You can narrow it down by judge: Craig Revel Horwood is Mr Negative!

How about accents? Compare all the judges, all with very distinctive voices and accents. For me, new judge Darcey Bussell gets a 10 for her diction!

There’s also the music: can you tell whether the contestants are in time to the music, or not? How good are they at interpreting the mood of the music? Can you hear the words being sung? It can also be an exercise in listening in noise – the audience’s clapping at a technical step can mask the music (hearing viewers complain about this!)

Try Countdown. I love the theme tune, so expressive of what the programme is about – the increasing urgency in the last few seconds of the tune. Most people probably think it’s a fairly trivial 30 seconds’ worth to get excited about, but I’m not proud!

Listening for individual letters as Rachel Riley picks them helps with sound discrimination. Numbers are thrown into the mix too! After all – it’s a programme for training the brain, perhaps not quite as the originators intended . . . Give yourself extra points for understanding unusual words without lipreading or subtitles!

On the radio the Shipping Forecast, as I’ve mentioned before, is fantastic: a limited set of vocabulary confined to a certain number of words, the shipping regions always read in the same order, but infinitely variable in weather content: after all, the weather is British . . . If you don’t catch it live, try it on iPlayer. A transcript is available – bear in mind that it might have changed slightly from the last published bulletin, so it’s an aid, not a complete transcript, but that gives you a bit more of a challenge. The late night forecast at around 00:45 to 00:48 is preceded by the evocative tune Sailing By : if you don’t stay up late enough to listen, there are plenty of versions on YouTube.

After two years, it’s still very helpful to check into these programmes to maintain my listening fitness. I’d love to hear from other people about programmes which have helped them in the comprehension without subtitles challenge.

Remember: it’s a challenge. It’s not about the winning or losing, it’s about the taking part, and challenging your brain to make sense of the signal the implant offers. Using things you enjoy, even if it is Saturday night entertainment television (we can’t watch BBC4 documentaries all the time!) can be a good way of immersing yourself in “hearing language”.

 

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