Listening in Pub.

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Sep 11, 2010 08:06
When I first visited UK, my English worked better than expected. I managed to communicate with others about my work and theirs. However, what surprised me a lot was that, when we went to a Pub 5 o'clock after work, suddenly I found my ears were not working any more. The same people whom I spoke to during the day were speaking the same language, English. But I just can't listen. There was just noise surrounding me. Everybody else was laughing joyously. But I couldn't follow the topics at all, because I only caught just single word per minute or so. My confidence was lost. It was shocking.

Now I've been in UK for almost 1 year. Every day I spent 3 hours to learn English listening by watching Doctor Who or something on BBC iPlayer. I feel my listening made a great advance from my first day. However, conversation at Pub is still the most tricky situation.

English, especially British accent, uses and relies on strong consonants with stress accent, whereas Japanese is more vowel-oriented without stress accent. I hence thought English might contain more higher frequency band than Japanese language. Actually, some people claim that Japanese contains just 125 Hz to 1500 Hz, whereas British English includes 2000 Hz to 1200 Hz. If this is true, there is no overlap between the two language. This hypothesis is based on work by Alfred Tomatis, a French doctor. I am not sure whether this story is still accepted by scientists or not.

I tried on my own to analyze power spectrum of British English and Japanese by performing Fourier transform. But real spoken language is not that simple. Both language contained quite broad range of sounds. I found a slight differences but not very convinced of the data.

But anyway, if the "passband" story is true, English with high frequency sounds could be more readily masked by background noise than lower frequency-rich Japanese. Indeed, some English guys told me that, when they listen to other people in a Pub, they often gaze the movement of mouth to help their listening. Lip reading! However, I have never heard Japanese people doing so in Japan.