If someone were to ask you the name of your first English teacher at school, you will probably remember the answer. If someone were to ask you what your first day at college was like, you’d probably even remember what it was that you ate at the canteen after that momentous first day! Think about conversations in the same way. Some “talks”, as we are prone to call them, stay with us. That conversation with your best friend at 2 a.m in the morning, discussing life and its problems and solutions will remain a lifeline. These things are special to us, they find a way to stay embedded in our memories for a considerable period of time. However, this isn’t true for all conversations. Can you remember the exact conversation you had on your first phone call yesterday? Unless you swallowed an almond tree during your childhood, chances are you don’t remember it.
Here’s a little fact to back this up.
On an average, we retain only about 25% of what we hear.
If you don’t believe me, do a simple search online, and the facts will present themselves to you, as Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience talks about this very idea. Try to remember the exact wording a day later though! According to various researchers, a combination of listening and seeing or reading something leads to maximum retention of information. This will explain why the rank holders of your class used to write their notes multiple times while reciting the answers.It also explains why so many of us have difficulty following what teachers have taught in class, or the barrage of instructions that come from bosses or clients at work.
Let’s throw another element into the mix here. What happens when you hear something that isn’t in your first, or as we know it, your mother tongue? When hearing something that isn’t in a language you’re entirely fluent at, it takes even longer to process information, thus retaining even lesser than usual. That Bollywood cliche where the sophisticated heroine rattles off an entire speech in the Queen’s English and our simpleton hero is too frazzled to react? Well, that’s the fault of the way his brain is reacting to a different language, not love, sorry to break your hearts.
When hearing someone speak in English, we often end up making associations between what they’re saying and connected ideas or words in our first language. While this may be a good idea for learning new words, in a full-scale conversation, it leads to loss of data, and will, therefore, mean that you only remember some parts of what you have heard. You therefore hear, but not always listen.
English isn’t always the easiest language to follow, thanks to its many rules and even more exceptions to those rules. When hearing in English, it is thus important to keep in mind context and communication principles that help you retain the most of what you take in. LearnEd’s series of blogs will help you with the same over the next two weeks- how to listen more effectively.