My listening diary  

An interesting listening event today. I was listening to an interview with a famous doctor on Desert Island Discs whose has devoted his whole career to caring for elderly people in hospital. For those who don’t know, Desert Island Discs is a kind of tribute programme where guests are allowed to choose their eight favourite pieces of music, i.e. those pieces of music they would like to take with them in the event of being stranded on a desert island. The doctor was asked to choose his final record and said ‘Well, Grease has always been important to me and my family.’ I was absolutely staggered – how could someone so erudite choose a song from the musical Grease as his final record? Had he been to see it at a seminal age? Did he know someone who’d starred in it? Had he met his wife at a performance of Grease in the 1970s? Had he always fancied Olivia Newton-John? All these thoughts were going through my head in the split second before the doctor went on to say ‘We’ve visited it many times over the years and we love the people, the food and the landscape.’ Obviously I, as a native speaker, was able to realise almost immediately that I had jumped to the wrong conclusion, but this is a clear example of a situation where a student might think they’ve heard a word correctly and then fail to revise this assumption in light of the next part of the incoming message.

I took a friend to see the Royal Society of Water Colour Artists annual exhibition yesterday which features one of my father’s paintings. Before going in I told my friend about all the famous artists who feature in this year’s exhibition, including Ronald Maddox, Shirley Trevena and Bill Toop. As we were walking round I pointed to a series of four wonderful paintings and said ‘They’re Toop.’ My friend seemed surprised and replied ‘Actually I think they’re really good.’ She’d thought I’d said ‘Toot’, an expression used a lot in this part of London meaning ‘rubbish’.

We were surprised last night watching the cricket highlights and Sri Lanka’s resounding victory over the West Indies when a Sri Lankan player said ‘We like playing against victims.’ It took us a while to realise he meant ‘big teams’.

Yesterday we heard the presenter of the late night World Cup cricket highlights talk about a player called ‘Have a ball Basher’. We assumed this was a nickname until we saw the list of Bangladesh players. It turned out that the Bangladesh captain’s name is Habibul Bashar.

This morning I switched on the radio and heard someone introduced as ‘the man who is compiling Britain’s diaries’. ‘That must be a very difficult job,’ I thought, until I realised the presenter was talking about a man who is compiling the composer Benjamin Britten’s diaries.

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  Richard Cauldwell of SpeechInAction shares my enthusiasm for using recordings of authentic speech:
  Meanwhile my good friends
Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald specialise in training students to analyse short segments of authentic speech: