AJATTeer Tom Lazarus (no relation, no known death experiences) shares an insanely great immersion technqiue that he affectionately (and rather pragmatically) dubs “double-barrelled listening”. As in, two barrels, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie characters’ shotguns…or something…
It’s similar to the idea of immersion multiplexing (taking multiple simultaneous inputs on the same sensory channel) but madder and Spartaner. Here he is in his own words, sharing the story and benefits of his listening-hearing experiment:
Double-barrelled listening is when you have earphones from one device in one ear and earphones from another device in the other ear. I’ve been experimenting with it for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts about it. The thoughts are quite disorganised.
- You can listen to music + speech. It’s surprising how little they interrupt each other.
- You can add instrumental music to speech to pep it up (it’s a bit like doing hand-made mashups, but with only about 1% of the effort).
- You can mix “dense” material (e.g, the constant talk of a panel show) with “sparse” material, like a movie or song, so when the dialogue stops in one, you just shift your focus to the other.
- You will be very surprised at how easily your brain can jump from one to the other, and how easily it can tune out one ear.
- You will train yourself for those social occasions where you want to follow two conversations at the same table.
- Time vampires I mean colleagues with legitimate concerns of long-range importance are more hesitant to get you to remove your earphones if you have two devices in your ears. I don’t know why.
- If you remove one earphone, people are usually placated, and you can immerse in the other ear.
- My local Taiwanese radio sometimes flies off into pleasant-but-useless (to someone getting used to Mandarin) English, Taiwanese, Hakka, Japanese, Korean or even Spanish. No worries: the other ear is standing by.
- Suppose you’re faced with a short movie on YouTube. Will I like this? Will it have that much L2 in it? Surf risk-free with the other ear playing something of proven value as backup.
- Much of the time seemingly “immersed” when searching by massive turnover is nothing of the sort. Loading something that isn’t in the language you thought it was gonna be, time spent waiting for something to load, etc. (Have you ever searched for the dialogue in Last of the Mohicans at Tudou buffering speeds? Hours down the drain…wasted)
- You can listen to the same clip on repeat ALL DAY and explore new things ALL DAY. THE SAME DAY!
- Keep L1 audio chaperoned (suppression fire).
- It’s basically MORE L2. How cool is that?
- Watching something on your desktop when the phone/doorbell/bladder rings? Normally, that requires a conscious effort to get your mp3 player plugged in, and often you won’t be conscious enough to bother. An mp3 in the pocket is a great failsafe.
- Battery and earphone failures in one device don’t leave you stranded.
- It’s much harder to get bored. One thing that gets old quickly + another thing that gets old quickly combine to make hours of not getting bored because you switch between them.
- Should I listen to something familiar or something new? BOTH!
- Should I listen to comprehensible input or something challenging? BOTH!
- For tonal languages: music is more memorable and enjoyable, but speech does give me tones, which I want to get used to… BOTH!
- “Breaks” used to be silence or L1. Now breaks are just one ear of listening. Psychologically level up.
- Words distract my ability to read. Relatively quiet (but still audible) speech, plus relatively loud ambient music overcome this. Should I read or listen? BOTH!
Load both barrels… you’ll hit more targets.
Having not tried this yet, I personally think Tom is crazy. And that’s probably exactly why his idea is going to work 😀 . As my mentor Akihiro NAKATANI is fond of saying, you’re not doing it properly unless people are calling you crazy (you’re only on the right track if people think you’re crazy). To the headphones!
Do you have a technique or success story of your own to share! THEN SHARE, THEN! Let us all know 😀 . Comments or email, your call 😉 .
PS: Having tried out Tom’s ideas deliberately in earnest for a day or so, it’s plainly obvious that Tom isn’t crazy at all. He’s an engineer, not a madman, a pragmatist, not a romantic. What he’s talking about is the immersion version of what Nassim Taleb has been talking about throughout Incerto — ridding yourself of having a single point of failure.
You’ll definitely do well to have a backup/background immersion source in case the primary one fails due to human or mechatronic error. The latter form of error is surprisingly unrare, especially with newer devices, on which one never seems to be more than a few tracks away from a machine freeze.
Older, more feature-sparse units are decidedly unsexy and don’t titillate the inner neophiliac, but they’ve usually had all the kinks ironed out and so tend to be much more reliable. In my case, since earphones and headphones kinda seem to drive me crazy of late (maybe it’s a phase), I mostly have speakers do my heavy lifting for me — multiple devices, multiple speakers.