My Essay on The Third Ear Chapter 6

What’s Audibol ?

Do you know the word ‘audibol’?  Have you wondered, when you were very small, long before you could talk, whether or not you could think about things? And in what way did you think? Or so you didn’t remember the things at that time. But if you observe babies, you will find that they are able to talk long before they can read and write. And if you think about yourself clearly, you will know that when you are hearing something, your brain will offer up some pictures, feelings, tastes, or smells for you to pick up the meaning of these audibols immediately. And you will notice that there is no image of word in the whole process.Now, you probably get the meaning of ‘audibol’. Audibols are sounds that we make with our mouth, tongue and throat to stand for objects, feelings, ideas and concepts in our world. And, you may well have noticed how it’s very helpful when you already think of audibols as being different from written symbols.

Internal map of our brain

Now, let’s explore more about how we under stand our worlds. If you observe your mental world, then you know that the process of learning about life is actually a process of making internal maps of the world. These maps are made up of sounds, pictures, smells, tastes and feelings. Over time , we add more and more layers and levels. And we use the map, as we interact with the world, to create moment-by-moment meaning. Of course, your internal map of the world is virtually a spider web of connections in the brain.

Think, for a moment, about ‘coffee’. What comes to mind? It could be a coffee cup — the first coffee cup, a special gift that you once received. Maybe you smell coffee, strong. Or the sounds of kitchen, cooking and coffee pots may be filter through the shades of your unconscious. Each of these things that comes into your mind connects to others. Pictures, sounds, feelings, all connected together into an idea. A concept. This concept that you have of ‘coffee’ didn’t just happen. It has been made up over the years. You have interacted with thousands and thousands of these things, and this has helped to make your idea of  ‘coffee’ very well defined.

It’s the same for every idea that you know. Each has a meaning that you have given it, over the years, through many uses. So, you can think of your mind as being an interconnected web of thousands upon thousands of clusters of sensations and memories, all of which you use to make meaning in your world.

Words, audibols and meanings

Language itself is also an internal map, made up of different parts. We have the sound part of language, which is what we hear. And, for others to hear sounds you have to make them first. The sounds that we make and hear are used to represent something in the world. The sound is not the thing. The sound represents the thing. The sound stands for the thing.And so, ‘words’ were born. But it’s important to understand that a word is more than just the sound of the word.

Long before we ever learned to write visual symbols (i.e., written words), we were using our voice to create different sounds that stood for the different things that we were talking about. So, the sounds that we make with our mouths are symbols for things. Sound symbols. Voiced representations for things, and ideas, in the world.Because ‘symbol’ means something visual to many people, we need a new word ‘audibol’— auditory symbol.

Now, what you may not have realized already is that we actually store audibols in our brain—both as the sound, and with the meaning attached. The storage of the sound part you can best think of as being similar to the way a computer stores sound files. When you hear someone speaking, you can recognize the individual audibols, because you can compare what is in your mind with the sounds you are hearing. When you get a match, you can connect to the meaning of the sounds that you are hearing.

Why use ‘audibol’ to describe what is going on here rather than just say ‘word’? Because, when you have spoken a language for 20 years or more it is easy to think that what you write is the same as what you hear and this combined concept of write/ hear is something called ‘word’. Also, many people seem to think, at least unconsciously, that a word and the thing it represents are the same. This barrier to learning a new language is better removed. In China, we use one written script, not one spoken language. You have probably realized that, when we say ‘word’, we are generally referring to the triangle of audibol, symbol and meaning. 

Remember, as a child, when you learned a new phrase you wouldn’t explore how to write it and the history of it, but you endeavor to remember the audibols and the meaning of it, and then use it over and over again even finding or creating a chance to say it one more time to make this new phrase your own.

Learning a human language is about, first and foremost, mapping sounds to meaning.Learning audibols, and the meanings that people give them. The process of adding visual symbols (written words) comes later.

What’s much more important in learning a new language?

The most important idea to take away from this chapter is that, for the most part, human language is about sound! And I want to stress here is that trying to learn to read or write too early can actually get in the way of  the language-learning process. Most of the Chinese students learning English start with reading and writing. Whenever they are hearing someone speaking in English, what comes to their mind is the images of words, no picture. Then they translate the words they saw in their minds into Chinese. This process will take so long time that when another sentence has been said, they couldn’t get the meaning before. If you are like a child, mapping the sounds to the meaning, you will get the meaning in no time or more quickly. You can  see the pictures that the audibols stand for come into your mind directly. No transfer, no processing, no long time. At the same time, your pronunciation will get more and more closer to natives’,rather than saying words using letter-to-sound translations from your own tongue. This is partly where the foreign accent comes from.

A much better way of doing things is to start with the sounds. Listen to them, repeat them, and try to get them as close to native as possible. When you get the sounds quite correct, it’s the time to learn the written language with a different purpose than if you had started writing on day one.Once you’ve already mastered the sounds you are learning the rules that natives use to connect the visual symbols of the language to the audibols of the language.

To summarize, in spoken human language specific ideas are matched with specific sounds. So, it follows that if you are to speak a language well, you will need to also pay particular attention to how the language sounds. You will need to work with audibols. This means that you will learn to recognize them, and connect them to images and meanings in your mind. And you will learn to use your mouth, nose and throat to produce the audibols the same way a native speaker produces them.






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