Learning by Listening

Learning by Listening June 19, 2019

I have been benefiting from audiobooks to no end, and I have been podcasting more than I’ve been listening to podcasts, I say to my shame, since I believe that we should listen unto the podcasts of others as we would have others listen unto ours. (On that topic, I will be taking a break from podcasting, or at least doing so less frequently, during these summer months, but the podcast will return to its usual place and time around the start of the academic year).

I recently finished listening to Rachel Held Evans’ book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. It is truly fantastic, one of the best books I have ever “read.” Is “read” the right word when what one has done is to listen? So much was clearly quotable, memeworthy, as I listened to it. I was delighted to find that my wife had the same impression reading the book rather than listening to it – even about the very same sections!

Right now I’m in the process of listening to Elaine Pagels’ book Why Religion? It is incredible for so many reasons. She draws on both her own personal experience and her profound expertise to comment on matters of spirituality and theodicy, expressing them with her characteristic eloquence. I particularly value her insightful analysis that guilt is a price that we are willing to pay for the illusion of control, preferring to imagine that we have offended gods and brought suffering upon ourselves and loved ones, than to acknowledge our own powerlessness and accept that there was nothing we could have done to prevent a tragedy. The book reveals how Pagels’ study of texts like the Gospel of Thomas intersected with events in her life and being surprised by profound and unexpected religious experiences. I loved the way she put it when she said, “While I work on these sayings, they work on me.”

Eerdmans announced its audiobook reviewers club, which is probably indicative that we are at a watershed moment.

Podcasts and blogs do a lot for, and comment a lot on, language acquisition and linguistics. A case in point is the post marking the 12th anniversary of Mike Aubrey’s blog. See also his survey of recent books related to Greek linguistics. Eric Sowell’s language-learning update will also be of interest (see also his post about working to compose in Greek and not merely read it). Another example is this podcast of the Hebrew Bible, read in Hebrew:

Scot McKnight also shared a podcast on translating the Second Testament. On the topic of biblical languages, a movie version of the Gospel of Mark has been dubbed into Koine Greek. As Peter Gurry and Mike Aubrey pointed out, chapter 1 is available on YouTube now:

Also related to this is the ABC News report about Barnes and Noble. In this digital era, bookstores close, and yet 700 years’ worth of Persian manuscripts become freely available online. See as well the article about the “rise and fall of reading” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. If our digital data is unlikely to persist into the future, how much less aural materials, whether digitally or otherwise encoded?

Speaking (or should I say “writing”?) of engaging with content in an audio-visual format, here is Elaine Pagels speaking about her book:

It was interesting that Inside Higher Ed had a piece about headphones as I was working on this blog post! They also had another subsequently about podcasting and mental healthIan Paul’s post about the public reading of scripture tending to be boring also seems related, since it may not be unreasonable to hope that, as audiobooks become more popular, even if there is a decline in the number of texts people read as words typed on a page, there may be an upturn in sensitivity to what is involved in listening to a text being read aloud. Inside Higher Ed had a large number of slides about education that included some related to audiovisual materials and learning.

See also:

Books

Interview on the Church Grammar Podcast

Adrift On A Music Stream


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  • John MacDonald

    I tried to listen to Plato’s Republic on audio book a while ago, but it didn’t work. Without being able to code marginalia and constantly re-reading to clarify, Philosophy books can be pretty opaque.