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Visualize for…what?

Imagine that you recently broke up with your boy/girlfriend after a mind-numbing sequence of terrible argument including mutual assault on both personality and appearance. You somehow recovered from the damage through this hell-type parting, and eventually, started feeling like looking for somebody nice to start your life anew and retrieve your long-lost peace of mind. Then your thoughtful friend told you that s/he knew someone very attractive, smart, and most importantly, "single". What would be your initial reaction like? A typical response might be to utter this question with obvious excitement, "What does he/she look like?!" Please try to describe what’s going on in your head while asking this question, my dear readers. For most of the cases I suppose that you visualize the best possible future partner. (and definitely so will I!) Based on the facts that your friend tells you, you’ll construct a visual image of the person you’re going to meet. That is a kind of visualization (of wishful thinking, though!).

Visualization also helps to retain what has been obtained through phonetic/speech information. In order to whatever incoming auditory information, you’ll need to understand what is being spoken while storing the information obtained into your memory. Processing the language and storing the information simultaneously can get very demanding especially done in the languages other than your mother tongue. Good news is that the more automatically langauge is processed, the more amount of information is to be stored by efficient use of working memory.

Take the TOEIC listening section for instance. When listening conversations as in Part 3 or short talks in Part 4, the goal is to obtain the necessary information just to answer three questions, not to remember all the details spoken in dialogues and talks. To minimize the workload on more limited working/short-term memory of the second language users than that of the first language users, i.e. native speakers of English, some of the "versatile" TOEIC test-takers read the questions first and try focusing only on the required information for reaching right answers, in other words identifying "what to retain" and "what to let go". If the question asks a specific figure, such as the discount rate on a certain item, say, "locally grown apples", test-takers visualize “apple = 20% off" in their head and try to retain the information. For other figures that are not related to answering questions, the discount rate of "imported Chile wine" for example, they once visualize "wine = 30% off", but soon erase the visual on a virtual blackboard in their cognition to secure the space for upcoming information to be retained later. What's happening in their cognition while taking the test can basically put like this: "Catch auditory information"→ "Comprehend it" → "Visualize it" → "Retain or Erase it" → "Be ready for the upcoming information" in my understanding.

In terms of actual interactive communication, however, things are totally different. First of all, you can never "read" the questions before the information is delivered. You can at least "predict" what an interlocutor will say next according to the context as long as you're successfully following what is being spoken. You'll have to respond to a question, statement, suggestion, complaint, or request. What you do is to focus on "everything" necessary to maintain the ongoing communication. You will never be able to take notes as the way interpreters do, like when they're attending VIPs from foreign countries. It is no doubt that professional interpreters have developed their own skills and expertise to visualize the information, take effective notes, and reproduce them in another language. But we, English language learners, will acquire "Processing and Retaining skills" depending on objectives.

Why don't we go back to the initial question? If you're good at using your imagination and visualizing as vividly and concretely as possible, you'll enjoy playing with your fantasy. You can fantasize whatever you'd like in your imagination. Your next date could be a well-built, tanned, attractive, sexy, witty guy wearing ARMANI and ANTAEUS. Or you’ll be dating a tall, curvy, gorgeous, yet adorable, caring, intelligent girl with sparkling eyes and rosy lips. Fantasy is limitless. It's a blessing to comfort our daily tedium, boredom, despair, and loneliness. Don’t ever you think so?

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Aya

Author:Aya
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