Speedy Spoken Word

The spoken word.  Talk shows, podcasts, audio reports.  Do you bother, or are you happy to stick with reading?  After all, you can read a transcript of a speech more quickly than listening to it.  So what’s the point?

For one thing, we learn through more than our eyes.  Ears aren’t just for TV, music and hearing your own voice.

But we don’t like hanging around.  Listening to the spoken word can seem unbearably slow at times.  I try to get round that by listening at high speed.  When I do, it saves time AND helps me concentrate better.  It’s a win/win situation for my ears and my mind.

Say you want to listen to one of the many useful podcasts out there.  A transcript would likely allow someone to read through in about 10 minutes.  But you take information in differently when reading. By listening, you have a different relationship with the material.  It’s wise to vary your information intake.  You may even find that you’re more inclined to learn through audio, rather than text on a page.

A better way to improve the process is to speed up the audio.  The easiest way to increase the speed without installing extra software on a Windows PC is through Windows Media Player.  The Media Player has a helpful enhancement called “Play Speed Settings“.  A slider allows you to speed up and slow down the audio that’s playing.

Go through the following menu option: View / Enhancements / Play Speed Settings

When you select this, you’ll see a new menu box appear at the bottom of the Media Player window, with the slide bar.

An option to “Snap slider to common speeds” will restrict you to playing audio at particular points (such as 1.4x and 2.0x).  I tend not to have the box ticked, so I can use the slider however I want to.  I generally crank the slider up anywhere around 1.4-1.7 times the speed.

While the playback speeds up, the pitch is remains the same, so faster audio doesn’t result in listening to chipmunks.

A 30 minute podcast, at 1.4-1.7x speed, will last around 17-22 minutes.  Not a bad time saving. Even better if it manages to improve comprehension…

At these speeds, I retain more detail.  I no longer notice long gaps and pauses in talking.  My mind is less likely to wander off into other thoughts.  My focus stays given the more urgent pace.  It doesn’t take a moment for you to forget you’re listening to quicker voices.  In fact, slow the playback down again and the audio sounds uncomfortably slow!

I suggest you start listening at a slightly faster pace and gradually increase it as you go along.  I rarely go beyond 1.7x speed, but some people increase it to more than two times the regular speed.  There will come a point when you compromise intake of information, so be careful how fast you go.

You can change the speed via the keyboard too, if you wish:

  • Speed up sound: Ctrl-Shift-G
  • Return to original speed: Ctrl-Shift-N

At the right speed, audio can be a grand thing.  Happy listening!

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