I hadn't expected speech recognition to be this much fun. Something magical happens when I take my fingers off the keyboard. I give myself permission to talk in an unstructured way. Instead of looking down at my laptop monitor, I find myself looking up imagining myself talking to a friend. I'm free to use gestures, turning an idea over and over, trying to grasp what I want to say. And most surprising of all, I can feel the difference when I can hear my own enthusiasm. That clues me into the topics I want to talk about.
I tried this before with a voice recorder. I never found the time to listen to myself again, trying to pick out my words against the background of subway announcements and crowd chatter. Somehow, working with the computer changes things. Dragon NaturallySpeaking skips over my silences, successfully transcribes many of the words even in a rapid-fire brain dump, and breaks apart the phases of seeking out what I want to say, figuring out how to say it, and editing it into something that makes sense.
I don't use it all the time. I'm a little self-conscious about talking to my computer when there's somebody else in the room. (At this, W- smiles at me.) I still carry a portable voice recorder, but because my recorder doesn't do any noise cancellation, I find the easiest way is to re-dictate the interesting parts. But I appreciate the freedom that dictation gives me. I don't know if I work any faster or slower with it, but I do know that I work differently. And if it lets me reach different ideas, then it'll be well worth it.
I've been in Canada for a year, and from time to time I still feel very alien. Last night, I mispronounced "adolescence". In moments of inattention, I often forget how to pronounce words I already know, because I just "read" them in my mind. Sometimes I try to use a word I've never even heard someone else say. When this is brought to my attention, I accept and remember the correction—but it's difficult for me to squelch that sudden feeling of insecurity, of feeling different.
My accent grows thicker the longer I stay here—or is it just that I notice it more? I pause more, gesture more, stumble over words more than I remember doing. And yes, from time to time, I say things that people don't understand until I repeat myself or spell things out. It distracts them from what I'm trying to say. (Although it does show that they're paying attention! =) )
One way to deal with this is to learn the phonetic alphabet and read the dictionary. Computer-based dictionaries tend to not have pronunciation guides. Web-based ones don't let me flip through them for random words, although I think I should scale back on that a bit and focus more on great combinations of words. I sound too bookish already.
The best thing to do, I suppose, is to listen. I need to listen to more things. I need to listen to people with wide vocabularies and well-expressed thoughts. I really should format that iPod or do some other magic so that I can connect it to my laptop and make the most of it.
I need to be exposed to the sound of other people's voices. My media diet is almost entirely print and web. I don't watch television, and I hardly listen to the radio. I should fix that at least with audiobooks and podcasts.
And maybe I can pay more attention to the experience created by sound... It takes a certain skill to form sentences that sound good. I should learn that. It'll be fun. =) Right, there's something I need to work on.
I gave speech #8 at our Toastmasters meeting earlier. I talked about secret happiness: colored socks for sunshine, dangling earrings for the laughter of seas, and a star for love. =) Everyone loved the speech!
I'm doing "Evaluate to Motivate" next week. I have plenty of stories to tell them about my family and my friends! =)
I gave a presentation on Taming the TODO for the New to Linux Users Group. It was a very small session, just five people in the audience, but worth giving anyway. I learned more about the topic as I presented it, and people enjoyed my enthusiasm. =)