Fast Talker

Apropos of Marc laughing at me and telling me I should visit the Sprawl to hear people talking fast, I thought you might like to know some of the following.
Recently I was told that some people actually speak at 300 words a minute. I do find it hard to believe, but having sped up a tape to approximately 300 words a minute I realize that I can understand what the speaker is saying — I just really had to focus.
Then I was looking at a book I found on my shelves: Rapid Writing in 6 Days by Ben E Johnson. He says:
Sean Shannon, a Canadian residing in Oxford, Great Britain, recited Hamlet’s soliloquy “To be or not to be” (259 words) in a time of 24 seconds–equivalent to 647.5 words per minute–on British Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio Oxford on October 26, 1990.
Here’s the link. I’m not sure what the page is, it is lesson 7 of Extreme English. Half-way down the page is an audio link — part English, part Polish, and two takes of Mr Shannon (of course he’s a Canuck) doing the soliloquy at 647 words per minute. I got about 1 word in 30.

13 comments Add yours
  1. Oops — forgot the point of my post:   Somebody stated that in the early 1900's, shorthand system creators often made claims of 350 wpm or more.   Another post said scientific research showed that people cannot discern individual words above a certain speed.   Anyone have more information about this? Or remember the post?

  2. I'm back after having been away for a week on vacation.  MORE would have been better.   I remember reading claims that the initial Stenotype people could write at 500+ w.p.m. on PRACTICED material–meaning it wasn't dictated but memorized and then "pounded out" at that equivalent rate.   BUT, as I recall, the passage wasn't extremely long making it far easier to "burst" at that speed, especially if there were a margin of error on the timing.   Marc  

  3. Welcome back, Marc.  How did you like our weather?  I see you are going home to a white Christmas, eh?    Cool sounding tape recorder, Mr. S.  I haven't seen one like that.   ___________________________ Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  4. Florida weather was great.  Then again, I wasn't there in hurricane season!  🙂   As for the "white Christmas" you're predicting, the snow from yesterday (all 5" of it) is already turning black.  If it stays, by the time December 25 rolls around, it should be completely disgusting.   For the record, I am NOT done with my holiday shopping!   Marc  

  5. From: Surplus Limey aka grandsamboson/John M.E. Alpe   Please refer to message 'Fast Talker' from 'sidhetaba', Sunday 4th December.   I was longing for a reply to this one as it is a subject I would like to study much further.   Normal speaking in English language by 'mother tongue' talkers is around 120 – 140 words per minute.  Newscasters and Sportscommentators often hit 180wpm.  The famous recorded commentary on a state-of-the-art 'wax' disc by Herb Morrison at Lakehurst in 1937, viewing the demise of airship Hindenberg, was most of the time in excess of 200wpm.  He hit the margin of fast talk and intelligibility.   I live in a mainly Chinese community where they are mostly Cantonese speakers.  When speaking English they often exceed 200wpm but remain intelligible to me.  The reason is they apply the skills of their
    mother tongue to English articulation.  Their language comprises mainly of short monosyllabic words that often terminate with open vowels.  They speak like this in English and remain completely comprehensible.  In fact, they apply 'stenographic' tricks to spoken English language by omitting the final word-closing sounds.  I know of Chinese lecturers (instructors) who teach in English and speak at 200plus.  Other Chinese listeners have no problems with comprehension but Westerners (like myself) find it very heavy going.   This matter has been discussed with other academics and we wonder whether Chinese students learning from a Chinese talking in English learn faster than others.  We have found no university academic papers which even attempt to broach the subject.   By the way, when working as a free lance journalist some years back, I wrote a 'sixty years after' feature
    article on the Hindenberg and Morrison's commentary.  I followed a recording, not being satisfied until I had every discernible word.  It took three working days.  Well worth it, buried in the commentary was a barely intelligible remark about a small boy.  I followed this up with detailed research.  My article was published in a 'National Daily' with a hype on the front page billboard.   Any further comment about 'sidehetaba's' original query would be most welcomed. 

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  6. From:  Surplus Limey To:  George   Thanks for the message George, I feel that you think I'm having you on.  I would be most pleased to discuss the intelligibility matter on academic terms.  Why not let me have a few research notes to go on with.   I will be back in the 'Land of the Limey's' over the next few weeks so will be unable to resume any dialogue until later.   Best wishes for the New Year.   Surplus Limey   aka grandsamboson/John M.E. Alpe  
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  7. Whenever any foriegner, especially Asian, would come into the cell phone store I used to work in, my boss and coworkers would all whisper, "You take 'em, John." Understanding foreign accents is not a redneck's strong point. But even with my great skill of hearing past the funny sounds, the one accent that always vexed me was Vietnamese. We had a lot of V customers, too. I told my coworkers it was because they dropped off the last sound of each word that I could make neither heads nor tails of the syllables. Mr. Nguyen would come in, say something, and I would just be staring at him thinking, with a frozen smile on my face, "I have no idea what you just said!" By the way, the accents of those V customers who included the last sounds sounded beatiful and were very easy to understand.

    Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  8. Interesting, I was on a cruise recently.  Our waiter was from Croatia and spoke English perfectly, but several people at the table had to frequently ask him to slow down.    I was amazed that words came so quickly to a non-native speaker.   It would have been hell taking dictation from him.  I imagine his cruising speed was 200 WPM.

  9. My experience is the same as yours John, with respect to understanding accents. I have a very good friend that is Chinese, and she drops the ending of the words as well, but I understand her perfectly. Other than that, she communicates very well. I don't slow down my speech when I talk to her — she understands perfectly.

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