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Here’s a quick summary of all the Unlearning modules

Get a detailed outline of each module by clicking the links in the headings below.

Ready to dive in?

Sign up for the module you choose on the sign-up page.

Note: These are member modules (FREE for 10 days each: see INFO for more detail). For open access material, click HOME in the top menu

Rethink Speech 101: Unlearning (Access here)

Rethink Speech 101: Unlearning is our flagship offering, stepping you through a lot of the foundational ideas that are built on throughout this site. That makes it a great place to start your Rethink Speech exploration. However, it is also fine to start somewhere else. You can always come back and fill in the foundations later on. Once you are in RTS101, there’s a bit of an advantage in following the modules in the order given, but if you have a strong desire to follow a different path you should be able to manage fine.

Observing speech (Preview here)

It’s hard to really observe speech in everyday life. We can’t see it, touch it, or smell it. Even hearing lasts only an instant. Phonetic science allows us to capture speech, and study it in ways most people never experience. Now here’s the thing. When we observe speech scientifically, we find it is nothing like we think it is like. This module lets you in on the secret nature of speech.

Listening to Speech (Preview here)

One thing many of us know for sure is that if we hear a word – like ‘cat’ – then we must have heard its phonemes: ‘c-a-t’. How else could we possibly hear ‘cat’? Telepathy? Some kind of hallucination?

Amazingly enough, phonetic science shows the real situation is exactly the other way round! You can’t hear phonemes until you have heard words. Hard to believe? The demonstrations in this module do their best to convince you.

Thinking about speech (Preview here)

The modules of RTS101: Unlearning demonstrate that many apparent ‘facts’ of ‘common knowledge’ are not facts but false beliefs. This module starts with a demo that might help you see the source of our erroneous thinking about speech, goes on to look at some apparent solutions that don’t work quite as well as you might expect, and finally introduces some new analogies that might have the potential to help us think better about speech.

Mondegreens (Preview here)

Mondegreens are funny mis-heard song lyrics (find a classic example on the taster page) – and they hold a surprising amount of wisdom in their silly humour. It’s easy to laugh at mondegreens, but it is hard to think about them well. Our module goes behind the scenes to discuss what exactly it is that makes a hearing a mis-hearing, and recommend that studying mondegreens actually makes the basis of a really interesting and useful theory of speech. In fact, seeing your whole life as a mondegreen offers unexpected insights and great benefits!


Rethink Words 101: Unlearning (Preview here)

It’s hard to talk about speech for long without coming up against the concept of ‘word’ – and usefully enough, the study of words gives an excellent, though unusual, entry to the study of speech. So what is a word? At one level, that’s a very simple question. We all know the answer so well we rarely bother to think about it. At another level, it is one of the trickiest questions in the science of language.


Forensic Phonetics 101: Unlearning (Access here)

One of the areas most adversely affected by our society’s false beliefs about speech is the evaluation of speech recordings used as evidence in criminal trials. Check out some important considerations about:

Speaker identification (Preview here)

How well can you recognise the voices of people you know? How well can witnesses to crimes recognise voices? How well can experts identify speakers by their voices? What techniques are the most reliable? Are any reliable enough to use as evidence that might condemn someone to a lengthy prison sentence – or let a guilty murderer walk free?

Transcription of indistinct covert recordings (Access here)

Transcription seems like a simple secretarial task requiring little more skill than an ability to spell – that is until you try it. Transcribing clear speech is far more difficult than most people realise. Transcribing indistinct speech of the kind found in covert recordings is extremely challenging. Now add in the high stakes involved in getting it wrong when the transcript could be the deciding factor between guilty and not guilty verdicts.

So-called ‘enhancing’ and why you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the telly Preview here

Cop shows often show amazing scenes where a geeky-looking scientist twiddles some knobs to make waves dance on a screen and turn a mess of gobbledegook into intelligible speech. We know it can’t all be true – but how to distinguish the valid from the rubbish? Again – the stakes are high when the results are used as evidence in criminal trials. This is important stuff.


Rethink Speaking (Preview here)

One reason many people want or need to learn phonetics is to assist with spoken communication between native and non-native speakers of English. What if there were a simpler and nicer way to do this, that helped us all become both teachers and learners?


Rethink Yourself (Preview here)

If what we say about speech in Rethink Speech is true – it has profound implications for the nature of the beings that can use it – that’s you and me and all of us. What if we are far more powerful thinkers than we think we are? How might we best use our powers for the good of all?

What happens if I finish all the Unlearning modules and I still want more?

  • You can sign up to discuss your learning in a forum, or take opportunities to join workshops and webinars.
  • You can go on to the 201 courses. More details when you get there! Or contact us for advance  info.