Learn a Language in the Shower

How many times have you committed yourself to learning a language, only to find yourself lacking the time to actually do it?

Whether you’re prepping for a vacation in a foreign country, or you need that language for business purposes, you’re only going to get better by actually practicing. But how to find the time?


Turns out, you don’t have to be sitting in front of your desk in order to learn a language — you simply have to leverage the time you’re otherwise “wasting.” OK, so you’re not exactly “wasting” time when you’re in the shower, but still, you can use it to master some tongue exercises.

With that in mind, here are some of the ways you can use your shower time to practice a language.

Sing the language. Yep, that’s right — sing. You might already be doing it while in the shower — so why not switch into the target language? For those who are aural learners, singing songs will help you remember pronunciation and even grammar. And if your Rinnai tankless water heater happens to spit out a splash of hot water all of a sudden (although that’s unlikely), you might just get to some really high notes…

Talk to yourself. You might already be practicing certain target-language phrases under your breath, hoping to work on pronunciation and grammar — but here’s another way to take it to the next level: Have a conversation in which you play both sides. Ask a question and then answer. It’s great practice!

Listen to podcasts. If you’re already listening to music while in the shower, why not switch to language-specific content? There are plenty of podcasts out there aimed at helping you master your target language, so in this case, all you have to do is find a set of USB-accessible speakers that are powerful enough for you to hear while the shower is running. Practice conjugation or learn new phrases. You can even simply listen to the actual radio in the target language. Even that small amount of time each day will get your brain thinking in the language.

Get a shower curtain (seriously!). Are you a visual learner? Don’t worry — there’s a way to improve your vocabulary while taking a shower or a bath. Several companies are now making educational shower curtains that allow you to practice your vocabulary words while you’re scrubbing up. Vocabulary curtains come in several languages. In addition, there are shower curtains out there that help you learn geography or the even periodic table of the elements (gasp!).

So there you have it: The tried-and-true, excuse-proof list of ways you can learn your target language while you’re taking a shower. Of course, some of them — such as the second and third in particular, are applicable nearly anywhere. Have that conversation with yourself while you’re driving in the car, for example, or pop on a foreign language radio station the next time you’re driving around.

In no time, you’ll probably find that you’re using more of the target language than ever before.

Vinyl Records Are So Much Pun!

If there’s anything more enjoyable than listening to some great music for the first — or 40th — time, it’s also enjoying the album’s witty approach to titles, song titles, or cover art.

Plenty of musicians (or their producers) have used puns or other plays on words to make an album stand out, and these are just three among the hundreds — if not thousands — that have managed to pull it off successfully over the years.

If you’re lucky enough to have a good record player in your home, then you’ll not only get to enjoy the music contained within, but also these albums’ cool cover art. So here they are: 3 vinyl record titles with the best puns or wordplay.

David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane”

aladdin sane david bowieWhen it comes to artful titles — and music, and cover art, and makeup — you really can’t get any more epic than British star David Bowie. In homage to the prolific musician, (who even managed to produce a posthumous album) “Aladdin Sane” has to be on this list. When said out loud, the album’s title sounds like “A Lad Insane.” Produced in 1973, many of his fans agree that this album was Bowie at the height of his creativity.

Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace”

rust in peace megadeth
This heavy metal album was produced in 1990, when the genre was still well-loved by even the more conservative music lovers among us. As with most of Megadeth’s albums, “Rust in Peace” was a criticism of society’s ills, as well as containing that play on words that makes it so easy to remember. Put it on your record player and let the hard sound fill your living room!

Australian Crawl’s “Sons of Beaches”

sons of beaches australian crawl
It might be the least-known of the albums mentioned here, but Australian Crawl’s brilliant play on words is still worth a mention. Produced in 1982, the “beaches” part pays heed to the fact that Australians are known for being beach lovers. At the same time, the entire phrase “Sons of Beaches” has a hard “F*ck you” kind of attitude to it.
While all of these albums can stand on their own — and would probably be remembered even without a gimmicky title, adding a pun or a play on words certainly doesn’t hurt in having the albums remembered throughout the ages.

Do you have vinyl albums which have puns or witty wordplay in their titles? Let me know what they are in the comments section here.

The Language of Vibration: How Some Bugs Communicate

People and animals feel sound aside from hearing it, and often, the most meaningful communication are at frequencies that humans can’t detect. For example, among other communication tools, whales use low frequency sounds to find a partner or family over long distances. Elephants do the same.

But you don’t need to be a heavy weight to make some noise. For example, a tree cricket rubs its wings’ tooth-like parts to communicate (kind of like people grinding their teeth to express anger). I’ve been looking for insect zappers lately, and these were just some of the fun facts I learned along the way.

According to Rex Cocroft, a biologist at the University of Missouri, treehoppers use leaf stems to communicate. The insect’s abdomen can vibrate like a tuning fork due to muscles in that body part and in their thorax. The vibration travels down the legs of the bug, into the stem, and then to other bugs.

There is barely any airborne sound produced in the process. And so, Cocroft improvises with record player needles and cartridges to detect the stem’s vibrations. In contrast, the treehoppers just use their legs’ sensitive sensors to pick them up. It’s kind of like an awesome, organic form of bug telegraph.

On the other hand, Dartmouth College biologist Laurel Symes listens to vibrations that we do hear, like those from tree crickets. With their wings’ tiny teeth (the pre-requisite for communication?), they vibrate their flaps as if they were drumheads. What’s amazing is that they can discriminate slight differences in frequency, with acuity at par to that of a classical musician.

In the woods, there are a lot of different types of crickets making noise. To us, they all sound the same, but they are actually different. Female tree crickets can tell which sound came from their kind, so they’ll know where to go for mating. (Imagine if human relationships begin the same way).

I enjoyed learning about these languages of vibration and sharing them here. But still, I’ll get a bug zapper to kill insects. It’s just that nothing spoils barbecue parties more than some pesky bugs. And so, here’s to hoping that I’ll have as wide a communication gap as possible with insects of any kind.

Music Helps in Learning a Language

The past weeks, I’ve been fiddling my acoustic guitar. I’ve been reading a list of home recording studio equipment too. My record player has also been spinning quite an amount of vinyls on repeat. Regardless to say, I’ve been stuck in a musical man cave lately (queue soundtrack). That meant less time studying the languages that I’m trying to learn. Or was I actually learning because of all that music?

If I remember it right, there was this news some time ago saying that music helps in learning a language. I believe it was on The Telegraph website (I’m too lazy to look it up now). The news presented a study which found that adults who sang a foreign language were twice as fluent at it later. I couldn’t agree more, because I observe it on my own students. Below are reasons why I think this is so:

  • Music is considered the “universal language.” It breaks down barriers and connects across different cultures.  I have always believed that you’ll learn a language better if you immerse in the culture that surrounds it. I will probably be advocating about that very often in this blog. It’s just that nothing displays a language’s quirks and nuisances better than a culture that shows it in action.
  • Music is fun! I study languages with the same passion that Math geeks do with their numbers (none of that for me, lol!). When I study foreign tongues through music, it’s more than twice the satisfaction. And unlike with classes and usual speaking situations, with music you are more relaxed (which helps a lot). Furthermore, you can take music anywhere nowadays. So the next time you download some songs, visit the foreign section.
  • Singing increases vocabulary and improves pronunciation. The lyrics of a foreign song are a minefield of new words and phrases just waiting to be unearthed. Also, singing along will help your native accent less noticeable as time goes by. That’s because the rhythm and beat of music eases you into the proper articulation and pronunciation of words. Below is an amusing video of a rap song in 6 different languages:

Now, if you want to learn Portuguese, you might want to enroll at the Arizona State University. There, lecturer Clarice Deal is teaching the language through bossa nova, a Brazilian music style derived from samba. I usually hear that kind of music in cafes, so I tend to associate it with coffee. So now, I’m off to have a cup with some sugar and cream, and maybe a bit of Portuguese too. See you in the next post!