Monday, September 9, 2013

Hashy Pomme+ Bath Speaker review: Get your target language audio and video in the shower—batteries not included (or needed)

If you like being clean—and I'll bet you do—then you probably spend at a bare minimum 5 to 10 minutes in the shower every day. And if you're into Japanese-style ofuro bathing or just take really long singing showers that annoy everyone else in your family (*ahem*), then it's probably going to be a lot more time than that. And if you aren't using that time to get exposure to your target language, then you're missing out.

Years ago I bought some crappy $20 shower speaker on a whim, and it's been one of the items in my language-learning tool kit ever since: turn on some audio (music or podcasts, for example) and get some exposure while you're taking a shower.

Unfortunately there was one thing that always annoyed me about that crappy $20 shower speaker: it needed batteries. That meant that every time the batteries died, there'd be some period of time between the battery dying and me finally bothering to replace them that would result in missed exposure.

After that shower speaker breathed its last breath, I got the Pomme Bath Speaker by Hashy Top-In (pretty sweet Japanglish name for a company that's been around since 1929, no?), which is pictured above. It's powered by the device that you put in it so it doesn't need a battery, and I loved it for that, but this too had something that annoyed me: there's no convenient way to skip a track that you don't want to listen to or to adjust the volume.

I went looking for a battery-free replacement and that was when I discovered that Hashy had upgraded the Pomme to the Pomme+, which remained battery free but scratched one of my itches by adding a button that lets you skip songs. Below is the unboxing and a quick demonstration of how it works.

You'll find my full review after the jump, but I'll say right now that I can completely recommend the Pomme+ to get your daily dose of language learning in the shower.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Get more exposure from target language music by adjusting songs' start and stop times

While using music as a tool to improve my various languages, I discovered something that was crashing headlong into my impatience to learn quickly: when trying to get exposure to a target language via music, I'd often have to sit through parts of the songs that weren't giving me any exposure to the target language or were only providing very repetitive exposure.

There were basically three things that led to this. The first was those parts of the song that were purely instrumental; obviously if nobody's singing, you won't be getting any exposure to the target language. The second was that some songs use languages other than one of my target languages—most commonly English. The third was that certain songs would repeat the refrain or some other part of the song so much that I wasn't getting any particular value from all the additional repetitions.

That led me to thinking that if there's a way I can skip these parts, I can increase my exposures per minute and make the exposures more valuable by reducing excessive repetition. In theory, I could edit out such parts with an audio editor, but that'd be quite a lot of work and I'm not sure the time spent doing so would result in a net gain. However, if the parts you want to skip are at the beginning or end of your songs, iTunes has a pretty easy way for you to skip those sections on a permanent basis: changing the start and stop times of the songs.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ways to master English vocabulary

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

Learners can improve their English vocabulary in the following ways:
  • by doing communicative English grammar exercises with daily life content;
  • by practicing speaking on various topics;
  • by reading various materials in English on a multitude of topics; and
  • by listening to audio and video recordings with diverse content.
I believe the best way to learn English vocabulary is by topics with explanations of meaning, examples of usage in sentences, and subsequent exercises.