Throughout most of my adult life I’ve loved listening to the news in the morning during breakfast or travelling to work in the car. I would put on the radio and find a news channel to get up to date with the latest goings-on in the world.

I’ve also got even more excited about sitting down on Sunday mornings and reading through the entire Sunday paper while dipping different pastries in my coffee with a smile on my face.

Then, with the news on my smartphone, I was soon disappearing head first down rabbit holes in Germany and the floods in some region I couldn’t pronounce or locate, and then appearing again on the island of Kiribati, where I discovered it’s going to be the first nation in the world to disappear under the ocean.   

However, one day while watching another video, this time about successful people, one of the common themes was “I don’t listen to or read the news.” At first, I thought it was just part of an eccentric personality and just one of a millionaire businessperson’s habits, such as getting up at 3am, working out at 5am and then having a Sirtfood breakfast before driving to work in their Tesla.

But no; it seems that it’s a pretty common theme with most very successful people. Before I continue, and before you object, let’s rule out reading and listening to news that you need for your work. For example, economic and stock market news for people working in finance.

So, I decided to stop reading or listening to the news, deleting my favourite news App on my phone and decided to see what would happen. At most, I was basically reading the main headlines for the day in a couple of minutes and then moving on. The strategy was to be highly selective, and not go into an irrelevant depth of knowledge that was absurd. And it worked. Nothing changed in my life except my increased productivity and feeling less stressed!

Why is knowing about what’s going on in the world a waste of time? Knowing about how the war in Ukraine is advancing can seem like a useful and even humanitarian thing to be up to date with. However, any more than reading a brief headline is irrelevant unless you are directly involved in the conflict.

As humans, we seem to have a natural desire and love of gossip and finding out about things in general. Put bluntly, we have a morbid curiosity to discover things in more detail than we need. Sadly, we don’t discriminate.

As an example, think about the evening news in two ways.

1)the piece of news

2) the details of the piece of news

How much of the news do you even need to know about? For example, there’s a forest fire in another remote part of your country, another country or even continent. It’s irrelevant. In fact, there are fires all the time, and you don’t even know about them. And, you don’t ‘need’ to know.

The theft of cars has gone up in another part of the country, there was a train cash in another part of the world, there was a terrorist attack in the Middle East, a train was derailed in the UK due to high temperatures. A swimmer was chased by a shark and a man bit a dog. You could spend the rest of your life just reading about other people’s lives and random events that have nothing to do with you.

What about the weather? A good example of how ridiculous the ‘News’ has become is the Weather on TV1 Spain, that must last at least 10 minutes and gives you a detailed analysis of every province of Spain and its islands. Even if you didn’t have Google weather, you could find out the weather in your location in 20 seconds. But you feel compelled to ‘finish’ the news and sit through and later discuss the bad weather they’re having in a location a 1000kms from where you live. I could go on.

You’re wasting your time, you’re wasting your valuable life and your productivity is zero.

 Yes, but it’s my relaxation time!!! I really enjoy listening to the news and the detailed analysis of the irrelevant item while driving to work.

The question boils down to one key point; what else should you or could you be doing with your time?

If you can’t think of anything better to do in your life, then it’s time you found something!! But that’s the subject of another article.

For me, the only useful thing about the news is to practise and learn a new language. If you’re learning French, and you’re going to listen to irrelevant news anyway, why not tune in and find out about the metro strike in Paris, the melting snow caps in the Alps and how it’s affecting livelihoods there, and then move on to  residents’ opinions on the extreme temperatures on the French Riviera?

Did you know that regular exposure to a language is one of the most important ways you can boost your learning? And on many news channels, the news is repeated every 15 or 30 minutes. Perfect for a language learner. Useless for everyone else.

So, if you still feel impelled to find out about a load of information that wastes your time and adds nothing to your life, then at least do so in another language. In that way you’ll be using your time productively and can kill two birds with one stone, or faire d’une pierre deux coups or even matar a dos pájaros de un tiro.

Language Learning Strategies: MUSIC

It’s no secret that listening to a language that you are learning is an incredibly good way of increasing not only your comprehension, but also your vocabulary knowledge.

If you can unite enjoyment with what you’re listening to, then your motivation is going to increase and you’re more likely to repeat the activity.

Let’s look at all the advantages of adding music to your language learning toolkit.

  1. As I mentioned before, listening to music is something that you do for pleasure and therefore it’ll be easier to do and more motivating. Compare this to listening to the news to help you learn a language.
  2. It’s very likely that if you’re learning English, you’re listening to a lot of English music already. So, it’s going to be easier to continue doing so.  
  3. According to the Economist Interactive (29/01/22), of the 50 most-streamed tracks on Spotify over the past five years, 47 were in English. Most radio stations in Spain play music in English, and YouTube has practically every popular song ever written. What this means is that you’ll never be short of material.
  4. You can always read aloud articles and stories, but most people love singing songs. With lyrics and karaoke versions of songs readily available on YouTube, you have never had a better opportunity to sing along to your favourites, and at the same time get a real feel for the words, melody and rhythm of the language.
  5. Portability. Just like podcasts, you can carry around millions of songs, especially if you have a subscription to Spotify, and therefore, you can integrate music into other activities from driving to jogging.

Music seems to tick all the boxes when it comes to language learning and if you are serious about improving quickly, you need to incorporate it into your life.

How do I learn with music?

Here are a couple of tips.

1.Pick a song you like but are not familiar with yet.

2. Listen to it without the lyrics a few times to see if you understand it all.

3. Now check the lyrics and look up any words you don’t know.

4. Listen to the song with the lyrics and notice the way the words link together as well as the rhythm and melody.

5. Now listen again without the lyrics. Do you understand the whole song now?

6. Time to sing. The best option is to memorise the lyrics and sing the song with the singers and later without them. If not, you always have the karaoke version.

7. If you really love singing and are good at it, why not join a choir? In Barcelona and other large cities there are English choir groups, and you may have the opportunity to meet English speakers. Win-Win!

If you want to know more about Personal Language Learning Strategies or improve your English pronunciation, feel free to contact me.