The Most Important Things You’ll Ever Buy…

…are right there, in the picture above.  Not my foot, that’s not for sale.*  You MUST have headphones and a smartphone.  Eldon Has Spoken.


Because, we’re learning a language, dammit!  We’re going to do a truck-load of listening, and we’re going to be actively learning and revising on the go.

Whether you’re commuting to work, riding a lift or waiting in a queue at a supermarket, you can always be listening to the language you’re learning (be it radio or songs), and you can usually be knocking out some Anki reps.  (Don’t forget, a phone is lighter and more portable than a book or netbook.)


I have a Samsung Galaxy S, which, as mentioned last post, plays music, radio and runs Anki fine.  In fact, I see it as a good thing that its memory is comparatively limited: it means I can’t download time-wasting apps willy-nilly.  I haven’t downloaded any games at all, with very pleasing results (see below).

As for headphones: the ones I picked are made by Philips/O’Neil.  (The exact pair is called “The Snug”, if you’re interested; they set me back 470HKD.)  The bass is pretty good on them, which makes them suitable for music; they’re comfortable; they’re pretty stylish too (in my opinion anyway) and so I have no qualms about wearing them in public.

The Results

My listening time and review time has shot up dramatically since using the phone-headphone combo.  My Cantonese and Mandarin have returned to a state of gradual improvement.  (I had a month recently where I barely did any work on them, having temporarily lost heart.)

Actually, given the complete absence of games and Internet on the phone (no Internet when not in a wifi zone – no 3G or anything), I’ve found that I’ll default to doing extra reps or adding in extra cards.  Which is a total win.

A Note on Music

My new phone has 2GB for music etc. by default, which has turned out to be a real good thing: I can’t load up my entire collection.  So, I’ve carefully selected only the Chinese songs I’ve made some effort to learn before.  (Listening to songs repeatedly where you have no idea at all of what the lyrics are is poor use of time.)  Conveniently, I also have all the lyrics handy, should I need them, stored in my Anki song deck.

Difficult-to-write Closing Words

So there you have it.  If you’re a language learner and don’t already have a smartphone or a decent set of earphones/headphones, get out there and make the investment.  They’re very cost-effective in the long run.

Also, while I think of it: although it’s not necessarily obvious from the posts on this blog, stuff like listening to music/radio and doing Anki reps is complementary with other things like reading, talking with people and watching TV.  It’s part of the package, and you need to do it all.

*Unless you’re offering an astronomically high price.  Maybe then I’d consider it.


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