11 April 2005

Language Learning and Multi-tasking

My sister emailed me today to ask for my advice on choosing a language learning audio class. Of course, I suggested Pimsleur. Of the three brands I have tried, Pimsleur has worked the best for me. I also told her not to try to multi-task while doing her 30 minutes of Pimsleur a day because it won't work very well. It's difficult to concentrate on a new language while cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, ironing, shaving you legs... well, you get the picture. Then she informed me that she was thinking of learning another language during her drive to and from work in order to pass the time more effectively. THEN she asks me who has an extra 30 minutes a day?

She is my sister and I love her dearly, but if she doesn't have 30 minutes of free time in her day, then I am worried about her health and well-being. This brings me to my regular rant about Americans not relaxing enough, working too hard, and not taking enough holidays, but I digress.

Maybe she meant that she doesn't have 30 minutes to devote to giving herself the gift of foreign language. I can understand this. Some people would prefer to spend their 30 extra minutes on woodcarving or sewing or baking or gardening or biking.

The fact that she considers her drive to and from work to be wasted unless she is multi-tasking is a bit worrying. Shouldn't she be concentrating on driving?

Anyway, I told her to get the Pimsleur CDs from her local public library and let me know how it goes. She said that she would try to do it on the drive and if that didn't work, then she would see if she could fit the 30 minutes into her day.
I suggested that we do an experiment. She should do the Pimsleur while driving and I would do the Pimsleur at home with peace and quiet. Then at the end of the first level, we would test to see who had made the most progress. She said it wouldn't be fair because I have already studied the language she wants to learn (that's true, but it was a long time ago) and I have more foreign language studying success.

So I wonder if there are any studies out there that would provide these results.

And one last thing. I doubt that you can learn a language effectively in only 30 minutes a day. You'll eventually need some sort of immersion in order to progress towards fluency. But 30 minutes of Pimsleur is a good start, especially if you want to do it while driving.


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