Learning while listening Part 2

I’ve been spending a lot of hours walking.  A LOT of hours.  I’ve walked over 150 miles in training for the 3-Day, and at three to three-and-a-half miles per hour, that’s between 40 and 50 hours.  Mostly, I’ve been walking without companions.  That’s dull.

To remedy the dullness, I have been listening to my iPod.  I know that this isn’t the safest practice in the world, but it is certainly accepted practice.  Why else would so many people have those arm bands to carry their music players?  Anyway, I am very careful and I always watch where I am walking and look both ways before crossing any streets, Mom.  It is OK, I PROMISE.

I don’t listen to music, for the most part.  Certainly music can be very motivating and energizing, but I have instead been listening to audio courses from The Teaching Company.  These people charge huge sums of money for their audio courses, but they do have very regular reduced-price sales.  I recommend you wait for a sale before buying any.

The first course I listened to was The Old Testament, and the lectures were given by Amy-Jill (AJ) Levine, a former Swarthmore professor.  I never managed to take a course with her in college (too many physics and education courses in my schedule, plus I wasn’t sure I was interested in religion, despite how much everyone LOVED her courses.

I thought the course sounded interesting, and there was a lot I had never learned about the Old Testament.  I never read it, for one thing, having been scared off by the language and uninspired by the plot.  I had a marginal understanding based on a children’s book of bible stories my mom bought for me to prevent me growing up in complete ignorance (the Unitarian Universalist Sunday School I attended taught us about childbirth and non-Christian religions and sharing and personal growth, but was lacking in catechism) of the basis of much of Western literature and art.  But the main things I remembered were the story of Jonah and the story of the writing on the wall.  Both of which are actually pretty minor.

I really liked this course, especially learning about the archeological and historical evidence for the various events, rulers, and battles.  I finally learned what is meant by “the twelve tribes of Israel” and learned WAY more about Moses than I ever did at friends’ seder dinners.  What is a prophet?  I never really understood that until listening to these lectures.

The second course I listened to was The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter.  This was absolutely fascinating, and I will probably put some of his recommended books on my summer library list.  There were sooo many fascinating topics, from ancient languages like proto-Indo-European, to modern pidgins and creoles (and what the difference is between them).  How do languages change over time?  Words are acquired from other languages, vowel sounds change, consonants fall off or change from difficult sounds to easier sounds.  Why do some languages have clicks, some have tones, and some have a zillion word endings depending on tense, person, location, or mode of information?  Can dying languages be revived?  Why do we spell words one way and pronounce them another way?

Now that I am out of lectures, I am considering whether I want to get some more.  I’m not sure.  They ARE awfully pricey, but I have a lot more hours of walking ahead of me.  In the meantime, I am listening to unabridged recordings of some really long novels…the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Each novel is about 3 inches thick, and the audio versions are over 33 hours each.  I’m on the second one, out of seven novels in the series (so far).  So, I can go about 110 miles per book.  Woo hoo!

[UPDATE 6/6/10: I have now purchased (at a great discount) the audio course “The Wisdom of History” and listened to the first two lectures on a 5-mile walk.  More learning!]

3 Responses to “Learning while listening Part 2”

  1. kpitter Says:

    I wished we lived closer.. I would have walked with you. Then again, you are using the time quite productively.

    When I walk, I don’t listen to iPod either. I do a lot of thinking and counting (counting—you use that technique during meditation, too)

  2. Brian Barker Says:

    With regard to the campaign to save endangered and dying languages, can I point to the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO’s campaign.

    The commitment was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations’ Geneva HQ in September.

    Your readers may be interested in http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

  3. teawithbuzz Says:

    Hi Brian,
    your comment showed up in my spam box but I decided to allow it because the lecture from The Story of Human Language on dying languages was pretty interesting. Also the lecture on invented languages (including Esperanto) was also pretty interesting. I agree that other people might actually be interested in your links. However, I have so few readers that I doubt I’ll generate much traffic for you.

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