Learning Cantonese While Running

I normally listen to audio books while I do my triathlon training. Today I decided to learn a new language while running 6 miles by listening to a language training course from Pimsleur. The language? Cantonese. Verdict? Doesn’t work for me.

The mind is an interesting thing. If I’m listening to something really interesting, even though perhaps poorly written, like The Hunger Games, I don’t even notice I’m running, swimming, or biking. I’m completely engaged. Perhaps my mind will wander from time to time, which also happens when I’m reading a printed book, but I don’t notice. But with language training, if my mind skips I really miss out.

The Pimsleur language training programs are designed to be interactive. They say something on the audio, then you say something, then they say it again. Half the time they were telling me to say stuff and my ADD had me in another world completely unrelated to learning a language and I had no idea I was missing out on some command to say something. Yes, I did learn a little bit, after listening to the same half-hour course twice, but the course tells me to continue to the next one once I’m retaining about 80% of the first one, and I feel like I was retaining about 5% at the end. I just couldn’t focus on it and remain engaged. And I was really noticing the difficulty of the run.

So although I’m highly motivated to learn Cantonese, it won’t be with Pimsleur, nor anything else, while I’m out doing my triathlon training, I’m afraid. If you’ve had a successful experience learning a language via audio while training, I’d love to hear about it.

  • Richard J D’Souza

    Try listening to the audio when at home to grasp some of the key concepts, then run with it to reinforce your learning. We tend to daydream the “important” stuff when doing a routine activity.