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Why Do You Listen To The Radio?


Radio stations suck. They play the same songs over and over, sound nowhere near as good as a CD or MP3, and even play commercials at you. I’ve got a thousand songs and podcasts I want to listen to, yet when I get in my car, I often end up listening to the radio. Why? Because the radio is easy. The radio is there. The radio makes all my choices for me. Most important of all: the radio is automatic. It turns itself on when I turn the key. It’s easier to passively receive mediocrity than to actively make choices.

Formally, the theory goes something like this:

Radio Theory
1) The radio automatically starts playing when I turn on my car.
2) If I want to listen to my own L2 music or podcasts, I’ll have sit idle in the driver’s seat while I turn on my iPod, make choices, and act on them.
——————————– ERGO——————————–
3) I’ll probably end up with the former because hey, I’m just driving a few minutes to buy oats and protein powder.

This theory means that merely having L2 stuff around you isn’t always enough if your willpower is running low. Optimally, you shouldn’t need to use willpower at all. Whenever possible, make it automatic. To fix the driving situation, I’ve given up on the iPod, and instead burned a CD with tons of miscellaneous L2 music and podcasts on it. I set my car stereo to shuffle and BLAMMO, problem solved. Now when I get in my car it automatically starts playing my L2 CD, and shuffles it just like the radio; my choices are all passive now. Before, I had to 1) think “what should I listen to” and 2) physically make it happen. Now I just react to an automatic situation, mashing my hedonistic palm on the next button if it doesn’t immediately please me.

Laziness can be your biggest weakness or greatest strength – it all depends on your environment.

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Matt is an unorthodox teacher and, above all, an unorthodox writer. He taught himself French mostly by watching TV, and now lives in Korea where he is training for the International Bench-press/Bicep Biathlon.


eristdoof January 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

“Radio stations suck. They play the same songs over and over,”
Where are you?????

BBC Radio 4 (UK) and Deutschlandfunk (germany) are both excellent radio stations that don’t play music and have a variety of news/drama and documentaries. The biggest problem with “broadcast” radio from the point of learning a foreign language is it can be difficult to access the international stations. In this respect podcats & Ipods rock.


Ramses January 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Those are two acceptable stations in an endless stream of shit 😉


Matt January 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm

The only L2 stations in San Diego are in Spanish, which I’m not learning. Thus, this post about my solution to this problem!


Bakunin January 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I’ve recently discovered TuneIn Radio, an app for the iPhone (and maybe other makes, don’t know), which streams radio from many languages (including Thai, which I’m learning) to anywhere on the globe. Since then, I’ve been listening to hours and hours of Thai radio talk shows, and I’m totally hooked. From discussions on the new minimum wage, mental illnesses, listeners’ favorite books, call-in medical shows, traditional stories of Southern Thailand, an update on narcotics trafficking at the Northern border etc., there’s something for everyone. I prefer listening to radio talk shows to watching TV because I’m sick of staring at screens. There are very few podcasts for Thai (and I listen to all of them), so having access to the radio is simply great.

You should maybe choose a different radio station in your car.


Matt January 11, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Sounds like a cool app. As far as radio stations go, let me assure you that there are no French radio stations in Southern California. I had the option to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana songs that I have heard 1.7 million times already, or to come up with a solution for my laziness. This post is about the solution!


Bakunin January 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I see, makes sense 🙂


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