What with my newish policy of not-working on Sundays, I was left at a loose end yesterday morning, between going for a walk and preparing cabonara for the kids’ lunch.
So I downloaded some apps to my smartphone: the Swedish TV news website, some Swedish newspapers, an app that plays Swedish TV programs, and so on.
Since I hurt my arm a couple of weeks ago, the motorbike has stayed in the garage and I’ve been going to work by bus, which means up to an hour of extra study time each day.
But hitherto I’ve wasted it, reading in English. The shame!
Anyway, the idea is to use the commute, and other ‘downtime’, to do more reading and listening and so speed up my progress with the language.
As soon as I’d started playing with the apps, my wife came into the kitchen to see what I was up to.
“You really ought to get some headphones” she suggested, “So you can listen undisturbed…”
Which meant, I believe, you’re making a hell of a row and getting on everyone’s nerves.
Well, I had once HAD headphones for this phone. But I’m pretty sure I gave them to one of the kids, as they seem to get through headphones at a rate of knots.
Poi, I never liked using them much anyway, and the nasty dangly things always got tangled up in my bag.
Still, needs must. And it was clearly not going to be practical to listen to ‘News in Easy Swedish’ on a bus full of bad-tempered communters without some sort of technical solution.
So in the afternoon, Stefi and I drove to MediaWorld, where I spent a couple of months’ allowance on a swish pair of bluetooth headphones.
Inside the substantial box were two itty-bitty earpieces, connected by a wire that goes around the back of your neck. There’s another short wire hanging down at the front, to about collar level, with power and volume controls.
Pressing the ‘on’ switch had no obvious effect, so I decided to charge the battery first.
That meant digging out my reading glasses, so as to be able to prod an impossibly small plug into an almost invisible hole in one of the earpieces.
I was rewarded with a red LED, which at least was progress of a sort.
While I was waiting for something else to happen, I read the instructions, which were just a line or so, and therefore of no use at all.
So I fired up my laptop and visited the manufacturer’s website to download the full ‘user manual’.
Turns out you’re supposed to be WEARING the headphones when you switch them on!
I stood in front of the bathroom mirror to arrange the wires and earpieces, then felt around for the power switch.
It was like being a teenager again, trying to follow the ‘how to please your girl in bed’ tips I’d read in a magazine.
Find the little button and press it.
Easy to say…
But then, a little voice in my head: “Hello!”
I pressed the button again: “Goodbye!”
And I was on a roll.
As instructed in the user manual, I pressed and held the button for five seconds to start the magical process of ‘connecting’ the headphones to my phone via Bluetooth.
Like wifi, apparently, but with shorter range. Your phone probably has it.
I found mine in ‘Settings’, made sure it was switched on, then scanned the ether to find the signal from the headphones, which was there, just as the user manual promised it would be.
One click to authorise the connection and ‘bingo!’, I was in the twenty-first century.
This morning I accompanied my wife to her hospital appointment, which as you can imagine meant a lot of hanging around.
On the way into the city, I’d used my phone for the first time to read through the news headlines in Swedish.
And while waiting outside the ‘ambulatorio’ I put on my headphones and listened to the easy newspaper that comes out each weekday morning.
Same old routine – twice with the audio and the text, then once with just the audio, no text. About twenty minutes of listening in total, ‘dead time’ profitably spent!
Oh, and this morning in bed? When I picked up my phone to check the time?
There were a bunch of notifications from the new apps, all in Swedish, all enticing me to click and read the news articles.
Which I did.
What to do:
- use your smartphone or tablet to get extra reading/listening practice in ‘downtime’, such as during your commute or on your lunchbreak
- download suitable free apps from the Google Play store (Android phones) or the Apple store
- mess about with them until you find the ones that you like – audio content is always useful, better still if there’s a transcript or subtitles
- connect your headlphones, or get some Bluetooth ones as I did, and listen/read whenever you have a few spare minutes
- don’t forget to keep your phone charged up! (headphones too, if they’re wireless…)
N.B. Keep an eye on the amount of data you’re using if you listen while you’re out and about (on the bus, say.) Avoid extra charges for data by using wifi whenever it’s available.