Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dacher Keltner on happiness and health

In modern psychology more than in traditional psychology there is attention for happiness. This new psychology is called positive psychology and it holds as tenant that what allows people to function well in their lives are their strong qualities and that what helps people who need psychological help more than anything is emphasis on their strong points. It makes for a psychology that is less busy with neuroses and deficiencies, but rather with emotional strengths, social intelligence, compassion, well-being and therefore, eventually happiness.

Consequently, on psychology podcasts, both lecture series (see more below) and specialized interview podcasts such as Shrink Rap Radio there is a lot of attention for the proponents, subjects and findings in positive psychology. In that respect an especially noteworthy issue was the interview with Berkeley professor Dacher Keltner (Shink Rap Radio #217). Keltner is a specialist in happiness and shared a great wealth of insight with the listeners. One of those are his arguments that positive emotions such as compassion are actually a product of evolution and hence, paraphrasing Darwin, evolution is not survival of the fittest, but rather of the kindest. He even argues Darwin himself believed this. (Shrink Rap radio feed)

Shrink Rap Radio's interview with Keltner is a fine way to get 45 minutes of his thought, but if you want more, you are advised to continue through to UC Berkeley and pick up his lecture course on happiness and health: Letters and Science C160V, 001, Psychology C162, 001 - Human Happiness (feed) Here you can find out much more about positive emotions, about the parts of the brain responsible for this, about touch, compassion, forgiveness and much much more.

My colleague podcast reviewer DIY Scholar has written two very relevant reviews of Keltner's course to which I happily refer you: Human Happiness and Are we a touch Starved Culture?

More Shrink Rap Radio:
Resurrection after rape,
Life Changing Lessons,
Shrink Rap Radio - 200 great podcasts,
Technology and The Evolving Brain,
Nova Spivack.

Learn German through podcast

One of the most helpful tools in language learning is to hear the target language being used. Hence, podcasting is a medium especially fit for teaching a language and the supply of free language learning podcasts is amazingly large. You can pick almost any (living) language and find at least a handful of podcasts offering you to teach it to you. Last time I wrote about one podcast teaching Dutch, today I want to relate my adventure into German teaching podcasts. And I can promise a post about Hebrew learning podcasts very soon.

As was to be expected, the amount of German learning podcasts is staggering. I have made a quick survey of five of them, each with different starting assumptions, levels and method. I am not going to recommend any one in particular. I think language learning eventually is both very personal and also in need of a multi-method approach. In general I'd say one should not rely on podcasts alone and neither on one podcast alone. Try them all and soon you will find what combination works for you.

My Daily Phrase German (feed)
This is a podcast by Radio Lingua Network which seems to have podfaded and been followed up by One Minute German and A flavour of German. This course starts with the basics and concentrates on phrases. A general remark about phrase podcasts should be: phrases alone will not help you very much. Without grammar and vocabulary, you will not know what you are actually saying and you will hardly succeed in understanding, let alone, dealing with replies. Nevertheless, phrases are part of language learning, they are a good addition and a nice starting point.

Learn German (Germanpod101) (feed)
Also a podcast with basics. Apart from phrases there is also basic grammar. These first two podcasts I mentioned are a nice place to start.

German GrammarPod (feed)
German grammar is not particularly easy, not even if you come from familiar languages such as English and Dutch. In spite of it being a rather intimidating subject, I advise anyone who wants to learn German to pay ample attention to grammar. The German Grammarpod systematically goes through German grammar and you will find it a good supplement to your German learning. For more advanced learners, this podcast is also a good refreshment and testing tool.

Deutsch - warum nicht? (Deutsche Welle) (feed)
This course in German leans heavily on letting you get the flavor of German. I totally agree that you will have to listen to naturally used language in order to effectively picking it up, but it cannot replace systematic learning. Try Deutsche Welle and see if it matches you. If you have a starting basis in German, it may be fun.

Slow German (feed)
At any stage of advancement in German learning, I would recommend Annik Rubens's podcast Slow German. Annik reads a complete text in a slightly slower and meticulously pronounced German as to make it easier to follow for non-native speakers. Even from a very low level starting point it makes sense to listen in. Even if you do not understand all, you will be able to tell the words apart and get a good feel of the pronunciation and free use of the language. Slow German will expose you to German and a regular listen will prove to be a tremendous support to all other efforts you put in German learning.

Many of these podcasts have additional learning materials, frequently at a premium. I would say you should use anything you can lay your hands on for free. After some time you will have figured out with which podcast you connect particularly well and then should consider spending some money to make the investment complete.

Of course, if Slow German or any of the other podcasts begin to get too slow for you, try some regular podcasts in German. There are a considerable number I have reviewed on my blog:
Skythen-Podcast (history)
Leben und Überleben mit 45+ (life after cancer)
Junggesellenblog (personal audioblog)
Meiky's Podcast Show (audioblog and audio plays)
Geschichtspodcast (history)
Volkis Stimme (satire)
Schlaflos in Muenchen (audioblog)
Ersatz TV (science)
Deutsche Klassiker (literature)
Omega Tau (science and technology)
Dichter und Denker (Culture and thought)
Wanhoff's Wunderbare Welt der Wissenschaft (science)
Fraunhofer (science and technology)
Ganz einfach leben (ecology and economics)
Der Sontagssoziologe (sociology)
Brieftour (audioblog)