Why So Controversial?

When I was a kid, I loved spending time with my friends. I would beg to go to their house, spend the day, and later I would end the day asking my parents to let me stay for a couple more hours. If I couldn’t see them in person, we would talk on the phone for hours. Sometimes, we would talk until every phone in the house was dead, and we had no other option except to hang up.

As we grew older, we got busy and we developed into the people we are today. I have lost contact with many of my friends, but I have also been fortunate enough to be able to stay in contact with some of my closest ones since childhood. I have also met new people along the way that became good pals of mine. However, as much as I love all of my friends, I find that I’ve become more introverted. Despite enjoying their company, I could no longer spend so much time hanging out with others. After a few hours, I was finding myself tired and needing to relax.

Things have changed since childhood. We went from talking about TV shows and crushes to talking about politics and the latest scandal on the news. To be honest, I am not into talking about controversial topics. When I hang out with a friend, especially one that I have not seen in a year, I prefer to catch up or reminisce. Unfortunately, controversial topics tend to creep into our conversation.

Talking about politics is important. We can’t just ignore them altogether, but there is a time and a place for that discussion. Sometimes we need to leave our opinions at the door for the sake of friendship, if two people can’t have a mature discussion. We live in a world where people unfriend each other on social media, even after years of friendship, just because someone does not agree with their views. Anymore, I go on Facebook and see people trying to change each other, as opposed to pictures of their pet or their food (which I would rather see). I have even had this experience when visiting friends. If I haven’t seen you in over a year, the first thing I want to hear about is you. I care about you and your life. I want to know how your family is doing, if you have picked up any new hobbies, and what you have been learning. I don’t want to know what you think of Donald Trump’s latest tweet, not right now.

What happened to just hanging out and enjoying the company of another person? Why don’t we just sit, put our phones down, and talk?

Create moments where you will think of childhood, and you will want to sit and talk for hours and hours.

Duolingo Challenge | 2 Months of Polish Update

Cześć!

This summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn as much Polish as I can, only using Duolingo. After having studied Polish for two months, here is where I am at:

The Duolingo community has been wonderful during this challenge! Language-learners encourage each other and share what they have been learning through weekly updates on the website forum. The Polish community has also been extremely encouraging during this 90 day challenge. I am honestly blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm and kindness.

During the first month of this challenge, I knew so little Polish that I didn’t even know how to say “hello.” I learned so much vocabulary and how to conjugate verbs in the present tense. Although there wasn’t an explicit explanation in the Duolingo app, I was able to figure out some patterns throughout the exercises.

However, as the lessons got more difficult during the second month and more vocabulary was being thrown at me, I decided that I would only try to remember what words were relevant to topics that I talked about in my daily life (ex. remembering the verb “to do” as opposed to the verb “to sell”). My note-taking got much more relaxed and my motivation went down a little bit since starting the challenge, since I am only using one resource. I would not recommend limiting yourself to only one resource when learning a language. I am only doing this for the challenge, out of curiosity. Even so, I am happy with the progress I have made in two months.

I am really looking forward to finishing up the tree during this third month, getting a good grasp on the past tense and being able to remember more vocabulary, and being able to surprise my grandma by speaking to her in Polish!

Living in a Tourist Town

We are always on the move. After doing some research, I found that it is estimated that Americans will move about 10-11 times during their lifetime. Although I have not moved around much and have plenty of time to do so, I spoke with others who have. My parents have experienced living in many different kinds of places, from a small town in Pennsylvania, to huge well-known cities. Some of the places where they have lived for an extended period of time were tourist destinations such as New York City and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The cool thing about living in a tourist town is that you get to experience life as a local. When I went to school in Gettysburg, students divided everyone into three groups: college students, tourists, and “townies.” It didn’t take much time to figure out who was who when living there. Being there for a long time, students could see what Gettysburg had to offer, not just as a tourist destination but also locally. Had I only been a tourist in Gettysburg, I would have not known that there was a Hispanic community there that I could get involved with. I got to experience going to mass in Spanish, volunteer at a bilingual school, and go to a yearly event called “Salsa on the Square.”

However, life and work creeps up on us, consuming our time so much that we sometimes forget to do the touristy activities before it’s time to pack up and move again. One piece of advice my parents have given me, as well as others, was to do everything while you can. In the case of when I studied in Madrid, I knew my time was limited to three months, so I knew how much time I had to visit every museum and sight I wanted to go to. Most of the time, when people move, they don’t know how long they will be staying in a given place. It can vary depending on the type of job and of course, life being unpredictable.

I never did get to go on any ghost tours when I was in Gettysburg, but I did get to see the battlefields and had two very knowledgeable friends give me a tour. I got to know which ice cream places were popular with locals and which ones were tourist traps. I got to know some of the locals through frequenting restaurants in different places where I have studied. I had four years to see and do everything that I wanted to, so I could spread things out. However, I wish that I would have done and discovered some things earlier, because I would have done them more often, such as riding around the battlefield in a scoot coupe with my roommates.

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If you are thinking about or already living in a tourist town, take advantage of the things to do. Maybe you already have, and that’s great! Maybe you haven’t yet because you don’t want to be associated with tourists or you just haven’t found the time yet. Take advantage before it’s too late! Explore, discover, and share with others! You never know what you may find.

The Crazy Thing About Consistency

There is more to learning a foreign language than just learning the language itself, or even the culture related to the language. When one tries to learn a language, especially outside of the classroom, they learn how to learn. Benny Lewis, known as the Irish Polyglot, has said that the hardest language that he has learned is Spanish, despite the fact that it is closer to English than some of the other languages that he has studied. Benny learned how to learn a language. He found what methods worked for him, because just being in the country wasn’t enough.

I read a lovely article yesterday about 24 polyglots’ tips for learning a language. Some of their tips were reoccurring, which I paid attention to since they have been successful in learning multiple languages. There is one tip that I saw often, and regularly see in YouTube videos and TED talks. I even wrote about this tip in one of my other blog posts: the importance of consistency.

Why is consistency so important that language learners everywhere talk about it?

I have been taking a hiatus from studying Korean to study Polish for the summer. I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing my best to keep up with Korean, only reviewing once in a while. Already, I have forgotten some words, even though I had gone over them fairly often. However, something weird has been happening.

In high school, I made a decision to teach myself Japanese and got very serious about it. Although I never made it to a conversational level, I studied very frequently and reviewed even more for an 8-month period. I didn’t know much Japanese beyond basic conjugation and vocabulary, but what I did know, I knew well. It has been years since I have studied Japanese, so I have forgotten a lot of what I learned, or so I thought. To this day, if I watch anime or hear people speaking Japanese, I will recognize some of the vocabulary that I learned. To my surprise, I can still remember how to produce some basic sentences on my own.

It turns out that my consistency with Japanese paid off so much that when I hear a word in English and try to think of it in Korean, Japanese will come to mind first. Japanese and Korean are two different languages with some similarities, but for some reason, my brain will think in Japanese before it will think in Korean, even though Korean should be more fresh in my mind. That is the power of consistency. If you form a good habit, it can last even years later when you feel like you are out of practice. Though there are days where you feel too unmotivated to study or you feel like certain words aren’t sticking, study anyway, because you may be surprised.

Duolingo Challenge | 1 Month of Polish Update

Cześć!

This summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn as much Polish as I can, only using Duolingo. Below is the result after studying for one month:

Cases have been my biggest obstacle when it comes to the language, but I really am enjoying the learning process. I decided to do this challenge because I was genuinely curious as to how much a person could learn from only using Duolingo (plus the tips & notes section, since it is part of the course). I only knew a couple of words before starting because of my grandmother. I plan on surprising her at the end of the summer, around when I finish the challenge. She grew up in the United States, but spoke Polish at home with her family, who came directly from Poland. I can’t wait to see the outcome after three months of studying, and how my grandma reacts!

Weekly updates have been posted on the Duolingo forum!

The Secret to Happiness

Our bodies are intriguing. They are so complex that even the world’s smartest minds haven’t figured out all the intricacies that lie inside. Many people put an emphasis on parts that are being researched, such as the brain or the heart. Others will pay special attention to areas on our bodies that society deems important. What about parts like the nose? For some, it is their defining trait and we are quick to notice. However, I am willing to bet that most don’t pay attention to their own nose, unless they are in front of a mirror. Most of the time, we don’t even realize what is in front of us until we smell something bad or really good. A good possibility for why we don’t notice our nose is because our brain tends to edit it out. We don’t see it.

Happiness is like a nose. It is there all along, but our brain edits it out. We are quick to see the negative and overwhelming circumstances in life. Look in front of you. Start with the small things that make you happy, whether it is the beauty of wild flowers, or a puppy enjoying a walk. Try doing an activity that you enjoyed as a child! Reflect on what happened after a long day: Did someone treat you with kindness today? Did you do something to bring joy to someone else?

There are some phrases my dad used to say when I was a kid that I will never forget, such as the “put it back” jingle he would sing when I wanted to buy a toy that I was not going to go home with that day. One of his favorite phrases to use on my sister and I frequently was: “Pay attention.” Even as I type this, I can hear him say those two words in the specific tone he used. We need to slow down and pay attention to the countless blessings that surround us in this busy world, because happiness isn’t very far away at all.

The Danger of “Good Enough”

The language-learning community likes to talk about the downfalls of being a perfectionist. When learning a language, making mistakes is inevitable, whether you like it or not. Learners can choose to learn from those mistakes, and sometimes even get a good laugh from them, or they can shy away from meeting new people and never reach their goal of becoming conversational in the language that they are learning because they are afraid of making mistakes when speaking or writing in that language.

The same goes for life. We aim for perfection and are constantly looking to better ourselves through inspirational talks on YouTube, self-help books, and reassuring blog posts. We know that we are not perfect, and we never will be perfect; at least not in this life.

Some people have accepted that fact, which is okay. If we strive for perfection then we will fail.  However, we should not settle for who we are right now. There is always something about us that we can be working on, while striving to be the best version of ourselves. The moment we settle and say that we are “good enough”, we make the conscious decision to stop growing. It is important to see the need for constant growth in our lives, because if we aren’t growing, then we are dying.

What kind of person were you in high school? How did you treat others? Would you want to go back to being that person? Look at your life in the past year. Would you want to be the same person you were even a year ago, making the same mistakes?

No matter how great you may think you are, or how much improvement you feel like you have been making, you still have a long way to go, and so do I. Look at it as motivation to continue on the path that you started, or even change your direction completely. Either way, don’t strive for “perfect” and never settle for “good enough.” Aim for “even better than yesterday.”