Use Simple Language

Many years ago, I was talking to somebody that I had just met, and they asked me if I was from Scranton. This was the first time I was asked a question so specific to where I lived that I was caught off guard. I told the woman that I was from the area and asked how she knew. You have an accent, she told me.

What? I thought I spoke standard English just like anyone else in the area! There wasn’t anything in my speech that made me think that I sounded like I was from a specific area. When people think of American accents, they usually refer to the South, New York, or New England. Who knew that even in the little region where you grew up, your accent could be seen as different? There is much diversity within American English, but that doesn’t just apply to how we sound when we speak.

I have interacted with a variety of language exchange partners from many different places. Not all language exchanges give you the same experience, and not all language exchanges will go smoothly. However, if you are looking to make the experience less stressful for both parties, I would suggest using simple language.

I naturally don’t use complicated language and I don’t see why it needs to be used in everyday situations, like some people use it. If I can get my point across concisely without having to repeat myself or clarify what I was saying, then I can continue to say even more things. I have found this to be very helpful as a language exchange partner, because most of the time, my partners will understand what I am saying, even if they don’t consider themselves “fluent” in English. Being able to understand the conversation will make them more motivated to continue speaking to you and you will be able to have more fluid conversations.

I have been told that I enunciate in English. That can contribute to a better and easier language exchange, but I would highly suggest trying to use language that is simpler and more natural, rather than what you are reading in your textbook. However, I would not use language that is so simple that it is insulting. So try it out! See what happens when you speak to somebody using most of the vocabulary that they’ll probably know!

Language Event Planning

Have you ever held yourself back from a great opportunity because of fear? Have you ever thought about how your life would be different if you had taken that leap of faith? Do your dreams tend to stay inside your head?

I have wanted to try out every career at some point in my life, ranging from singing to being a chemist to being an archaeologist. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my future. I knew that Spanish would be one of my majors, but I was unsure of what I would combine it with. Business had crossed my mind, but after taking a look at the list of classes that were required, I shied away from it. The same thing happened my freshman year with Computer Science. I had taken a class that I really enjoyed and did well in. It made me consider majoring in the subject, but when I took a look at the list of required courses and saw that a lot of math was involved, I became intimidated and backed down. Life today could have been different if I had taken a step forward in faith.

What happens when you do take that step? 

Since my four years in college, I have studied abroad in two different countries, traveled around Europe, learned how to speak three romance languages, and most recently, I planned a language-learning event at my school.

I work at the Language Resource Center and wanted to do something to get our name out there, as well as engage the campus in language-learning and community-building outside of the classroom. That was when I came up with the idea of Mini Language Workshops, by students, for students. Each week, students at the college had the opportunity to learn the basics in a different language for an hour. The workshops were ran by 11 different students who either spoke that language natively or were advanced speakers of the language. Below, you can see the product of the language workshops:

For English subtitles, click the “CC” button.

You too can help plan events to help make your school a more multilingual place. Just take that leap of faith and start a meetup group or your own language workshops. Who knows, maybe you will start a new tradition!

Balancing School and Travel

Every college student is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the side that likes to binge-watch Netflix or funny videos on YouTube. They seem carefree and you almost wonder how they pass class, because you never see them doing their work. That’s when you see the other side: the student that stays up from anywhere between 2-4 in the morning, scrambling to finish their assignment, paper, etc. This is a stressful way to live, and pretty unhealthy if you aren’t getting enough sleep or eating the right things. With this lifestyle, it makes it a lot harder to travel.

This past weekend, I traveled to a city two hours away to give a talk at a conference. I had almost no time to do any work because I had been going to sessions almost every half hour. However, I knew that I wouldn’t want to do my work the day I got back from the trip, because I would be tired from traveling and hearing more talks. To spare myself lots of stress, I planned ahead and did what assignments I could during the previous week. This technique has always helped me when traveling.

When I was in Madrid, I traveled literally every weekend. I would leave on Thursday and get back Sunday. Sometimes I would just do a day trip, but I was still traveling. I would always get my homework done before leaving. Some of my classmates would bring their homework with them on trips, but I know that I would never be able to get it done on a trip, nor would I enjoy my trip if I spent it doing homework. If you are busy during the week, I would suggest doing the little, easier, quicker assignments first. Whenever you are already in homework mode, doing your other homework, get a little bit ahead by doing an assignment that is due when you come back from your trip. If you keep doing a little bit at a time, you may be surprised at how much you get done. If you decide to do all of your homework at once, that can be draining but then you won’t have to worry about any homework.

What kind of student are you? Do you ever work ahead? Share your homework tips below!

Dealing with Haters and Criticism

The internet is like a buffet. There is so much content that you can find. In fact, you can pretty much find a blog post or video about anything. When you go to a buffet, you have many options in front of you to choose from. What’s nice about having options is that there is something for everyone. Typically, people will go for what they know that they like. Others are more daring and willing to try something new.

Sometimes one restaurant or chef makes the same dish in a different way. Maybe how a dish tastes depends on the day, because even a chef can have off days. When people don’t like the food, they will either not eat it and leave it on the plate or they will finish it just because they do not want to waste the food. The same thing goes for when people read articles or watch videos online. If they like the article or video, they will keep reading or watching it. If they don’t, they will typically close their tab and move onto something else. This is the case for most people. That being said, there are others who feel the need to voice their opinion. Just like some people will complain to the manager of the restaurant or have a negative outburst at their table, there are those who leave negative feedback on different videos and articles.

Criticism in itself isn’t always a bad thing. Just like a teacher leaves comments on students’ work, trying to correct and help them better their grade, some people on the internet leave constructive feedback, telling authors and YouTubers how they can better their content. The thing about criticism is that it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do; there will always be someone who won’t find your content as interesting as the next person.

Putting yourself out there on the internet for the whole world to see is not easy. Anyone can publish a blog post or make a video, but the moment you put yourself out there, there will be people watching or reading what you said. You’re still going to get criticized at some point and at times, it may not be constructive criticism. There are people who sit behind computer screens, striving to ruin peoples’ days. I can’t wrap my head around why anyone would enjoy that, but it happens.

Just because someone has the right to voice their opinion doesn’t mean that it’s always necessary. I don’t watch videos that I know I won’t like and I never press the dislike button. I have gotten comments on my videos saying that I’m ugly, but expressed in a more vulgar way, as well as comments that are highly irrelevant to the topic that I wrote or made a video about.

Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone, but you can choose what to do with the comment. I have seen people make fun of the hateful comments that they get, turning it into a joke, showing that it didn’t affect them negatively, but rather gave them a good laugh. You can also choose to delete the comment, just as you would remove any other negative thing from your life. If you do leave the comment and don’t respond, there could be people that come to your aid. Many times, trolls don’t need help making a fool out of themselves; they’ve already done it with their negative comment.

It’s hard to ignore or push aside the feelings that come with criticism. We’re all human and we get discouraged when someone criticizes us. However, even the best get criticized for no reason at all. Even the most loved celebrities have haters. In the end, it doesn’t matter what others think, especially if it is completely irrelevant to what you are talking about. They were not trying to help you. They were purposefully trying to hurt you, and if you let them know how you’re feeling, they will get the satisfaction that they were looking for. When something like this happens, take a look at the positive comments you have received and remember that the reason why you are doing what you do is not for the purpose of impressing others. Then you will find peace.

How do you deal with flamers? Share your tips in the comments below!

The Day of Love and Friendship

It has been said that “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We see what others have on Facebook and we long for the same things. As we get caught up in thinking about what we don’t have, we never stop to think that maybe someone might be looking at our life that way. Have you ever thought that you could have something that everyone else wants? Instead of looking at other people’s lawns, we should work on watering our grass, taking care of what we have. Do you have a close relationship with your sibling? A grandparent? A parent? A pet? Do you have a group of friends that are there to support you, or even a best friend that you know you can trust with everything? Some people don’t have any of that. However, if there is one thing I know, there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small.

Many people have strong feelings about today. It can be seen in the many ways that people refer to it: Singles Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, GALentine’s Day, etc. Recently, I was trying to put together a lesson plan that included Valentine’s Day vocabulary in Spanish. When I was researching about the holiday, one interesting phrase that I kept seeing pop up was “El día del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). It made me really think. You can have a significant other and still not do anything for Valentine’s Day. You can be single and still celebrate the day.

When I was younger, my parents would take our family out to a restaurant every year. We celebrated a day of love, but a different kind of love. As I got older, I started celebrating the day with my friends. Currently I am in a relationship, but I have yet to spend the day with my significant other. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate together, so my friends and I put together a delicious potluck dinner in our apartment at school, celebrating a day of friendship. Last year, I was abroad in France while my boyfriend remained in the United States. I couldn’t be with him, and we still talked on Skype, but I went to the movies with two of my good girl friends and then we went out to a restaurant. Both of those days were special days, even if they were not spent in the way that the holiday gets commercialized.

Your special someone does not have to be your significant other. You do not have to have romantic feelings for someone to make today special. If you have a significant other, then great! Celebrate the day with that person and remember to love them every day. If you don’t have a significant other, then spend the day with whoever your special someone is. Celebrate the other kinds of love that exist, and remember to love that person every day as well. Valentine’s Day is a lot like Thanksgiving. We tend to get caught up in life and forget to be thankful and love others daily. Don’t limit love to one day.

Working at a Language Resource Center

Many students go into college not knowing what they want to do. They don’t know what they want to major in, what kind of career they want, but they can still know their interests or what they are passionate about outside of the classroom. When it comes to careers and jobs, there are endless possibilities. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the options that are the most common, so much so that we don’t think outside the box. Have you ever thought that your dream job may already exist but you just don’t know it? This happened to me during my freshman year of college when I found out that our school had a Language Resource Center on campus.

I love learning languages. I want to learn languages and help others learn them. The moment I walked into the LRC and saw the different language decorations, the word of the week written on the board in many different languages, and the technological resources to study languages, I knew that I wanted to work there. I could sit in there all day and the best part is that I would get paid for it.

Three years later, I got a job working there. I now sit at the front desk, welcoming people and assisting students that want to use the language technology. My job also consists of writing for the LRC blog, event planning, making sure everything looks nice and works well, and helping students check books out of our foreign language library. Although I won’t be able to work at the LRC as a student worker after I graduate, I still got to have what was my college dream job.

You may not know what you want to do in life. You may not even know what step you want to take currently. However, you may also not know that there is already a dream job out there waiting for you. Open your eyes to what is around you. Just like your next significant other can come into your life when you least expect it, so can an amazing opportunity in your life. Look in unlikely places and you never know what you may find. People used to make videos for fun. Now, being a YouTuber has become a full-time job for some people. You never know what you might find if you seek. Even if you don’t know what you’re seeking for, seek.

It’s Okay to Say “No”

Today my class was asked to name three things that we have learned in our past three years of college. Everyone is constantly learning and growing. It shouldn’t have been hard to think of what I have learned. Some of those things were inside the classroom, such as good note-taking, time management, and making wise decisions. Other experiences, such as learning that good friends don’t always make good roommates, happened outside of the classroom. I have learned many things in the past three years. However, I learned one of the most important life lessons last semester when I found myself being stressed out, tired, and cranky all the time. I learned the importance of rest.

When I look at many of my friends, I see them doing homework and going to class, but I also see them watching Netflix daily, playing video games, spending time with others, and going out. I am the type of person who likes to work hard and play later. I did what was required of me for classes and even tried to get ahead. I took on four jobs, tutoring for three classes and working on campus. But I didn’t stop there. Even outside of my paid hours, I would help others because it gave me fulfilment to see a difference in the lives of others. Eventually everything caught up to me and people started taking advantage of my “free time.” I thought I was getting somewhere, but in the end I felt like I was running on a treadmill, tiring myself out trying to go somewhere but actually getting nowhere.

By the end of the semester, I was not myself. I realized that taking breaks is better than trying to go and go until you make yourself sick over it. It is time to start saying no to things. At first, I couldn’t because I was afraid of letting others down, but when you aren’t able to function like normal you are letting others down, especially yourself. I don’t want to spend this semester, my final semester, the same way as I spent my last one. I want to remember my college experience as a good experience. Part of that means taking care of myself and saying no.

Do you find that you have a hard time saying no to things? Have you said no to the wrong things?