All Seasons Come to an End

A few weeks ago, I went home for what schools typically call “spring break”.  Spring is when my campus is filled with blossoming trees, the smell of fresh mulch that makes me hold my breath, and the comforting warmth wrapping around my body, accompanied by a bright sunlight that I haven’t seen in months. Spring has always been a different experience in my hometown since I live in the north. You have to learn to enjoy every moment of it, because it is fleeting. We get a couple of days a year where the flowers on trees are blooming, but it is a beauty that does not last. This year, I spent my spring break indoors when I wasn’t shoveling the piles of snow that were up to my waist from the Stella blizzard.

It was March. We had a cold winter, but not a bad one in terms of weather. Usually my spirits start to get lifted in March because I know that spring is coming. However, it was already halfway through the month and we had just gotten a huge snowstorm that we spent the entire week shoveling ourselves out of. I knew that spring was still on its way, but I was a lot less optimistic about how quickly it would arrive. At this point, I couldn’t imagine it ever arriving.

Just like the weather goes through different seasons, we go through different seasons in our life. Sometimes we have a period of happiness, enthusiasm, hope. Other times, we find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed, wondering when the next positive season will be coming. Recently I have been going through a lot with some personal issues that have come up, which is why I have not written a blog post in over a month. When I started this blog, I had planned to write a post every week, and I kept up with it even during my busiest times. However, I reached a point where I just couldn’t keep up. I was juggling too many things at once and it was not good for me.

Last week, the weather started getting better. The sun came out and I could finally walk around outside without wearing a winter jacket. To this very minute I still find it hard to believe that it is no longer winter. You will reach this point in your life. If you are going through a hard time, don’t be discouraged! Just as all good things come to an end, so do all bad things.

Studying abroad is a season, high school is a season, what struggles you are going through are just a season in your life. Make the most of the good seasons. Slow down and take everything in. Learn from the bad seasons and know that better things are on their way. You may not be able to see your spring quite yet, but it’s coming.

Tips for the Busy Language-Learner

When I talk to others about learning languages one of the excuses I hear the most for not learning a language is that the person does not have time to study a language. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by our busy schedules. When we become busy, we start to lose motivation to study another language because we feel that we need to dedicate an hour or more a day to studying. We start to view it as another homework assignment instead of something fun, such as going to a movie with friends. An easy solution to this problem is making studying a part of your daily routine. Just like you need to eat every day to live, shower to stay clean, and go to bed every night, you can add some light studying to your schedule. Soon enough, it will become automatic just like the other tasks you perform in your daily life.

One thing you should be doing daily is reviewing. If you don’t use your language, you lose it. Usually what I will do is review vocabulary in the language I am currently focusing on. This can be a little more time-consuming if you are focusing on more than one language at once. This will typically take up less than 15 minutes of your time. What I normally do is review words that I have learned via the app Memrise and go through a list that I made myself of commonly-used verbs to make sure that I do not forget them.

Listening to a podcast daily is also manageable. For one thing, most podcasts I have listened to have been half an hour at most. If you feel like you do not have half an hour to spare, try to listen to the podcast while exercising or doing a task that does not require much attention. That way, you can be productive and study your language at the same time.

Another suggestion I have is to try writing a couple of sentences. The most effective way to do this is by posting them to a website such as italki  where native speakers of the language you are studying can correct them. If you do not have time to make an account and post your sentences to a website, you can always keep a private journal where you write down some sentences about your day. You can write something simple such as, “Today is Tuesday. I went to class. I ate pizza,” or you can write a paragraph about what you did that day. Either way, it will get you to practice producing the language, even if your journal does not get corrected by a native speaker.

This suggestion will take the longest time out of the suggestions mentioned in this post but it will also be the most effective. If possible, try talking to someone once a week, preferably a native speaker. If you cannot find a native speaker to do a language exchange with, talk to somebody that is also studying the same language as you are and has a more advanced level. A language exchange typically lasts an hour where the people involved speak one language for half an hour and then switch to the other language for the last half hour. However, I have also been involved in language exchanges that were longer. One hour per week is not a whole lot of time to practice your language, so you probably will not progress very quickly. On the other hand, it is great to do in addition to light studying for the sake of keeping up your language.

These four recommendations do not take much time out of your day, as I have tried them all myself as a busy college student. This may not necessarily be the quickest path to language fluency but it will at least keep you on the path. Always be consistent in language-learning whether you decide to study lightly or you have the time to study for a larger amount of time. Whether you go slowly or quickly, you will still end up where you want to be.