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?

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Accent Marks in Spanish

Throughout my first semester of tutoring for Spanish, I have noticed that many people have trouble with the same topics. Recently I started a series on my YouTube channel for those who are learning Spanish. Each episode will answer a frequently asked question that I get based on those that I tutor. The first episode addressed where to put accent marks in a word. So why am I writing this post? For those that prefer to have something written, I wanted to give my readers and subscribers the option to learn from my explanation. Here, I can also elaborate on things that I missed in the video.

Where do accent marks go? 

There are four rules. First, you listen to the word being spoken and determine which part gets stressed.

If it’s the last syllable, and the word ends in a vowel, -n, or -s, then there is an accent. Ex. francés, catalán, canté

If it’s the second to last syllable, and the word ends in a vowel, -n, or -s, then there is NO accent. Ex. cante, hablas, perro, dicen

If it’s the third to last syllable, then there is an accent. Ex. esdrújula (the official name of these kinds of words where the third to last syllable gets an accent), dígame, cuéntame

If it’s the fourth to last syllable, then there is an accent. Ex. ábremelo, infórmaselo, rápidamente

All of the rules have a specific name for those types of words. I avoided mentioning them because many people get confused by those names when still trying to get down the rules. Instead, get the accent rules down first and then learn what each word is called. I hope this post helped!

Here is the video for those of you that prefer a visual:

3 Steps to Language-Learning Success

I love watching TED talks and reading blog posts on language-learning. There are many people that give great advice based on their learning experience. After years of studying languages, watching videos, listening to talks, and reading, I can give you what I think is the key to success in language-learning.

Motivation

Motivation is like the gas in your car. If you do not have any, you will not go anywhere. Maybe at first you were passionate about a language because it sounds cool. You constantly need to be filling your day with activities that motivate you, because after a while, you will start to run out of gas. Watch shows in the language that you like, listen to music, read literature you enjoy, find people to talk to.

Consistency

This is arguably the most important step. If you do not take the car out for a while, it will have a much harder time starting up. You should be learning something new every day. Even studying for fifteen minutes a day is better than doing nothing. You may learn at a slower pace but at least you will not lose what you know.

Method

Pick a car and drive it. Don’t test drive so many cars that none of them end up making it past the test drive. Pick a language and run with it. Don’t dabble in so many at once or else you will never get past the beginner level. Take your time and focus on one. My problem for years was that I kept looking up videos and studying multiple languages at the same time. Eventually, you’ll get tired of running back and forth like I did. Once you pick a language, pick the best method that works for you. Do not feel discouraged if you see a video on a method somebody swears by and it doesn’t end up working out for you. Everyone learns differently and that applies to language-learning.

Apply these three steps to your life and you are sure to boost your language learning. If you want to set a goal, try these things for thirty days and see where that gets you. What works for you in language-learning? Share in the comments below!

A Message to Language Teachers

Popular to contrary belief, the life of an educator is not easy. I have watched my mom work for hours on end after coming home from an 9-hour school day. On top of grading tests and assignments until early in the morning, she would alter lesson plans to fit a curriculum that she did not design and come up with activities to keep students engaged so that they would be less likely to misbehave. As someone who really cares about her students, I have seen her work weekends, long breaks, and even summers, even though she technically will not get paid for all those extra hours. This is not a job where you leave your work at work and come home. So why do people complain about teachers being “lazy” or “bad”? What makes a “good teacher”?

It surprises me how many people pursue education that should not. There are those who do not seem to do well with people. As an educator, you are constantly interacting with all kinds of people. You need to have the capacity to do that every single day for hours. Teaching is more than just passing knowledge to others, not to mention being able to pass knowledge to others. Some educators are very smart but do not know how to transfer their knowledge to students.

You must encourage your students. Your subject is not mandatory after a certain point, so student enrollment can go way down after the first two levels of the language you teach. The goal is to get more students to take your class. If you are upset about enrollment, look at what you have been doing. Stop grading strictly; this will make students feel discouraged.  Make them feel like learning a language isn’t so hard and like they can reach that goal.  Dumb things down for them if they don’t understand a complicated concept. Make students excited to go to your class every day.

As someone who has successfully spoken three other languages with native speakers of those languages, I can confidently say that the majority of people will not correct every mistake that is made. Students will want to better their language skills, but how would you feel if you were excited about a certain subject or hobby and someone corrected every little thing you did wrong? Correction is necessary but should not be overdone.

My favorite class this semester is my Sounds of Spanish class. It is not just because I am interested in phonetics and the Spanish language, but a large part of it deals with the professor. Not only is he personable and engaging but he takes his time. As a teacher, professor, or tutor, you should be open to learning from those around you so that you can better your skill set. The best professors I have had all have that in common. They learn from other professors, students, and take their time presenting material so that others can understand it. Instead of assigning 100 pages of reading in a foreign language every day, they will assign a chapter of reading. The next day, they will reinforce what we read by going over the chapter and giving us an easy assignment that does not take up hours of our day, but still does a good job of reiterating what was learned in class. That is how information really sticks. That is how you set yourself and everyone else up for success so that one day, someone walks out of that classroom saying that they remembered something they learned.

I may not have much experience, but as a student who has been on both sides of the classroom, I have gotten a lot of insight from my experiences. I have tutored students in two languages and did an English-teaching internship in France, which is nothing compared to someone who has a doctorate or has gone through a certification process, but I came back from those experiences having learned some things.  What I can pass on is this blog post, a plea to teachers to treat their job as more than just a job. Maybe I would be able to walk around school one day without hearing, “I loved Spanish/French/*insert language here* and was good at it until I had Mr./Mrs. So and So.” It is not completely your fault for what someone else chooses to do, but you definitely make an impact on their choices. Make it a positive one.

A New Kind of Déjà Vu

As a kid, I always had an excited and anxious feeling the night before a new school year. I could barely sleep because I couldn’t wait to see what teachers I had, what friends would be in my classes, and ultimately all the adventures that lay ahead of me because of what teachers I had and who was in my classes. I couldn’t wait to get on the school bus and the next day, I’d still have that excited feeling throughout my body. I felt a sense of déjà vu when I experienced that feeling again. This time I wasn’t just starting a new school year. I was going to be starting it in Spain.

Right now, I’m taking classes only with IES, the program I’m studying abroad with.  This is actually my second week of classes.  In Spain, school starts weeks later than in the U.S.  I would love to take a course at the local university, Complutense, but the courses I’m interested in don’t start until October 5th, so I won’t be able to try it out for another couple weeks.  Currently I’m taking a Spanish grammar class, two literature classes, a business class, and an art history class on Spanish architecture. I have these classes with other students in my program but the professors are all local professors from the Complutense university.  All the classes are taught in Spanish and emphasize speaking, which I really appreciate.  I’ve been pretty surprised with my classes.  I’m really enjoying the two classes that I had originally picked as “filler classes” while waiting to try out classes at Complutense: my Spanish for Business class and my Women Writers class.  Still, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take a class at the local university because it would be such an incredible experience.

Over 80,000 students attend the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.  This is way different from the 2,600 student school that I’m used to.  The campus is huge but full of opportunity!  I’m looking forward to hopefully making friends with Spaniards.

Speaking of school, I can’t believe that I’m a junior in college.  I remember when Kelly (one of my best friends) and I ran through the halls of Crestwood screaming, “JUNIORS!” our last day of sophomore year. Now my sister is a junior in high school and I’m a junior in college. People weren’t kidding when they said time goes by fast.  I need to continue taking advantage of this experience because next thing I know, I’ll be back home in the United States telling people about the experiences I’m having now.