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!

Being a Good Language Partner

What do you look for in a significant other? A business partner? An employee? Are you looking for someone much like yourself? More organized? More energetic? More spontaneous and romantic? Someone very appealing to the eyes? When looking someone to fill some kind of important role in our lives, we tend to have standards. Businesses make lists of qualities they are looking for in a future employee. We make mental lists in our heads when we go out with someone, whether we realize it or not. The same thing can happen when looking for a language exchange partner. We are looking for that person that we can hold a conversation with for more than five minutes, who is willing to help us, and speak (for half of the time or more) the language we are learning.

Have you ever gone into a language exchange thinking that people might be doing the same thing when they talk to you? Although it is important to find a good language partner. It is equally as important to be a good language partner. If we all were to work on being the language partner that we would want to have, and were not concerned about what we can get out of the exchange, maybe we would start to find the language partner we were looking for in the first place.

To be a good language partner, or conversationalist in general, I would suggest keeping the conversation about them. Talk about topics that your partner is interested in. Ask about their lives and their dreams. If you both have traveled to the same country or have the same hobby, then talk about it! However, I would suggest doing this when it’s their turn to practice your native language so that they can do most of the talking.

Sometimes you will run into a partner who is too shy to speak your native language if you speak their language very well. Don’t only practice the language you want to learn, even if they’re nervous or don’t speak well. Just like you came in hoping to get something out of the exchange, so did they. You want to encourage your partner to speak, multiple times if you have to. I have been in situations where I have done this. If they still insist on only speaking their native language, even after you encourage them a few times, then you can spend the rest of the conversation speaking their language, or find a way to incorporate your language into the exchange by asking what they need help with.

Not everyone is looking to better themselves as a language partner. Sometimes you will need to find a new partner. If your partner only wants to speak your native language even though you try speaking their’s several times, it may be time to find someone else. Sometimes you just don’t click with someone and can’t hold a conversation. That’s okay; it happens. Not everyone will be a good language partner or the right fit.

What do you as a language exchange partner? Do you make a list of conversation topics? Do you come with questions about their language? Let me know your language exchange tips in the comments below so we can all better ourselves!

Loving Through Language

It started with a love of languages.

After winter break of my freshman year of college, I was at a dinner, talking about what I had done over the break. I sheepishly explained that I had spoken Spanish with my mother and spent much of my time studying French. The boy next to me said that he didn’t think that was nerdy at all and that he would have done the same if he had a relative to speak another language with. That’s when I casually gave the invitation to practice Spanish with me whenever he wanted. It was an invitation I gave out often but never got a response. I wanted a way of being able to keep up with my Spanish while I was away from home.

When I gave the invitation out this time, the results were different. A few nights later, the two of us walked home from watching a movie in a friend’s apartment and that’s when he started conversing in Spanish with me. This lead to a friendship based on speaking the Spanish language. We would share music with each other, talk about what was going on in our lives, and more! Spanish was something special that connected the two of us. There were many people who would wonder what we were saying and get frustrated that they didn’t understand. It was our little secret.

As time went on, we started studying together and became swing dance partners. We grew close and got to know each other well, becoming good friends. We really enjoyed each other’s company. Our sophomore year, we started to date.

Almost two and a half years later, we are still together. We’ve had to endure challenges such as being long distance for a length of time but have made it through. We still speak Spanish frequently, although not as frequently as before. Recently he has started learning Russian and I have started learning Korean. We share what we learn with each other and continue to love through language.

I have read many stories online about couples who have met through language exchange/penpal websites and was always amazed by the connection two people could make through a common interest in a language. I never thought that I would be one of those people, and that I would meet someone on my campus. Have you ever had an experience where you really connected with someone based on a love for languages? Tell your story in the comments below!

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.

10 False Cognates in Spanish

Two years ago, my school was putting on its annual Thanksgiving dinner for students. It is a huge meal with all the works: turkey, stuffing, cornbread, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. The best part is that the professors are the ones who are serving the students. I was sitting at a long table with a group of my friends and there was one piece of cornbread left in the basket. With all the conversation buzzing around, it was hard to hear who was speaking, including a first-year student that expressed that she wanted the last piece of cornbread. Not having heard her, I reached in the basket one second later and said aloud, “Nobody wants this? I’ll take it!”

It wasn’t until I heard my boyfriend apologize on my behalf that I realized there was a miscommunication. “Sorry, she isn’t like that. I promise she didn’t do it on purpose. She just didn’t hear you.”

There are many ways to miscommunicate. When learning a language, it is inevitable that you will make mistakes. It is an important part of the learning process because it is from those mistakes that we learn how to communicate better. One part that makes language-learning easier is the use of cognates or words that resemble words in another language. However, there are words that could exist in a language that we are learning that resemble words we may know but actually mean something completely different. If you are studying Spanish, pay attention to these words:

Pretender looks like the English verb “to pretend.” Pretender is pretending to be the verb “to pretend.” In reality, it means has a few meanings. If you want to talk about pretending, use the verb fingir.

Actualmente looks like the word “actually” in English. At first, I used to use this word the same way that I would use the word actually, to express a change of mind. For example, I would say something along the lines of, “Actually, I don’t think I can make it.” This word means currently.

Eventualmente does not mean “eventually.” It means something that can happen in the future. If you would like to say eventually in Spanish, use the term finalmente.

Embarazada is a funny one. Beginning Spanish-learners use this word, thinking that it means “embarrassed.” However, if you use this word, it will result in you being embarrassed. The word is used to say that you or someone else is pregnant.

Éxito looks like “exit” but does not mean exit. The word means “success!” If you are looking for an exit, look for a sign that says the word salida.

Exitado like embarazada, can result in funny stories if you use this word incorrectly. While it looks like the word “excited” in English, it has a little twist to it. Yes, you can say the word when you are excited but not when you are excited to go to a movie on Friday. This word is specifically used to say that you are sexually excited or turned on. If you tell someone you are exitado or exitada, that might be awkward.

Carpeta was one of the first vocabulary words I learned in my beginner Spanish class. It means folder not carpet. If you want to talk about carpets, use the word alfombra.

Librería was another word that I learned early on when studying Spanish. It is a place that has books but it is not a “library.” It is a bookstore. If you are looking for a library, ask someone about the biblioteca.

Salado not a “salad.” It is an adjective used to describe something that is salty. If you would like to order a salad, make sure to order una ensalada.

It is not a sin to use the word sin. Sin means without. If you want to talk about sins, talk about pecados.

Not all of these words will give you an embarrassing story to talk about later. Some of the words will just make the sentence harder to understand. Even so, those situations can be avoided if you use those words properly. Have you ever had a funny situation where you used a word incorrectly in a foreign language without knowing?