Using Fanfiction for Language-learning

I have always loved writing. I did some form of creative writing every day, having filled over six diaries since 3rd grade. One thing that kept me motivated when writing a story was writing about characters that already existed, whether it was my neopets or characters from a favorite cartoon of mine. Throughout late elementary school and middle school, I would write fanfictions; some I would even post online. One thing I loved as much as writing fanfictions was getting to read other authors’ works. Not only was it entertaining but it was also motivating and helped inspire even more creativity. If you are looking to better your reading language comprehension or just expand your vocabulary without too much effort, consider looking up fanfictions in your target language!

When it comes to studying a language, especially if you are making the effort to do it outside of school or on your own, you are going to want to make studying as fun as possible so that you stay motivated. You are probably going to want to save as much money as possible as well. One thing I recommend to those who are learning languages is reading books that YOU are interested in. If you are not interested in Don Quixote, then why read it? If you would get more out of reading The Hunger Games in Spanish, then do that instead. However, ordering books in other languages can get pricy. If you are looking for a free alternative, try fanfiction! There are stories written about many different shows, video games, book series, movies and more! You can also search by genre! If you are into horror stories, there are stories for that! If you prefer romance, you can find it! You can read stories that interest you and learn new words in the process! You are more likely to find stories in your target language if you are studying a widely-spoken language. They can be hit or miss but I am sure you can find something online! Why not try it out?

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7 Shows for Beginner and Intermediate Learners of Spanish and French

What were some of your favorite TV shows and movies as a kid? Did you like Disney movies or were you more of a Dreamworks fan? Did you watch the original Avatar: The Last Airbender or were you more into live-action shows? One thing I remember from my childhood was watching TV while talking on the phone to my best friend for hours. While that is not exactly one of the healthiest things to do, there is something language-learners can still take away from that. One of the best things you can do when you are learning a foreign language is watch different TV shows. It does not matter if your goal is to speak the foreign language, or if you just want to be able to understand it. Either way, if you are getting the proper input, you can boost your language-learning which will boost your confidence. The key is to watch shows that interest YOU. The following list is made up of suggestions based on shows that I liked as a kid and shows that are made for language-learners:

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This is not the first post I that I mentioned extr@ in. It made it into my list of top language-learning resources. I really like this show because it was created for people who are learning the language. There are four versions of this show: Spanish, French, English, and German. This show is great for beginners to lower-intermediate language-learners because the vocabulary is not too hard and the characters speak slower. I have watched it in both Spanish and French. It can be a little bit cheesy at times but it really does help.

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This show is perfect for beginners of many different languages! It originally comes from Spain, so there is a Spanish version. I have used it for practicing Portuguese and Korean and I love it! Not only is it a cute show but it is made for younger kids, so there is not an overwhelming amount of dialogue, nor is the dialogue too advanced.

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Another cute show for younger kids. Even if you find that you cannot enjoy this show or Pocoyo because you feel too old for it, I would still recommend watching anyway. Beginning language-learners of any language should start small, and this is as small as you can get. Here is a list of every language Peppa Pig is offered in!

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Winx Club originally comes from Italy, so Italian learners are sure to find episodes online. As of right now, there are seven seasons, dubbed into multiple languages including English, Spanish, and French. As a kid, I really enjoyed watching this show in English. Now, I get to relive my childhood through watching this series in both Spanish and French.

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As a kid, I did not know this, but this show comes from France. This is a good show for French language learners at an intermediate level. I would recommend watching the cartoon version and not the newer live-action version.

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Another show from my childhood that I later found out originated in France! Like Code Lyoko, it is great for intermediate language learners. Beginners might find that the speech is too fast at first. Follow the adventures of what seem like three high school girls but who are actually spies!

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Are you an intermediate to upper intermediate Spanish learner who is looking to learn idioms? Learn new phrases such as de tal palo tal astilla and el que la hace la paga to sound more like a native Spanish speaker! What is interesting about this show is that every episode has a story based around a specific phrase or idiom. It is like a telenovela that only lasts for one episode! My dad and I stumbled upon this show by accident and we love it!

Watching even one episode of your favorite show, whether dubbed in your target language or in its original language, can help you understand more of your target language little by little. Why watch TV shows and movies when you could actively be studying? Though only watching TV will not make you fluent, you will be able to hear the language being spoken at its natural pace or even faster, helping you get accustomed to the sound and to vocabulary you may not learn in school. Do you have any favorite shows or movies that you watch to learn languages? Share them in the comments section below so we can all learn together!

10 New Words I Learned in Spain

If you are looking to travel to Spain or simply just want to boost your Spanish vocabulary, then this is the post for you! I spent a semester in Madrid and learned new words during my stay. Some of these words are used in other Latin American countries; some are just specific to Spain. I did not know any of these words, having mainly studied Latin American Spanish in school and at home. There is not a big difference between Latin American Spanish and Spanish from Spain. Like different dialects of English, you can still understand each other even if you use different words. Someone may poke fun at you for it occasionally but in the end, there will not be a language barrier. Here are some words I picked up while in Spain:

aseos – Toilets/bathroom. You may have learned the word servicios or the phrase “Dónde está el baño?” You can use any of these but if you ate too many churros and are about to burst, look for a sign that says aseos. This is a useful one to know when you really gotta go!

coche – This was a word I learned in high school but I thought I would throw in anyway. I have used the word carro to talk about a car. In Spain, that is used for talking about a baby carriage whereas in Latin America, it is the opposite. I would recommend using the word coche because I have gotten weird looks from people who thought I was asking for motion sickness medication to travel in a baby stroller.

echar una foto/hacer una foto – I have always used the phrase tomar una foto to talk about taking pictures but I know some people in Latin America also say sacar una foto. However, in Spain they use the phrases echar una foto or hacer una foto.

nevera – I tend to lean towards using Latin American words in Spanish as they are closer to English (ex. refrigeradora). This is the word for refrigerator in some Latin American countries as well as in Spain. My host mom used this word often.

echar de menos – Want to tell someone back home that you miss them in Spanish? This is a phrase people learn in high school as well as the less commonly used (in Spain) counterpart: extrañar.

vale – This word is an affirmation usually used to say “ok” when someone tells you something.

guay – ¡Qué guay! “Cool!” You may find yourself using this one a lot.

deberes – Tarea or known in English as “homework.” I have heard that it is used in some Latin American countries as well.

planta – This one confused me during my first couple of days in Spain. While it is used to refer to a plant in English, in Spain, it also means the floor of a building. Because I did not know this at first, I was a little lost when I thought people were telling me that my classroom was on the third plant.

Even though you may be used to doing or saying things a certain way, it is always best to adapt to the culture you are in if you really want to get along. When in Rome…

My Last Week in Spain

There are two types of posts I’ve seen surface on Facebook since my program has ended, one type being the “cliché” post about how studying abroad has changed the person’s life, the other kind of post being from people making fun of the cliché posts. However, I would not be speaking honestly about how my experience has affected me if I weren’t being cliché. Everybody has a unique experience when they visit another country, but overall many people come back being able to say similar things, that is where the clichés surface.

My life has indeed been changed. I am a better navigator (but I am still learning), my Spanish has gotten better, I have learned about different cultures and languages other than in Spain, and I have seen so many places that I may have never seen if I had not studied overseas. I have become more independent in ways that I had not anticipated. I can even say I have been to three continents now! It has been my dream for years to travel to another country. Not only have I realized that dream but the best part is that I am only half way done. My next semester in Nantes is approaching quickly and I am excited to see what awaits me there.

Originally I was supposed to go to Belgium for the week but I ended up not being able to go. Instead, I took a day trip to Salamanca and went back to Segovia. Check out my video below!

Let’s Get to the Point: Directness in Spain

Have you ever reacted late to a joke only to realize that everyone else already understood it way before you? It took me weeks to realize that people in Spain are very direct when talking to you. I was on a trip to Seville, about to order food, when the woman at the counter said, “Dime,” which basically means, “Tell me.” There was no “How may I help you?” nor “What would you like to order?”

At first I thought it was just this waitress who talked like that until I noticed that many Spaniards were doing it, including my host mom who would throw bread at me and say, “Toma más pan.” (More or less: Have more bread.) Many Spaniards speak directly, using commands such as: dime, toma, come, etc. For me, this was very interesting because I am not a very direct person. Many people I speak with in the U.S. are not direct, at least in the part where I am from. Even in Spanish class we never learned that people in Spain were direct. This was new to me and something that myself and some of the other students from my program had to adapt to.

In a week from today, I’ll be going back to the United States. I can’t believe how quickly three months has gone by. I’ve already said many goodbyes to friends from my program, but this feels far from over. It feels like it just started.

Being an International Student

One month ago, I stepped off the plane and into Madrid, Spain. I didn’t come to Spain with expectations because I had no idea what to expect, never having gone abroad before. Never did I think that I’d be traveling virtually every weekend or trying out a class at a school of 80,000+ people. I’ve been truly blessed to be here. I’ve seen different cities in Spain and Portugal and have even got to use a decent amount of Spanish and Portuguese even though many people have used their English on me.  I’ve had some of the craziest experiences such as being in a bus that randomly got stopped by the Civil Guard to get checked and almost missing my bus back to Spain from Portugal because the metro broke down one stop away from where I needed to be.

I’ve loved my experience studying abroad so far but I will say that I can relate to the international students in my school when it comes to being far away from home, my friends, my family, and the life I’m used to. Now that I’ve got myself plugged into a very welcoming church and have taken a course at the Complutense University, I’ve met some Spaniards. Yesterday, was my first day in the local university. I took a French class (yes, I’m planning on taking French in Spain) but that’s where I experienced the most culture shock. My French III class, which would be under 20 people at Gettysburg, was over 30 people. I have never gone to a big school before so that was an adjustment. It didn’t have the personal feel where each student gets individual attention and can just go to the professor whenever they want to talk. I tried talking to the professor at the end of class to ask her if I’d be able to take this class and she ran off saying that she had a class she couldn’t be late to and that she never read the email I sent her two or three weeks ago because she didn’t have time to. I already loved Gettysburg but this made me even more thankful for the school. I am so fortunate to be going to a small school where the professors value every student and you’re able to learn a lot from being in a smaller class. I don’t think I could have done four years in a big school.

Already so much has happened in one month away from the United States. Every day in the life of an international student is a new adventure. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold!

Check out this video of my trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian! English subtitles are included.