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!

Direct Objects in Spanish

Hello everyone! If you have been keeping up with my YouTube channel, you would have seen that I’ve been making more videos about the Spanish language. This video series stems from questions that I get frequently asked by students that I have tutored. Direct and indirect objects can be tricky in Spanish, considering they are formed differently than they are in English. For those of you who aren’t familiar with grammatical concepts, you may not know what a direct and indirect object are.

direct object can roughly be translated to “it” in an English sentence, making the sentence shorter.

Ex. I bought it.

The direct object is the thing that you bought. What was it? Was it a ball? A dog? A plane ticket?

In Spanish, nouns have gender. Therefore, for the equivalent to “it” in Spanish, you will have four options: lo, la, los, las. Depending on what your object is, you will choose the direct object that agrees with the gender and number. For example, “flowers” in Spanish is “las flores.” Since the noun is plural and has a feminine article, you will use las as your direct object.

Direct objects are typically placed before a conjugated verb or after an infinitive. However, there are instances where it gets or can get placed after a conjugated verb (if it is in the -ing form or if it’s a command).

Ex. Los quiero. I want them.

Quiero comprarla. I want to buy it.

Tómalo. Take it.

That’s pretty much it! There is a little more I can say on where to put them, as well as using me and te as direct objects, but what you see here are the basics. Once you get the pattern down of which direct object to use and where to put it, you will be able to easily form shorter sentences!

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!

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!

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:

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.

How Other Languages Help Me with Korean Pronunciation

In February or March of this year, I started learning Korean. It has been a dream of mine to learn an Asian language, specifically Japanese or Korean. Having focused all my time on the romance languages and not having time to start focusing on an Asian language, I decided that I was going to make time. That is when I took a Korean class for beginners in France. Whenever I learn a new language, I try to make connections with my other languages to see if that could make my learning experience easier and quicker. I noticed some similarities in pronunciation between Korean and English as well as Korean and the romance languages. These similarities do not guarantee that I will pronounce words perfectly, and I do not want to form bad habits when pronouncing words in Korean because of my observations, but I thought I would share with other learners out there what I have noticed during my studies:

The vowels 아, 이, 우 and 애/에 remind me of the vowels in Spanish. Is the pronunciation exactly the same? No. However, it is closer than their English counterparts.

Pronouncing Korean words with a ㄹ can be hard. Although this is not always the case, ㄹ reminds me a lot of the sound an “r” in Spanish makes when it is by itself in the middle or at the end of the word. (Ex. The sound of the r in the word pero)

My knowledge of Spanish has also helped me better pronounce the Korean consonants ㄷ and ㅂ. In Spanish the “t”, “d”, and “p” sounds are not aspirated.

ㅇ before a vowel makes it silent, but sometimes it can have the nasally sound “ng.” While nasal sounds exist in English, they are more emphasized in languages such as French and Portuguese. This helped me when trying to say words like 빵 (bread) in Korean.

Of course, having English as my first language has given me an advantage when it comes to pronouncing the consonant ㅎ which is aspirated. It sounds like an “h” in English. This does not exist in Spanish nor French as the letter “h” never gets pronounced. If you are a native English speaker, this sound should come to you very naturally.

There are even more aspirated consonants in Korean that can sound like English such as: ㅋ,ㅌ,ㅊ,ㅍ or romanized as k, t, ch, and p.

ㅓ can be tricky at first. It is romanized as “eo” but it sounds like the “o” in the word “coffee, “bought,” or “cot.” Once again, this is a sound that I have not come across in my studies of the romance languages, but it is pretty common in American English, depending on where you are from.

It has been said by polyglots and language-learners everywhere that the more languages you know, the easier it is for you to learn another language. Korean is known for being hard to those who speak English or a romance language as their first language. The grammar is not at all alike. Even so, when you start to make connections with your own language when it comes to pronunciation, this makes learning the language a bit easier. Do you notice any similarities in pronunciation between languages you are learning and languages you know? Be sure to share in the comments below!