10 Signs You’re a Language Learning Nerd

If you’re working on learning a language, you might go down the rabbit hole. What??? Yeah, that’s a good thing. Be proud. You’re doing yourself (especially your brain) a big favor. During these cold months of the year where the holidays are far and in between, learning a language can lift your spirits with goals and challenges. Plus, mis amigos, it’s a lot of fun.

Here’s 10 Signs You’re a Language Learning Nerd:

  1. You’ve spent a lot of time looking for the best language learning apps.
    Duolingo? Busuu? Babbel? Which one is the bestest?! friends rachel jennifer aniston rachel green friends tv GIF
  2. You can’t help but look for international movies and shows to help you acquire vocabulary. 
    Bring on the soaps!la casa de las flores GIF by netflixlat
  3. Every time you don’t know a word, you feel an urge to look up the definition. 
    Must. Know. The. Answer!parks and recreation lol GIF
  4. Language exchange clubs are your jam.
    Hello, Facebook and Meetup groups. #MyNameIsHelpMe

    lamorne morris good job GIF by New Girl
  5. You’re addicted to language learning blogs.
    itsnachotime.com
    toby turner gryphon GIF
  6. You can’t wait for the next release of your favorite language learning podcast.
    Give me more Coffee Breaks!

    season 3 podcast GIF by The Good Place
  7. Native speakers become your best friends. 
    Shout out to my Ecuafriends. 🙂

    will ferrell bff GIF
  8. You’re used to messing up and either laughing about it or obsessing over it. 
    Why did I say dieciseis instead of veintiseis?! Aghh!!

    awkward giggle GIF by truTV’s Those Who Can’t
  9. You start to question how to translate all of your thoughts and become a code switcher.
    Spanglish for life.

    90s entertainment GIF
  10. You have your own mini library of language learning materials. 
    I’ll never let them go.

    i love reading gilmore girls GIF

I bet some of these resonated with you. What else makes someone a language learning nerd? Be sure to like, comment, or share!

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10 Language Learning Gift Ideas

Christmas is near and almost here. We’re all scrambling to figure out what to buy our significant others, friends, family members, colleagues, etc. Here’s an idea: language learning gifts! If you know someone who loves to learn or travel, one of the best ways to support them is through the gift of communications. Language learning also benefits those who need/want to improve their memory and do something productive and meaningful to keep themselves busy in their free time.

Here are 10 ideas for language learning gifts:

1. A gift card for target language audiobooks: Audiobooks are an enjoyable way to hear the language in a storytelling format. They can also repeat the sounds and try out new phrases.

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2. A cookbook in the target language: A fun and helpful way to get them learning vocabulary for food and the kitchen. Practicing the language in a kinesthetic way is helpful for remembering new words too. You could also encourage them to learn another language via other hobbies they have with buying songbooks, sheet music, knitting instructions, bird watching, etc.

Image result for cookbook in spanish

3. A box calendar in the target language: Now your gift receiver will have a reason to practice the target language on a daily basis with a calendar!

Image result for spanish box calendar

4. Flash cards in the target language: Why not learn new vocabulary by associating images with words? Using flash cards encourages the learner to practice for small amounts of time on a daily basis.

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5. Pay for a year subscription for a language exchange Meetup group: Encourage the gift receiver to start a language exchange group! Many students at universities and high schools would love to practice the target language in a fun setting.

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6. Board game in the target language: Another fun way to bring people together to practice the target language!

Image result for monopoly in spanish

7. Favorite book series in target language: Most of us have a favorite book series, and usually you can find a translation of it. It’s more helpful if we know the context and basic story to help us learn new vocabulary.

Image result for harry potter in spanish

8. Gift card for language learning Google Play or Apple apps: Gift receivers can use the gift card to buy a language learning app, music, or books on their smartphone in the target language.

Image result for google play apple gift cards

9. An online or in-person course: Here’s a big way you can support gift receivers with their language learning goals: education! Paying for tutoring lessons is another idea.

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10. International movies or TV programs in the target language: Here’s a way the language learner can learn more about the culture of another country in the comfort of their homes while learning the language.

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Now you have 10 language learning gift ideas for Christmas or other celebrations! (You could also help with raising money for a travel trip for them, but that’s another story.) Keep in mind the language level of the person when buying a gift because you want to challenge them, but you don’t want to make it impossible for them. If you have any more ideas for language learning gifts, I invite you to share some in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Top 10 Netflix Shows to Watch in Spanish

When I first started learning Spanish, I was frustrated with my lack of vocabulary. Watching Netflix shows in Spanish (with Spanish subtitles) can help you associate words and images, and you’ll be more likely to remember them in the future. Plus, you’re more likely to want to follow along with the story, so you’ll pick up a lot along the way. You might need to pause and look up some words every now and then, but it’ll be worth it!

The vast majority of shows that are in Spanish on Netflix are about drug cartels and politics, so I wanted to show you some more variety. The majority of these take place in Spain, but some of them take place in Latin America.

Here are my top 10 Netflix shows to watch in Spanish:

  1. Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel) 

Image result for the gran hotel

Set in the 20th century in Spain, this show is about a young man who comes to the hotel to investigate the disappearance of his sister. He falls in love with the owner’s daughter, who is engaged, and they go down the rabbit hole of other mysteries. It’s a good mystery drama with some romance, so you’ll learn lots of investigatory vocabulary.

2. Las chicas del cable (The Cable Girls) 

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Las Chicas del Cable takes place in Spain the early 1920s, and it’s about a group of girls who work for a phone company and operate the phone lines. They are also pioneering waves of feminism with having jobs and having more independence from their families and men. It’s a lot of romance, drama, and mysteries again, so you’ll attain some of that vocabulary, but it’s just an enjoyable show to watch.

3. Velvet

Image result for velvet show

I was obsessed with this show because it involved a seamstress and the heir of a fashion empire in the 1950s Spain. It’s like a classic “rags to riches” story as she encounters lots of twists and turns along the way. The heir’s family tries to keep him away from the seamstress because they’re of different classes, but love keeps pulling them back together. And Miguel Ángel Silvestre (who plays in Sense8) is a hottie! What other reason do you need?

4. Tiempos de guerra (Morrocco: Love in Times of War)

Image result for love in times of war morocco

In the 1920s in Morocco, Spain was involved in the Rif War. Many high-class ladies sailed to Morocco to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers. The nurses fall in and out of love and deal with the fact that they may lose them in battle. If you’re looking to learn more vocabulary in the medical field and war, here’s your chance!

5. Elite

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Here’s a more modern day show that is set in Spain, but lots of drama and romance is still involved. Three middle-class students earn scholarships at a private school with rich kids, and they must overcome their differences. One of the main characters dies, and the scenes go back and forth from the investigation to the story that led to the death.

6. El Ministerio del Tiempo

Image result for el ministerio del tiempo

I’m still in the process of watching this show, but it takes place in Spain…in many different time periods. Three agents from different eras go through time-traveling doors to prevent people from changing Spain’s history. It’s challenging to watch because of the different time periods, accents, and contexts, but it’s an opportunity to grow your vocabulary.

7. La esclava blanca

Image result for la esclava blanca

The show takes place in Colombia in the 1800s. Victoria’s parents were murdered when she was a baby, and a family of slaves saved her and raised her as their own. The man that murdered her family finds out that she is alive and goes after her, but a priest sends Victoria to Spain (when she is 12) just in time. Victoria goes back to Spain (when she is in her 20’s) to reunite with her family and learn more about how her parents die. You’ll learn a lot of vocabulary about ranching and farming, and it’s tough to watch at times, but there are lots of different accents you can pick up on along the way.

8. La casa de las flores

Image result for la casa de flores

This is a bit of a dark comedy set in modern times in Mexico. It starts off with the death of a mistress and then a lot of crazy events spiral out of control with each member of the family. It addresses issues related to drugs and LGBTQ.

9. Ingobernable

Image result for ingobernable

Ingoberable takes place in Mexico in modern times, and it’s about the First Lady of Mexico leaving her husband, the President. She leaves for political and relationship reasons, and it doesn’t end well for her husband. She must do everything in her power to learn the truth and prove her innocence. It’s definitely a dramatic thriller!

10. Juana Inés

Image result for juana ines

An intelligent young woman joins the convent to pursue her studies in Mexico in the 1600s. It’s loosely based on the story of the real woman. It’s a good way to gain some political and religious vocabulary, and most of the actors have an easy accent to follow. I will warn you that the show does get a little strange at times, but it’s still entertaining.

Okay, so I’m a little biased toward romance and drama, but hey, there’s some mystery and politics thrown in here too. I highly encourage you to dive in and watch some Spanish shows! I also started watching Edha, which takes place in Argentina, but it’s quite challenging! The main goal is to get the gist of what’s happening in context, and over time (with some learning along the way), you’ll get the hang of it.

Any other shows you recommend to watch in Spanish? Thanks for reading!

Using other vs. another in Spanish and English

When I first learned about how Spanish uses other vs. another, it blew my mind! It’s another one of those uncommonly known differences between English and Spanish that I would like to discuss in this blog.

other versus another

See, in English, we use other, others, and another for different reasons.

However, Spanish ONLY uses:

  • otro
  • otra
  • otros
  • otras

for BOTH another and other! Isn’t that amazing?
**Do not use un/una before otro/a/os/as!**

Examples:
– Yo quiero otra cerveza, por favor.
– Prefiero tener otros zapatos.
– Vamos a otro lugar.
– Necesitamos otras cosas. 

If you’re an ESL learner, you will need to learn the difference between other vs. another.

ANOTHER = one more, extra, additional, alternative, different
Instead of writing as “an other,” we write it as another.

We use another before singular nouns**:
– I have one drink. I would like another drink, please. (additional)
– I don’t like this store. Can we go to another one? (alternative or different)

We can also use another like a pronoun:
– First, try on this shirt, and then you can try on another.

**We do not use another with plural nouns.

OTHER = additional, extra, different types of, alternative
We use other before singular uncountable nouns and plural nouns.
– What other countries do you want to visit? (additional)
– If this isn’t enough information, you can visit other websites. (additional)
– I don’t like this flavor; do you have other flavors? (alternative)
– Some people like this furniture, but other furniture makes people happy. (different types of)

  1. We can use other before singular, countable nouns, but we have some type of determiner before it:
    – I don’t like this flavor. I prefer the other flavor.
    – There’s one other place we need to see first.
    Our other dog upstairs is much nicer than this one downstairs.

2. Also, other can be used as a pronoun:
– We have a lot of problems, and we need to solve this one more than any other.

3. Other has a plural form as a pronoun to refer to more than one person or thing:
– I have showed you some movies today. I’ll show you others tomorrow.

4. We can use “the other” as a determiner:
*As a determiner, we can use it before a singular noun to mean the second of two things/people or opposite of a set of two:
– This dog is brown. The other dog is yellow.
– My bathroom is to the right. The bedroom is on the other side of the hallway.

*We can also use “the other” before plural nouns to mean the remaining people or things in a group or set:
– My two bags are here, but where are the other bags? (the remaining bags)
– Where are the other actors in the Friends cast?

5. Lastly, we can use “the other” as a pronoun to refer back to something that has already been mentioned, especially in a sentence:
– I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other is holding a cigarette.
– I have two books. One is a drama and the other is a tragedy.

You can find more information out there about these differences and exceptions, but I just wanted to cover the basics. Most of all, I wanted to introduce you to something that you might not have known about before.

Thanks for reading!

Language Exchange Topic Ideas

If you’re thinking of regularly attending a language exchange club or practicing one-on-one with someone, then that’s awesome! It’s a difficult first step, but it’s worth going out of your comfort zone to make mistakes, improve your language skills, and meet people. Language exchange topic ideas will help you get started and keep the ball rolling.

Perhaps you’ve already gone to a few language exchange clubs or practiced your target language with someone, but you’re not sure what else to talk about. I’m going to suggest a few language exchange topic ideas, so you can keep the conversation going.

language exchange topic ideas

Conversation starters:
– What do you like to do in your free time?
– What kinds of shows and movies do you watch?
– Do you like to read? What kinds of books?
– What kind of music do you listen to? Do you play any instruments?
– Do you have any animals? What kinds of animals do you like?
– Where have you traveled? Where do you want to travel to in the future?
– What are interests/passions? What is your profession and ideal profession?
– What was your favorite subject in school?
– Where did you grow up? Do you have a small or big family?
– Why do you want to learn [target language]?
– What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
– If you could have superpowers, what would they be?

Language learning topics:
– What languages do you know? Which ones would you like to learn?
– What do you love and hate about language learning?
– How does your native language and target language differ?
– How would you improve your language learning?
– What apps help you learn a new language?
– What are some nonverbal gestures that tourists should know about?

Food topics:
– What are your favorite foods to eat?
– Do you like to cook or bake? Why?
– What’s a type of food you would never eat?
– What’s a food you’ve always wanted to eat?

Science topics:
– Do you believe in aliens? Why or why not?
– Do you think humans will live on the moon or a different planet one day? Why or why not?
– What do you think technology will be like in the future?
– What diseases will be cured in the future?
– Do you think time traveling will exist one day? Would you go into the past or the future? What would you change? Do you have any regrets you would fix?
– What kinds of inventions would you make?
– How do you feel about the environment? Are we doing enough for it?
– Would you rather SCUBA dive in the depths of the oceans or take a rocket to space?

Political topics:
– What does your ideal government look like?
– What top issues would you focus on? Education, healthcare, employment, environment, etc.?
– What do you think of drug issues?
– How do you feel about immigration?
– How do you feel about gun issues?
– What does an ideal president look like?
– How would you change the education system?

Fun hypothetical questions:
– Would you rather have 0 kids or 100 kids?
– Would you rather eat spiders or smell feet?
– Would you rather be stuck in an elevator or on a roller coaster?
– Would you rather give up cell phones or music forever?
– Would you rather walk 10 hours straight or drive 20 hours straight?

You’re definitely going to want to start with general questions and then move into deeper topics as time goes on and as you get to know the other person. Some cultures are more open to discussing political and religious topics while others are not. You’ll need to investigate that about the country before going too deep. Discussing questions of various topics will help you learn near vocabulary and have more engaging exchanges.

I hope these language exchange topic ideas help you have a robust conversation. If you have any more you would like to share, please comment below. Happy language learning!

Thank you for reading!

How to Learn a Foreign Language While Teaching Abroad

So, you want to learn a foreign language while teaching abroad? It’s not going to be easy, but if you’re willing to try new things, make a few mistakes, and be proactive, you have a good chance of making a lot of progress! I studied Spanish in college as my minor, but I forgot a lot of vocabulary and grammar over the years before I left for Ecuador. When my host mom asked me my age, I accidentally said that I was 26 years old instead of 16 years old! I’ve come a long way though (according to my host family and fellow friends).

Learning a foreign language abroad is a great way to make new friends, open up future career opportunities, and understand the culture in ways you never thought possible. It’s always beneficial for your brain, so you can’t go wrong there. Also, yeah, it’s a bit harder to learn a language if you’re older, but it’s doable! Stop making excuses and you’ll start seeing results with some discipline, dedication, and determination.

Learning a language while teaching abroad

A language exchange club meeting I attended in Quito.

I’ve broken down how to learn a foreign language while teaching abroad into three main steps: 

FIRST STEP: Be realistic about your goals. 
If you’re teaching English in a country that predominantly speaks English, you probably won’t make a lot of headway with a foreign language. However, if you are learning Russian in Russia, German in Germany, Spanish in Ecuador, etc., you’ll have much better chances because you’re immersed in a country full of native speakers.

Also, if you’re only teaching abroad for a few weeks or months, then you’re probably not going to become fluent in that language. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment but believe that with discipline, you can achieve your goals! I knew that I was only going to be in Ecuador for 10 months, and I had learned Spanish before in college. My goal was to become conversationally fluent, which was attainable and I succeeded.

Bull's-eye

SECOND STEP: Decide what you want to focus on and how you will do it. 
Do you want to get better at listening, speaking, writing, and/or reading? What about vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation? Don’t forget about slang and idioms!

Here are 10 ideas for language learning abroad:
1. Live with a host family that doesn’t speak your native language.
2. Find language exchange clubs online and regularly attend the meetings.
3. Join sports teams, practice yoga, volunteer, attend social events, take cooking or dancing classes, etc. in the target language.
4. Take lessons at a language school.
5. Practice individually with other relatives of the host family, friends, and English teachers from the area — You can practice in English with them for an hour and the native language for another hour. Be disciplined about it!
6. Immerse yourself in the media: Watch shows, read books/magazines/news, read menus/advertisements, and listen to music in the target language.
7. Practice writing at least 100 words every day in the target language and ask someone is a native speaker of your target language/bilingual to edit your work.
8.  Carry around a dictionary, and DO NOT STOP LOOKING UP WORDS! Vocabulary is key!
9. Try conversing with people in restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, etc. in the target language. 
10. Study a bit of grammar every day with an app or by reading a textbook or language blogs. 

Calendar

THIRD STEP: Use a calendar to block off times for your language learning. 
I highly recommend using a calendar via a gmail account that syncs with your phone. You should practice the language every day for at least 2 hours! Maybe you attend language exchange clubs two days a week, you practice with other people in the community a couple days a week, you read and write every day, and you take classes once a week. Honestly, it’s up to you based on what’s available in the area and your teaching schedule.

The three steps I’ve mentioned for how to learn a language while teaching abroad are based on my own experiences in Ecuador. Just remember, some things will work for you and others won’t. You’ll definitely trip up along the way, but as you continue practicing, your confidence will continue to grow. Life truly begins outside of your comfort zone, and you’ll have some amazing experiences if you get out of yours while learning a language abroad!

Any other ideas for learning a language while teaching abroad? I’d love to hear from you below!

Thanks for reading!

10 Uncommonly Known Differences Between English and Spanish

While Spanish and English have a lot in common thanks to shared Latin roots, their differences know no bounds. I minored in Spanish in college and spent a year in Ecuador practicing the language, but I learned a few things that I didn’t know until I started to have more conversations with native speakers. If you already knew some or most of the differences below, then that shows you definitely know a thing or two. 🙂

Spanish and English differences

Here’s my list of the 10 Uncommonly Known Differences Between English and Spanish:

  1. Tomar una decisión = make a decision
    In English, we would think “tomar” means only “to take” but not in the sense of decision making. Spanish speakers view it differently.
  2. Dar un examen = take a test; tomar un examen = give an exam
    In English, we take tests as students and give exams as teachers. However, in Spanish, it’s the other way around for these two expressions.
  3. Casi muero. = I almost died.; Por poco me matan. = They nearly killed me.
    In English, we would use “die” in the past tense, but Spanish speakers use the verbs in the present tense with “casi” or “por poco” when talking about possible consequences from past actions.
  4. “Perder” and “to miss”
    In English, we say “I missed the bus,” but in Spanish, they say, “Perdí el bus.” Perder can also mean “to lose” and “to waste” and a few other things. If you miss someone, you would use “extrañar” or “echar de menos.” Spanish also uses “faltar” to mean “miss” or “missing” in a lot of other uses.
  5. Cuán = how (to what degree/to what extent)
    I don’t remember learning about this interrogative word. In English, we just use “how much” or “how many” before nouns or simply “how” before adjectives/adverbs. In Spanish, they use “Cuán” before adjectives/adverbs; for example, “¿Cuán grande es el café?”
  6. Romper = to tear/to break
    In English, we use “to break” when we actually damage something beyond repair, and we use “to tear” to talk about a rip in something. However, Spanish uses “romper” for both uses.
  7. Ninguno = none of something in singular form
    In English, we could say, “There are no dogs here.” We could also say, “I don’t have any missed calls.” However, in Spanish, you don’t use the plural of ninguno unless the noun after it is always in plural. (No tenemos ningunas vacaciones este año.) “No hay ningún perro aquí.” “No tengo ninguna llamada perdida.”
  8. A comienzos de abril= At the beginning of April/In early April
    A mediados de abril = In mid-April
    A finales de abril = At the end of April
  9. El letrero decía “pare”. = The sign said “stop.”
    In English, when we talk about the information on inanimate objects, we use the past tense of said. However, in Spanish, they use the imperfect form of decir to talk about the information from books, signs, etc.
  10. No he sabido de ellos. = I haven’t heard from them.
    Let’s say you’re waiting to hear back about an interview or something important. In English, we say, “I haven’t heard anything.”  (Unfortunately, that is common.) However, In Spanish, it’s common to use “saber” to express that you don’t know the results or answer yet.

Did you learn anything new? I hope you did! Do you know of any other uncommon differences between English and Spanish? Comment below to share. 🙂

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Thank you for reading!