Overcoming Perfectionism with Learning a New Language

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to learn a language or to keep getting better at one? Maybe you tried learning a language in the past and everything was going well until you tried to have a conversation in the target language…with a native language speaker. :-O¬†You may have thought, “Everything coming out of my mouth sounds like garbage!” Trust me, every language learner has had problems along the way. Heck, even native speakers make mistakes with grammar and vocabulary.

I need to mention that there’s a difference between an error and a mistake with language learning. An error means you didn’t use the correct form of the language because you had no prior knowledge of it. A mistake means you did something wrong and you had learned about it previously. In any case, forgive yourself. You can’t know everything, and you can’t remember everything. Remember that it’s all a learning process and to enjoy the journey!

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Story time

I personally had to deal with overcoming perfectionism with language learning when I started teaching English abroad in Ecuador. I studied Spanish for a few years in college, but I was pretty rusty and had a lot of studying up to do. My host family asked me my age, and I accidentally said I was 16 instead of 26! Can you imagine my embarrassment?! I also used Spanish words that weren’t common in Ecuador, and I got some funny looks every now and then. I conjugated verbs incorrectly, I fumbled over words, and I stammered on pronunciation like a broken doll.

But guess what? I wanted so badly to improve my Spanish. I was determined to study and practice as much as I could in my free time. Do I still have a lot to learn? Of course!

As an ESL teacher, I saw my students struggle with the fact that they made mistakes too while practicing English. What bothered me the most was they were letting that fear impede them from growing and getting better. I would hear multiple apologies on a daily basis, but you don’t need to be sorry because as long as you’re doing your best, then that means something. The students that got better at English didn’t give up. They continued to ask questions and practice with other students.

3 Things to Remember

I’m a bit of a perfectionist myself, as I care about details, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the big picture when you’re learning a new language.

  1. Making mistakes = You’re trying!
  2. People correcting you = You’re learning from your mistakes!
  3. Trying what you learn = You’re getting better with practice!¬†

With all of this, accept that you’re human, not a computer with all the answers. That’s what apps and Google translate is for, and even they make mistakes… If you didn’t grow up speaking the language, why would anyone expect you to speak it 100% fluently? I recommend practicing speaking and listening with a partner/tutor then practice with a group for awhile and then practice with strangers in different situations.

My last piece of advice: laugh it off! 

The most important thing is to keep an open-mind, never give up, and accept corrections from others. Believe me, it’s painful and challenging in the beginning. One time I used the word mantequilla (butter) for makeup instead of maquillaje. You know what I did? I laughed so hard, and so did my native Spanish speaking friend. We made a great memory together.

Every language learner I have met has some pretty funny stories to tell about the mistakes they made along the way. Eventually, the number of mistakes diminished with practice, and they became more comfortable with the language. You’re a strong person for making it your goal to learn a language and trying it out. So keep practicing. You got this!

Have you ever made language learning mistakes? Please share in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

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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) 

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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

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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 √Āngel Silvestre (who plays in Sense8) is a hottie! What other reason do you need?

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:
РYo quiero otra cerveza, por favor.
– Prefiero tener otros zapatos.
– Vamos a otro lugar.
РNecesitamos 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 ‚ÄĒ 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!

Final Goodbyes & Re-entry Adjustments

I have completed my 10 1/2 months teaching English abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and I’m now back in the States! I’m proud that I finished my service. Since the last blog I’ve posted, I attended my cohort’s WorldTeach end-of-year conference, where we had many reflection activities, and I said goodbye to the Ambato volunteers. The conference was during my 1st wedding anniversary, so it was difficult not to spend the day with my husband.

The following week was the 4th of July, but I had to teach on that Wednesday because it’s not a holiday in Ecuador, so Adriene and I went out to lunch together. On that weekend, she hosted a grill out at her place, and we had the opportunity to eat grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

Grilling out with our Ecuadorian friends!

We enjoyed relaxing and hanging out, and our Ecuadorian friends also enjoyed watching a World Cup game. I continued teaching English throughout July, and I had awesome students. We had a lot of laughs together, and it was difficult to say goodbye to them on their last day.

I also said goodbye to my other Ecuadorian friends at some other get-togethers and meet-ups, and I said goodbye to my host mom’s niece, Katy, and to my host family. I think it was hardest saying goodbye to Isabel because we have a lot in common and we practiced a lot with each other and to Adriene because I don’t know the next time I’ll see her in the States.

Our Ecuadorian friend, Karina, made us a cake with the American flag!

After all the goodbyes, I packed up, and I flew to Florida to visit my friend, Ariel. I felt discombobulated¬†a bit because everything was in English, and I didn’t have to throw toilet paper in the trash anymore. I also felt more at ease walking around safely. What I also noticed on the plane and in restaurants that I’m no longer in a sharing, affectionate culture. Ariel and I ate at some great places, and we relaxed on the beach.

After getting sunburned on the beaches of Florida, I returned to Colorado a couple of days later and reunited with my husband and our dog. We have been spending time together this week, and we tried our wedding cake that was in the freezer, and it tasted almost exactly the same. Brings back memories!

I’m grateful that I made awesome friends, lived with a good host family, improved my Spanish, gained international experience abroad, taught some amazing students, completed my service, and returned home safely. I would like to continue working in international education, so I’m now considering my options. Have you ever taught English abroad? What it was it like for you when you returned home? What are you doing now?

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Going the Whole Nine Yards

Since it’s my ninth month here (and penultimate month), I saw it fit to use the idiom “going the whole nine yards” as the title of this blog. My parents and brother came to Ecuador to visit me during the last week of May, which also included my 27th birthday. They also brought me my favorite snacks: Girl Scout cookies, chocolate peanut butter bars, Cheez It snack mixes, and Gardetto’s! Nothing like American salt and sugar.

On Sunday, May 27th, we walked around the artesian markets near the Foch, and I think my mom had a field day with all of the available trinkets. I also showed them around the historical district with all of the churches and old buildings. My family couldn’t believe how cheap the food and transportation is in Ecuador compared to the United States.

We went to Mitad Del Mundo on Monday, and we visited the monument and the museum nearby. We took a picture where half of us were in the Northern Hemisphere and the other half were in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mitad del Mundo

We’re on the equator!

We also walked around the exhibits about the history of the founding of the equator, and we took this fun family photo:

We went backwards in age. Notice my womanly face on a man’s body.

The next day we went to TeleferiQo to see the views from the Pichinca Volcano. We also met a couple from California, and the young lady also taught abroad in Japan for a few years. Anyway, I think the altitude affected my family because they were a bit winded.

Here we are at the TeleferiQo!

That afternoon we went to Quito’s Botanical Gardens, and we saw all kinds of native plants of Ecuador as well as a garden of Bonsai trees. Some of the trees were so small, and they were about the same age as me.

Botanical Gardens Entrance

Botanical Gardens Entrance

 

Botanical Gardens Ecuador

My brother lookin’ a little prickly.

On Wednesday we went to Otavalo, which was the highlight of the week. We took a two-hour bus ride there. We walked around the markets, and my mom had me haggle a bit for some pillowcases and coin purses. I also bought myself an alpaca sweater. Afterwards, we ate lunch and I got some delicious famous pie and ice cream from “The Pie Shop.”

We then took a taxi to the Otavalo Waterfalls, and there was a fun suspension bridge there as well. I enjoyed the greenery and nature because it’s a nice change from the concrete jungle of Quito’s noise and pollution.

Here are my parents in front of the Otavalo waterfalls.

Here is my dad and brother in front of a “do not enter: danger” sign.

That Thursday was my 27th birthday! We went to the artisanal markets that morning, and my mom bought me a red day dress. I showed them where I teach and the WorldTeach office, and we walked to El Mirador del Guápulo.

Here is my brother and me at El Mirador del Gu√°pulo.

We then took a short taxi ride to Zao, which serves an Oriental cuisine. I ate some delicious ceviche and coconut sushi, and my parents and brother ate fried rice and spicy pad thai noodles, and I ate these leftovers for like 2 or 3 days after they left. Yum! I also received a free cake. ūüôā

I got some cake and ate it too.

We later went to the Panecillo to see the angel statue in the historical center, and we experienced a downpour, so we moseyed around the statue for about an hour or two. We then came back to our hotel and ate ice cream at Crepes & Waffles. I was thankful that I could spend my birthday with my family in Ecuador.

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

On Friday, we went to Cumbaya and saw “Deadpool 2,” and we tearfully said our goodbyes later that afternoon. I enjoyed staying in a hotel for a week with a comfy bed, hot shower, and extravagant breakfast options. I think my family enjoyed being in Quito, but I think the safety concerns and Spanish language barrier was tough for all of us (I needed to translate a few times). We shared some good meals and had some good times. I hope I see them all again soon.

I was sad to see them go, but that night, my host family and I celebrated my birthday with cake and pizza! My host dad told me it was good to see me smile that evening.

My host family celebrated my birthday with me!

I started my fourth and final cycle of teaching the first week of June. My first class has only 10 students and the second has 21, so it’s a bit of a challenge to accommodate, but we have had a few laughs so far, so I think they’re a good bunch of students.

Other than that, I’ve gotten back in my routine of studying Spanish and practicing yoga during my free time.¬†I also have my end-of-year conference with WorldTeach this weekend. Out of 38 volunteers that started here, we’re down to about 17 people! Anyway, I’m not sure if I will go on any more trips before I leave on August 1st because we don’t have any holidays during this last cycle, but it’s my last month here and I hope I can go on one last weekend getaway.

I’m proud of myself for coming this far with all of the challenges I’ve faced and difficulties I’ve endured. I’m looking forward to coming home to my husband and dog and the American life again. I’m sure there’s a few things I’ll miss here, but I’m going to do my best to soak up the good parts of Ecuador and enjoy my last 40ish days here.

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.