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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5 Ways Language Learning Helps Fight Depression

If your mental health is suffering and you feel like you’ll never feel better, learning a language can help you with that. Maybe you’re going through big changes in your life, suffering from clinical depression, experiencing yucky weather, or bored with your daily routine. Ultimately, depression affects each of us in a debilitating way, so I’d like to tell you 5 ways language learning helps fight depression.

1. Language learning activates different areas of our brain. 
Depression can cause brain shrinkage, inflammation, and reduced functionality of different areas in our brain. Learning a language, however, increases the size of our brain. Our brains grow in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. Additionally, we’re delaying brain deterioration, which can protect us from dementia. It can also improve cognitive abilities with memory, creativity, flexibility, problem-solving, and other intellectual capacities.

2. Language learning helps connect you with other people.
Depression causes us to feel alone in the world. If you’re taking language classes or learning through an app, you’ll connect with other people. Whether you’re in class or at a language exchange group, you have a reason to communicate with others.

You might also find that people in your town speak the language you’re learning. If you’re abroad in that country, you’ll be able to learn more about the culture while improving upon your language skills. Many apps have forums where you can ask questions and practice new lessons. You could also connect with others through social media or online classes via video calls.

3. Language learning helps widen the scope of future possibilities.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you may feel mentally and emotionally blocked and that you’ll never feel happy again. When you’re learning a language, you’ll feel that the world offers lots of opportunities to practice the language.

You may feel inspired to visit that country for a vacation or for something longer. You may even want to study, teach, volunteer or work abroad in that country because it gives you a reason to practice the language you’re learning. Language and culture are intertwined, so it’ll open up chances for you to experience the country at a different level.

4. Language learning helps you out of a negative spiral of thoughts. 
One of the nastiest symptoms of depression is when our minds play tricks on us. It tells us that we’re worthless and that life is hopeless. Learning a language provides a healthy distraction to that negative spiral of thoughts.

When you’re learning a language, your mind is focused on other things. You’ll want to absorb music, podcasts, movies, and books in the language you’re learning. You’ll be focused on the grammar and vocabulary, and you’ll spend more time reading forums, looking at blogs, and asking questions to help you understand new things.

5. Language learning helps you feel motivated and productive.
With depression, you want to stay in bed and do nothing because you feel paralyzed or unmotivated. Learning a language will give you a reason to get out of bed. Whether you’re learning from an app or in a class, you can get to the next chapter or the next level. Many language learning apps involve games and pictures. You can also practice with vocabulary flashcards and filling in lyrics of songs (lyricstraining.com).

Most of all, learning a language is fun! It’s challenging and rewarding. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s a good feeling when you memorize something new or finally understand a tough grammar point. You don’t have to be the best or the most fluent! Learning a language is a long-term opportunity to view communication in a different light. Plus, you’ll be doing yourself (and your brain) a favor mentally, emotionally, and socially.

How else does language learning help with depression? Thanks for reading!

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!

Image result for perfection

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!

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!

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. 🙂

If you liked this blog, please like, share, or follow!

Thank you for reading!

6 Indoor Activities to Help Chase the Blues Away

After the holiday season, January can feel like a dismal, depressing month. The sun deserts us early with darkness blanketing us, and the wintery conditions are at their peak. Although January can be a tough month, we can welcome the opportunity to pledge resolutions to improve ourselves and achieve our goals. January comes from Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. January is the door to a new a year. I enjoy watching Netflix and sipping hot cocoa in my free time, but January is also the perfect time to learn new things.

Here are 6 indoor activities to help chase the blues away:

1. Create a vision board
What is a vision board? A vision board is a board based on the law of attraction that helps you identify your life’s desires and helps you achieve your goals. Here’s a website with more information: http://makeavisionboard.com/what-is-a-vision-board/. My vision board, which is by no means perfect, has various pictures that represent my goals:

vision board
2. Become a yogi
The benefits of yoga are endless: improves posture, relaxes your system, boosts immunity, helps you focus, and helps you sleep deeper. YouTube has plenty of beginner yoga videos to help you get started. I love yoga because it relieves my back pain and stretches my hamstrings. Here’s a 15 minute morning yoga routine:

3. Knitting and crocheting
I started crocheting a little over a year ago, and I created a poncho in three days in December. I also learned how to knit on Christmas, and I knitted a pillow in a couple of days. Knitting and crocheting help alleviate stress (a natural anti-depressant) and protect the brain from damage (works your memory and attention span). You won’t need to buy new clothes once you get the hang of it!

Crochet, Knit
4. Baking 
Baking brings so much joy — you can create something artistic and give a treat to others. I like to challenge myself with baking, and I made chocolate macaroons from scratch last month. (I also realized that having the right tools would have helped immensely.) Here’s the recipe: http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/french-chocolate-macarons-with-chocolate-ganache-28339.

Macaroons
5. Learn how to play a musical instrument
Alleviate stress and sharpen your mind by learning how to play a musical instrument. I can’t wait until I can play songs on my guitar around a campfire. I recently got a new guitar book, and I’ve been learning more than I have in the last year. Here’s the book:

guitar
6. Learn a new language
I have a Spanish minor, which provided me with a foundation, and I continue to review and practice as often as I can. Learning another language helps improve your memory, learn new things faster, develops your ability to multi-task, and increases your attention span. If you’re just getting started, I recommend http://www.duolingo.com.

Duoling

What are your favorite indoor activities?

Thank you for reading!