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Posted by on Aug 24, 2015

Red Fox-Parker, Colorado

Whenever I stay with my parents in their home in Colorado, I never knew what kind of wild life I might see outside their home. Deer were ubiquitous, but often times you see hawks, snakes, and sometimes at night you might hear a coyote. One morning I stepped outside to find this red fox lurking around the front door.

Whenever I stay with my parents in their home in Colorado, I never knew what kind of wild life I might see outside their home. Deer were ubiquitous, but often times you see hawks, snakes, and sometimes at night you might hear a coyote. One morning I stepped outside to find this red fox lurking around the front door.

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Posted by on Aug 24, 2015

Jemma El Fna

Nighttime in Jemma El Fna, the main plaza in Marrakesh's Medina. This photograph was taken on the first night of 2012 trip to Morocco. This is one of the many food stalls that my travel companion Jesse and I sampled. We were pretty adventurous with what we consumed on that trip, ignoring conventional travel wisdom and sampling anything that looked good to us. We took pepto bismol a few times a day as a pre-emptive measure. Not sure why that worked, but we didn't get sick!

Nighttime in Jemma El Fna, the main plaza in Marrakesh’s Medina. This photograph was taken on the first night of 2012 trip to Morocco. This is one of the many food stalls that my travel companion Jesse and I sampled. We were pretty adventurous with what we consumed on that trip, ignoring conventional travel wisdom and sampling anything that looked good to us. We took pepto bismol a few times a day as a pre-emptive measure. Not sure why that worked, but we didn’t get sick!

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Posted by on Aug 21, 2015

Fun tips for learning a new language

In college, I dual-majored in Spanish and English. While I sometimes dreaded having to write an English essay, I always loved doing my Spanish assignments. I actually looked forward to it. Yes. I looked forward to homework.

Learning a language can be really fun. In fact, it should be fun. Studying a language is like solving a puzzle. It’s a wonderful feeling when the pieces come together.

For many language study can be extremely frustrating, especially when you are introduced to grammatical concepts that you aren’t even aware of in your own language, or when you can only pick up one or two words of what a native speaks says to you. Learning a language takes some time, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to all be work.

Here are some fun things I like to do when learning a new language. All of these suggestions also allow you to delve into the culture that created the language.

1) Listen to music. Find music in the language you are learning that you enjoy. It’s definitely out there. You just have to have an open mind about it. The thing about music, as opposed to a book or a film, is that we tend to listen to the same songs repeatedly. Listen to the same song enough and phrases will start to stick out to you. (Feel free to send me a message if you’d like some music recommendations in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or French.)

2) Watch Movies When you watch movies in your native language, put on subtitles in the language you are learning, if available. As you read the words, your brain will associate what you hear with the word in English. Around the time I started seriously studying Spanish, I was binge-watching 24 with subtitles on in Spanish. I certainly learned a lot of terms related to espionage and terrorism.

3) Movies (part 2) Watch movies in the language you are learning. Put on English subtitles. Don’t feel pressured to watch without them. You’ll still absorb some of the language just by hearing it, and you’ll be learning a bit about the culture. Sometimes repeat phrases that you hear out loud and say them like the actor said them- with some emotion. It’ll help it stick more!

4) Games! Play games or sports in the language. If you are a competitive person like I am, you can let your emotions take over when you are playing a game. The good news is that when this happens, you become less self-conscious and words just come out. When I taught English in Spain, I’d sometimes play the game Mafia with my students. To them, this didn’t feel like classwork. My only stipulation was that they had to speak in English the whole time. If you know the game, it’s full of debate and accusations and deceit. For students passionate about winning, their only chance at victory required them to argue in English.

5) Drama! Read plays or scripts. They tend to be very dialogue heavy, so you can really get a sense of how people converse in the language. And usually, what text there is tends to be very straight-forward stage directions.

6) Current events! Read newspapers. Usually these are written in really clear, simple language. It’s a great way to increase your vocabulary.

7) Join a club. Conversing with native speakers can be really intimidating and cause you to keep shut like a clam. Begin by practicing with other learners. In college I joined a Spanish club to practice, comprised mainly of non-native speaking students like myself. Sometimes it feels really silly to struggle to converse with someone in a foreign language when you both can easily resort to your common language, but remember, everyone is in the same boat. You’re gonna make mistakes. Just talk, you’ll get your point across one way or another. Joining a club is a great way to make friends. A great way to do this is through Meet-up, a website that connects users with groups of people that share their interests.

8) Food! Go to restaurants that specialize in food that comes from your target language’s native country. Try to find one where the servers and clientele are actually from that country. If you are an outgoing person, engage in conversation with them. If you are more reserved, turn your ear towards their conversation and absorb a little of what you hear.

9) Do the Accent. Don’t be afraid to speak with an accent, even if it feels ridiculous or exaggerated. As children, we learn language through imitating those around us. That’s probably why so many of us grow up to sound just like our parents. Embrace the accent. If you’re French, talk like your Marion fucking Cotillard or Jean-Paul Belmondo. Don’t be a caricature like Pepe Le Piu, but have fun with it.

10) Write. Are you a person who wishes they kept a journal more frequently? I’m always starting journals but I frequently fail to keep up with them, because I put pressure on myself to write eloquently and meaningful in case my biographers ever use them to the write the story of my life (it could happen). When I was learning Spanish in Argentina, I kept a journal in Spanish. With my limited knowledge of the language, I didn’t feel pressure to write eloquently or profoundly. I just wrote what happened to me that day. It’s a good way to keep a record of what you’ve done while at the same time practicing your writing.

Learning another languages opens up the door to seeing the world in a new way. It should be exciting. Have fun with it!

Optional: Date someone who only speaks that language. Nothing forces you to get your point across more in another language than a good couple’s quarrel.

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