Adventures in Language Learning

Adventures in Language Learning

Expand your language horizons.
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When I was accepted into Lakeside School six years ago, I found out I had to take a language; the ones offered were Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin. I wanted to take French initially. Not only did I want to go to Paris in the future, but also because I didn’t get into the middle school I wanted to, which had it. I approached my parents about this; while supportive, they suggested I learn Chinese—it was useful, for starters.

And then I figured, it might be worth the risk, and so I signed up with that registration sheet and sent it off.

***

In Chinese I, we learned about the tones, character-writing, and simple grammar. In the first few weeks, it was a bit irritating to get the tones right, and I had to get a tutor for a few weeks. Over time, I did better with the language, and wanted to use it not only to get high grades in the classroom, but also for other purposes.

I remember in classes, we would occasionally watch movies—first with English subtitles, and then without them. We would not only discuss about the contents about the film, but also about the ramifications and about real life situations which emerged from it. The latter materialized through college, in which most of the Chinese classes not only focused on the language itself, but political issues within China.

That not only intrigued me, but I also took up creative writing in Chinese since my senior year. At first, it was just as fun simply writing in another language as another form of communication. Recently, however, I’ve learned about the intricacies of words and how they are used. The differences between several words for “focus” and “to use” significantly stand out. It’s very subtle, and so I find myself ignoring them when typing things.

***

Just last year, a friend in the dorms introduced me to Duolingo, a language learning website in which you can learn several languages through a game-like system featuring small bite-sized lessons, leaderboards, and streaks. She was using it for multiple languages, so I figured I might try it out myself. I started out with French, and expanded to several other languages I wanted to try for a long time.

The approach is different, as Duolingo is a starting point for learning a language. To really become fluent, one must take different initiatives in reading articles, finding people to speak it, or listening to music. I’ve done that to a certain extent with French, but not in the extent of Mandarin where I would have classes every day and professors to show my work to.

With all the difficulties one must entail, I appreciate learning languages and my ambitions to become fluent in them. There’s a bunch of intricacies in them particularly, whether it’s a different alphabet or grammatical structure or sounds. And there are connections to other languages as well, whether they are within the same language family or not.

But it’s not only a resume builder or a curiosity from afar for me.

I want to learn languages, and become fluent in them so that I can understand different people and write about them. I want to connect and help with policy in the future, especially because people cannot understand each other. And I want to know myself as well, each through different lenses.

Cover Image Credit: dawnoftruth.com

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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