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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7 Things You Do If You’re One Of Those 'I Always Order Chicken Tenders' People

It's hard to love food but also hate it at the same time.

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Growing up, my mom would usually have to cook me a separate dinner from my siblings. Why? Because I was ridiculously picky and wouldn't eat the same foods as everyone else. Trust me, it gets old. It's not my fault certain things just taste gross, you learn to live with it.

1. You eat something you hate just to see if you still hate it

I'll take a bite of a burger every once in a while just to reaffirm that it still tastes like dirt. I just have to know. Don't even get me started on vegetables.

2. When trying to explain what you actually like to eat, people give you major side eye

Don't ask me about my eating habits unless you want to get into a long, confusing conversation.

3. Eating at someone else’s house when you were younger was a pain

You hate to tell their parents just how much you hate the food that they gave you. So, you sucked it up and ate it anyway only to come home and whine to your parents.

4. There’s one thing on any menu you always fall back on...even if it’s on the kids menu

Pizza, maybe. Chicken tenders, always.

5. Trying a new food is a very proud moment

It's like, wow! Look at me being all adventurous.

6. When you realize you actually like some new food, that’s an even more amazing moment

Crazy times. This rarely happens.

7. Sometimes it’s the texture, sometimes it’s the flavor, all the time it’s left on your plate

Oops. At restaurants it's either left on your plate or your order is very specified.

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10 Tips On How Not To Waste Your Time When You're Traveling

Sporadic trips are great, but maybe plan a little on the train ride in.

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For New Years, I took a trip to Boston. It wasn't sporadic— my boyfriend and I booked a room at Boston's Verb hotel, situated across from Fenway Park, about a month in advance. However, we didn't look at how we were going to get to Boston until the day before we left, or what we were going to do until the day we got there. If we had sat down and cracked open our laptops for 45 minutes while we watched American Horror Story reruns on Netflix, we wouldn't have spent so much on transportation and walking around in freezing rain looking for something to do. However, while we were content not going out and getting "drunklestiltskin" levels of drunk, it might have been better if we outlined what we were going to do on New Years Day and how we were going to get there.

We ended up spending about $10 to us the T, which isn't bad, but we spent $30 on parking and $45 on Uber rides, which wasn't bad until our last driver took the long way. If we had researched the area a little better, we might have been able to find things to do in the area we were staying, or map out a route to take using public transportation.

1. Book your hotel in the area you want to visit

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By doing this, you'll save on transportation costs because you'll either be within walking distance, or public transportation will have stops close to the places you want to visit. You also will be less likely to get stranded in an area you're unfamiliar with.

2. Get an idea ahead of time the things you want to do, and map out how you'll get there

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This helps you create a budget for transportation so that you don't think you're stranded in an area that doesn't have public transportation. Ubers can be expensive, especially if the driver takes the wrong turn, or wants to learn your life story.

3. Budget so you don't overspend

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Plan out how much you want to spend on transportation, how much you want to spend on food, and how much you want to spend on alcohol, so that way you don't spend all of your money, and have to create a new life or ask someone to borrow money you may never be able to pay back.

4. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers

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My boyfriend and I asked several bartenders where the best place to get a bite to eat would be, and that's how we found our new favorite restaurant— Eastern Standard. It's like the perfect restaurant if you don't think too hard about it. But our server had to tell us the staff at the bar wasn't being paid to endorse or promote it. It was just really good.

5. Look for stuff ahead of time

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If there's some type of public event, or you decide to visit on New Year's, St. Patty's Day, or on another popular date, look to see if you need tickets, and buy those ahead of time. If the weather isn't good, this will keep you from standing in line in the rain only to find out the cover charge is $60 a head.

6. Learn how to read the subway maps

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Ask someone who's been there and is good with direction, or get an app, so you don't get on the train going in the opposite direction of where you need to be. Boston and New York City should have apps where you can get the live subway schedule, so look for that if you need to.

7. Leave your car if you can

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Find a good, safe place to park, and if you know you're staying overnight, make sure the garage or lot allows that. This will also force you to explore what's around the area and you may just find something great you wouldn't have found otherwise.

8. Look at peak times

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If you're going somewhere popular to tourists, look at peak times so you can plan ahead and get there a little sooner. Standing in line is fun and all, but people can make or break that, especially when it comes to anything getting in the way of food (at least for me).

9. If you're a frequent flyer, try Pre-TSA

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If you fly a lot, you know TSA security checks can make or break your trip. If you're deemed low risk, you can get through security faster. Apply on the TSA website— www.tsa.gov

10. Don't just look at hotels

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For international travelers, hostels can be great. Some will let you stay for free if you do a few chores. Other great choices are Air BnBs and even camping. I also had a friend who couch surfed through an app, but do that at your own risk.

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