The Authencity Of Learning.

Learning A Language Abroad The Right Way

The expectations and pressures of learning a language.


I write this while I'm in Buenos Aires Argentina, the "Paris of South America".

The streets are filled with hurried people and powerful smells. Everybody and everything has an agenda, a place to be, a thing to do. It seems as though they are oblivious to the sights around them, unbothered by the modern architecture and the simultaneously antiquated structures, creating a distinct contrast. I suppose living in such a surreal place can condition one to take such a spectacle for granted, (from my perspective). Though these remain imperative to what we know as Argentina, there is something so special in the communication exchanged, or from the root from which it stems: language.

Sure, people may view it as just another 'Spanish speaking country' but there's so much more. Just to focus on one aspect, the sound and stream of the words is unmistakably distinct. Not only is the dialect different with particular colloquialisms and accents, but the sound is alluring. In between words lie a sing-song rhythm that creates a different tone entirely.

Trying to learn the Spanish language here is challenging. Certain phonetics are pronounced differently, slang consumes casual conversation, but more than anything, there is a confidence in Argentine people that can present as intimidating to the language learner.

Though this felt ubiquitous at first, it all changed when I met Catalina: a small, vivacious, older woman in her seventies who stays up till far past the middle of the night. She lives her life unapologetically, alone, strong, and secure.

She took two other girls and me in during our stay here. We may only be here for three weeks, but it's a full-time job.

I speak to her in broken Spanish with a somewhat butchered accent, only conveying my intended message occasionally, or so I think. She knows a few words in English but ultimately doesn't know the language. I'm sure it's frustrating to endure my confused sentences constantly. Yet, she's patient. She's understanding. She's caring.

There's this unspoken rule that when someone speaks in an unfamiliar language and gets something wrong, a verb tense, pronunciation, what have you, it should be corrected. To stop them and acknowledge their mistakes in order to further their knowledge and abilities. But I didn't fully understand the damage this can create until talking with Catalina.

In my studies here, there's an importance in the specificities in Spanish linguistics. It's complicated, so it's seen as crucial to recognize errors and correct them. But I can't speak in class the way I do with Catalina. Not necessarily because there's a component of academic evaluation but because of the futile standard of perfection.

My professor asks a question, I open my mouth, slightly inhale, ready to speak...and then stop. My mind formulates what I want to express, but it's no longer about the context. It's the structure of the sentence, the grammar, syntax, pronunciation. I feel pressure to impress, or at the very least meet some expectation they have for me, whether it be warranted for or not.

I'm still at a level where I translate from English to Spanish before I speak in complex sentences. It takes time to construct my thoughts, to compose myself before exposing a vulnerable newfound ability of mine.

I remain quiet in class, return to Catalina's house and suddenly ...the floodgates open. My lips spread apart, my mouth opens, and words come flowing out. Much of the time the content is not conjugated correctly nor in the right order. Nor are they pronounced in the appropriate manner.

But it's not of importance to her.

She cares about the context, my emotions, my expressions. She doesn't reach for a computer to pull up a translator. My broken Spanish is no longer the focus, it's the communication between us.

I'm struggling, every phrase and every word I want to say is still a battle. It takes courage.

Despite this, I'm improving every day because of Catalina.

Perhaps, one day, I'll be walking the streets of Argentina, eyes straight ahead, one foot in front of the other. Moving with intention while looking to the person to my left and speaking in "perfect Spanish". We are surrounded by the noisy sounds of the city, and that person laughs, it's Catalina.

Tomorrow could be that day. Just remove, 'perfect', and it's possible. 'Perfect' is not crucial to communication. Despite what we may believe.

When we place pressure on language learners to speak in flawless form and accent, it's discouraging. When we turn to translators instead of taking the time to focus on the content rather than the structure, it's insulting.

When listening to language learners, have patience, be understanding. Focus on the exchange, the bigger picture, what they're trying to participate in, rather than narrowed critiques.

That's how they/we truly learn.

Learning a language while experiencing a vibrant culture is immersive but can be hard, take it from me.

But with people like Catalina, it is and will get easier.

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10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Visit Mexico

Who would want to fall in love with beaches and sunsets?

Who would want to fall in love with beaches and sunsets? Or even worse, get chills while visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World?

I cannot recall how many times people have asked for my advice on whether they should or shouldn't visit Mexico. It not uncommon to read all these news articles talking about how dangerous this country is. I am not going to lie. Yes, we do have drug trafficking, organized crime, poverty, corruption and the list goes on and on.

However, we've all read articles that talk about these same negative aspects. Therefore, if you're still hesitating on whether you should visit or not, I am going to provide you a different list with even more reasons on why you shouldn't visit Mexico. Hopefully, after reading this list, you will make up your mind.

1. Food will make you cry.... of JOY!

Mexican cuisine had to be in the top of this list. No matter where you go, you will always find delicious options to eat since flavor is the number one characteristic of Mexican food. Get ready to spice up your palate while eating mole, enchiladas, pozole, sopes, tacos and an endless list of traditional dishes. However, if you want to eat boring food, then this is not your place to go to.

2. You will fall in love with beaches and sunsets.

Mexico is well known for its amazing beaches and sunsets, which are all over the country from North to South. Dare to visit the Riviera Maya in Yucatan Peninsula or La Paz and Cabo in Baja California Sur. I would never end if I try to mention all of its beaches, but there is one thing I assure you. You will fall in love with all of them and it might be hard to leave.

3. Music will make you want to sing, dance, cry or all of the above.

Does the word Mariachi sound familiar to you? In Mexico, you can find one in almost every city. This genre might make you want to sing, dance, cry or all of the above. I highly encourage you listening to "Cielito Lindo" before you visit Mexico, you will thank me later. However, we not only listen to Mariachi. We have cumbias, banda, reggaeton, pop and rock in Spanish. Not all of these genres are rooted in Mexico, but we still listen to them on every occasion.

4. Chichen Itza will give you goosebumps.

In Yucatan state, you can find one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I am talking about the one and only Chichen Itza, a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people. The greatness of the pyramid of El Castillo and its architecture will give you all the chills.

5. You might spend all your money on indigenous handicrafts.

Be ready to spend your money on earrings, handbags, clothes, toys, plates and almost everything made by indigenous groups. If you are a fan of colors, then you will want to buy them all since indigenous handicrafts are meticulously decorated and are very colorful.

6. Festivities and traditions will awake your interest in history.

Festivities and traditions are an essential aspect of Mexican culture. You might want to experience one of the most famous holidays known as the Day of the Dead. On November 2, we celebrate all the people who passed away but if you dig deeper into this holiday's history, you will find out there is a lot of preparation involved in this festivity. Mexico will awake your hidden passion for history and it will make you realize that we don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo as much as you think.

7. You might get too fresh in our numerous waterfalls.

Feeling a little too hot? Dare to refresh yourself in one of the numerous waterfalls located all over Mexico. Whether is the Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail) Waterfall located in the North or Las Cascadas de Agua Azul (Blue-water falls) located in the South, Mexican waterfalls will make you want to dive into them.

8. The architecture inside and outside religious temples will make your photo storage full.

You have to experience the breathtaking architecture and art that can be found inside and out of Mexican cathedrals which are full of history. Don't forget to visit the oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America known as the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Prepare your cameras and empty your photo storage, you will need it.

9. The warmth and friendliness of their people will steal your heart.

The first thing that pops into my mind whenever I think of Mexican people is warmth. You will find out that Mexican people will always want to make you feel welcome and part of a group since it is a collective culture. Don't be scared if someone hugs you the first time they meet you or if they invite you inside their house like if they've known you for years.

10. But mostly, you shouldn't visit Mexico because YOU WILL NEVER WANT TO LEAVE!

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Will There Be A New Future For Venezuela?

What's in store for Venezuela, now that the whole world is fighting with them?


Venezuela was once the richest countries due to its abundance of petroleum. In the year 1998 Hugo Chavez became president and it all went downhill. He took charge and changed the country drastically. He became a dictator until 2013 when he died of a heart attack. Nicolas Maduro quickly came into power, being Chavez's Vice President. Maduro was deteriorating the country and soon enough Venezuela did not provide what the people needed.

People wouldn't find enough food in the supermarket, medicines were limited and people felt unsafe roaming the streets. Juan Guaidó is a politician and on January 23rd he was sworn in as interim President of Venezuela. Many countries, including the US, have recognized him as President. In the eyes of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, he is not the President, due to their support of the Maduro regime.

Nicolas Maduro, Cilia Flores Ariana Cubillos (AP)

President Trump preached about an America First policy during the election, but intervening in Venezuela's political conflict is a new approach for the President. Such as for European countries, they have also stood up and announced that they recognize the opposition leader as the interim president of Venezuela. Some countries in the EU have declared for Venezuela to have early elections to determine a permanent president. Maduro has spoken out and said that he will not step down as president or have elections. This has resulted in countries threatening to recognize Guiadó as president. Maduro has blamed all of his problems on the US, saying the world is following President Trump's lead. A major blow for Maduro was when a military official, who is stationed in Colombia, said he would follow all of Guiaddó's orders since he is now the leader.

As for now, Venezuela is still fighting for its freedom, but they do have hope and see a new horizon, a new beginning.

Juan Guiadó Venezuelans intirem President.CBC News (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

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