Living abroad can be an overwhelming experience. Trying to adjust to the culture, the religion, the food, and the language takes time and causes frustration. Fortunately if you have a guide who has been there before to show you around, you are strides ahead and sure to come away from the experience with a positive impression. Unfortunately, the reliance on a guide can be crippling to your independence in that country. How can someone who spends an extended period of time in a foreign country ever expect to learn the language and gain independence while at the same time enjoying all the benefits of a guide?
Two experiences come to mind. One, the year I spent in South Korea. Two, now as I play the role of guide in the United States.
In many ways, the idea that any matter can not be explained but only experienced is quite right. Zen masters speak of giving an ideal lecture on the nature of Zen by simply walking into the room, ringing a gong, and then walking out. For in that sound and whole experience is all that is needed to fully comprehend everything. Yet, we can not.
We are bound to words. We are bound to words and words are bound to sensible sentences…and those sentences are bound to lines. Lines do not in any way describe what actually exists they only serve to crudely translate to our limited minds what we have only begun to understand, and then those translations are interpreted as symbols. Before continuing, please refer to this video I have edited specifically for this blog entry. It is an excerpt from “Alan Watts: A Conversation with Myself” The initial spark for this entry most certainly were these considerations:
What must be expressed and considered is that language as we know it to be is too primitive and, as we evolve further and further, must too evolve and be improved upon. Continue reading
If you are on a journey to learn a new language and already speak one fluently…but have not tried Lang-8, then you are in for a revolution. Debuting in 2007, Lang-8 took language learning to the highest, most user-friendly, international stratosphere (and that was three years ago!) …and it has never looked back.
- The premise: Free Language Tutoring.
- How: Users of Lang-8 (Infinite Languages) write journal entries in a foreign language. Then, other Lang-8 users who are native speakers of that language correct them. In return, those users’ journal entries are corrected by other Lang-8 members. What often happens is that 2 members who want to learn each others’ native language meet, and thereafter frequently correspond. A simple way to bridge divides between nations, reduce miscommunication, and further world peace? Its name is Lang-8. Continue reading
There is nothing more deceptively challenging as teaching English. I majored in Finance and Japanese and came to Corea to, among other things, discover the culture of a nation almost entirely unknown to nearly every American of Caucasian descent; to grow introspectively in patience and understanding in the scheme of the greater social structure of Corean society (primarily that which concerns life in Corean middle schools); to eat Corean food, and—most significantly—to spend time with my girlfriend of then one-and-a-half years and get to know her family, where she grew up, and (with a bit of luck) blossom together in a beautiful and meaningful relationship. What I discovered was that teaching English in Corea, though on many levels a rewarding and enlightening experience, is a land laced with mines of depression and setbacks, frustrations and stress. It is a process of self-discovery that needs the very best of one’s personal determination and a mind so free and empty so that all words and daily activities, all information of any kind, can simply pass through your consciousness without maiming it permanently.
Playing in a Stream
When I was asked recently about motivation I realized that the topic and therefore problem of motivating students was one that actually dealt not with the students but with you, the teacher, and your own level of motivation. Continue reading
In an effort to assist any learner of any language get started in their exploration of said language, here is a list of the top 10 ways not to go about beginning your studies. This list has been formed out of 10 ways that I tried to learn new languages but then failed epically. May you not make the same mistakes that I did.
10) Easy Phrase Books. Unless you intend to kill your desire to learn any language right from the start, I suggest you steer clear of such books as these. Books that offer 101 easy phrases in ____________ (insert language here) are sure ways to get frustrated and give up. The content is often scattered and colloquial, filled with phrases that are at a level far beyond that of the beginner or even intermediate learner. I have picked up books in Japanese and even Spanish and been befuddled as to the content. Oftentimes, such everyday phrases are so wrapped in complex grammar structures and vernacular that there is no way that any learner could actually learn any of the individual parts. For example, in Spanish
Could you speak more slowly? – Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?
If you speak Spanish already, you don’t count. Please take a minute to imagine yourself completely incapable of any expression in Spanish, and your pronunciation is horrible. How can you be expected to learn anything (as a beginner) from such a phrase? The book this was from has no explanation on what any of the words mean, nor is there an explanation on conjugation of verbs etc. It is a dead-end for language learning.
9) Repetitive Drama/Cartoon Viewing. I once had a friend who, in his attempt to learn Japanese, watched anime…a lot of anime. In fact, he had so convinced himself that he could learn Japanese simply by listening and absorbing the language that he watched over 100 episodes of Naruto or One Piece before he decided to call it quits. What was his result? Very basic listening skills at best, and right next to zero comprehension when it came to grammar and building his own unique sentences. Though, admittedly, his vocabulary was okay (unfortunately limited to such phrases as found in cartoons, however.) Continue reading
Hello everyone! I just wanted to post that I have added another video to my ESL Videos page (as well as to my YouTube page, NuevoKimochi). It involves my after school students giving a speech about their new pet alien. There are 8 students and each is just about as tired as a college student at the end of midterms but they manage to pull of a fantastic performance. They prepped for 30minutes at the most (that includes drawing their alien and writing a short description) so please keep that in mind.
They are a pleasure to teach and always good sports about whatever I throw at them. Finally, I am quite aware that I am still a novice when it comes to teaching so I am more than open to constructive criticism.
Until my next written post I am
- Studying Abroad: Japan
In college I had the most amazing privilege of studying abroad and it was very definitely a life-changing experience. In fact, I say now to anyone who is in college: “Do not hesitate for a moment to study abroad and do not let a language barrier deter you from selecting the location you desire to visit most.” Ultimately though, the purpose of such a trip ought to be language exploration and eventual acquisition. As for me, the experience was in Japan. Nagoya, Japan to be a bit more descriptive and it was during my time there, throughout all the lessons, meals with my host family, and interaction with the locals that not only my Japanese took root but–and quite unconsciously–my Spanish did grow.
It makes no sense…at first.
Language is a peculiar thing: Every word counts, rings, roars with its own ferocity and gentle grace; Grammar and how you use it plays a major role in the overall sound and feel of your writing; and finally, pronunciation tunes your ears and mouth into fine instruments of correct communication.
Language learning is a peculiar thing: As you learn one language you are reminded of others. One word vibrates some chord that you recognize from deep in your language library…but it’s a different language; grammar in one language builds off of previous grammar…but from a different language; and the words on your tongue dance in magical tunes all to familiar but completely foreign at the same time.
Why? Continue reading