I recently read an article in the BBC that during 2020, the number of native English speakers learning a foreign language for the first time had more than doubled.
Surprised? So was I.
Because, typically, English speakers are known for being monolingual and proud of it. Ever heard any version of the following…
“English is spoken all around the world.”
“Most other people already know English, why would I want to learn another language?”
“I already speak the best language, why do I need to learn anything else?”
“I’m too old to learn another language anyway.”
“English is easy, and [insert other language here] is too hard.” …
“I can’t keep going. I need to head back,” I told Adrián. I knew those weren’t the words he wanted to hear. “But you can keep going, and we can meet back at the car,” I tried to reassure him as I avoided making eye contact. I didn’t want to see his disappointment.
It was now 8am and we had been climbing the mountain Iztaccíhuatl for just over four hours. Based on our estimates, we had about two hours left to finally summit.
But I couldn’t continue.
Physically, I felt fine. My legs were stronger than ever. My heart rate had maintained a steady rhythm. …
“Do you keep a journal in Spanish?” my student Sunkyung asks me. We’ve been meeting consistently for over 2 years to practice and improve her English speaking, and this is the first time she’s asked me about my personal language study routine.
I hesitate, trying to find the right words.
She continues, “I’ve kept a daily journal for 3 years in English, but with everything recently, I’ve stopped. And I don’t know if I want to start back again.” Her forehead furrows in worry.
“Well, when I first started practicing my Spanish, I did journal almost every day for two years,” I answer. “But I don’t anymore. And I think it’s been fine. …
“That smells like Thanksgiving,” my husband said as he walked out of the office into the kitchen.
“Stuffing done, just mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie to go,” I replied.
It was 8:30am on Thanksgiving Day, but we would have to hold off our cravings until the next day. Even though I was prepping and cooking all the delicious dishes on Thursday, we wouldn’t have time to sit down, relax, and enjoy them until Friday.
And it’s not because I work in retail. Ever since moving to Mexico and starting our online business — where we work with international clients — our holiday celebrations usually come on the weekends. …
“I can’t handle it. What am I supposed to do at home? I can’t talk to anyone!? The hours of TV are driving me crazy. I just keep eating. I need to see people! I can’t stand being alone so long.”
While humans are social creatures, too much interaction can often leave us with little sense of our own self.
In today’s society, extroverted behaviors are applauded and rewarded. And oftentimes, introverted actions are depicted as undesirable.
Just think of any popular high school drama — where the popular kids have tons of friends, participate in sports, and throw parties every weekend. Who are the losers? …
“I called and asked if I could register my husband.”
“And what did she say?”
“She was confused, but I don’t know how to say it another way.”
“Next time, say you want to book an appointment for your husband.”
My student Regina — a Brazilian living in America — explains her speaking struggles to me. This is a regular occurrence in my weekly English classes, where I become part counselor in how to navigate talking with native English speakers. …
“It’s sealed? We’ll have to unseal it.”
My eyebrows furrow. Did I understand her correctly?
“Oh, okay. But it’s my vote.” I reply, trying to make sure nothing goes amiss.
She pulls out a box cutter, and slides the blade underneath the sealed envelope flap.
“All international postage needs to be inspected,” she explains.
The cutter opens the manila envelope and out slides a white unaddressed sealed envelope.
“But that one can’t be opened. Because it’s my vote. It’s my first time, so I didn’t know.”
I’m nervous. It’s my first time voting from outside the United States, and I want to make sure I do everything right. …
Have you ever stared down a long page of verb conjugations? Have you ever created flashcards for article matching? Have you ever memorized the different usages for prepositions?
If so, you’re not alone. But like most language learners, all of this grammar study often leaves you more frustrated than when you started. And, unfortunately, the grammar drills probably didn’t improve your speaking fluency.
While grammar explains how language functions, the understanding of grammar is not needed to communicate clearly and correctly.
Before I dive into the reasons why you should stop stressing about grammar, let me be perfectly clear — I love grammar. …
How one film represents the contrast of class as revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Examining the wealth gap through a new lens…
“She’s rich, but still nice,” Ki-taek comments to his wife about their employer, Mrs. Park.
“She’s nice because she’s rich. Hell, if I had all this money. I’d be nice, too!” Chung-sook responds.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t seem to get the film Parasite out of my head. The South Korean dark comedy directed by Bong Joon-ho uses class differences to highlight societal issues from his own culture. But I believe these same issues are global concerns between the “have” and the “have-nots”. …
The key to fluent conversation is letting go of the temptation to translate.
“They run bicycles.”
“I did a chronogram in my mind.”
“The sun is getting shorter.”
“In the last vacation, I was in Austria.”
If you’re a native English speaker, reading the above sentences might have made you stop and think — “Wait. What? Did I read that correctly?”
But what if you knew those four sentences were spoken by students learning English? Out of context, or in a situation where English is expected, the meanings might be lost upon the unaware listener.
Sentences like those above are often the result of literal translation, instead of fluid expression in a target language. So if you’re learning English, or any other language, take your time to learn to stop translating. …