This past week I began my final semester of my undergraduate degree! The joy – is unexplainable. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my undergrad experience (because that is exactly the opposite of how I feel) but more because I am excited for what’s going to come/change.
Five year ago I began school as Biblical Studies/Church Music major at a small Christian school. After spending my entire childhood involved with the church my mother attended, I was convinced that the thing I was meant to do was become a pastor; looking at life now – it would have to be an EXTREMELY reformed liberal congregation. Anyway, I spent three years learning how to “pastor people” and read the bible and after a rather harrowing experience (which I’m sure will be blogged at some point) I decided to transfer out of that school and into a music performance program where I strictly study classical music. Now if that was the only change in plans that were to occur in my undergrad experience I guess we could make the tie between the past and present. But now as I’m heading towards graduating – and frighteningly enough Graduate School – plans have changed again.
I guess the point is, plans are always going to be changing. Life changes (thankfully!). So often we are only grateful for change when it is in our favor or we gain something from it. But that’s not always the case. So how do we go from seeing change as a “giver” and “taker”?
I think we take ourselves out of the equation. Situations are rarely stagnant. And that’s a boring place to be anyway. This is not a message of “lie down and take it” because I have in no way approached my own life like that. There are things that happen in life that we can address and challenge because we choose to – but there are others that are out of mine, yours, or anybody’s control. And when these things happens I pray I don’t sit and complain about how something is unfair, or this or that was taken away from me. I hope to embrace this thing called life – which could also just be called….
Learning a new language can be on of the most difficult yet rewarding things one can do with their time. If done correctly, one will fail numerous times, be able to express themselves in unique ways and have easier access to a new culture. Currently Language-learning has been quite the rage, with services such as Rosetta Stone and Rocket languages selling like hotcakes and blogs such as fluentin3months having massive success. New services, such as duolingo and italki are changing the landscape of language learning business and making language learning ridiculously cheaper, and more accessible to everyone. I’ve undertaken learning 3 different languages, with varying success in each, but with each subsequent one being much easier to learn. I’ve tried to see how fast the human mind can learn a new language, especially ones that are radically different from ones native tongue. Currently I’ve learned a good amount of Japanese, Chinese and German, with my Japanese and German being significantly better than Chinese, but still not good enough to be able to have effortless conversations, which means I must keep pressing on.
I’ve found learning languages to be a very dynamic process. Each language has its own way of expressing itself, Some are very clear, cut and use short, direct words, as I have found to be the case with Chinese. Others are more vague, longwinded, or emphasize particular things, such as Japanese having a verb ending that signals the completion of something. Regardless, learning a new language will definitely bestow you with a new way of looking at the world. Here I want to share 4 things to keep in mind that have radically helped me when learning languages.
1. Spend sometime understanding the aspects of the language you are about to learn. Specifically try to focus on sentence structure and how meaning is added to the sentence. For example, German is very similar to English, it is subject-verb-object (sometimes its gets mumbled up, but for the most part it is), is preposition heavy and is written in the same scripture, which makes it significantly easier to learn than say Japanese or Chinese. But German is also high agglunative, which means it building meaning by joining words together. German also has an emphasis on cases and gender that is not present in English.
This might seem obvious, but it is very rarely done. Before you embark on the journey of learning a language and learning detailed grammar rules for a specific cases focus on things such as how nouns relate in the sentence, where conjugation happens, and how important is it. A good exercise is usually to get sentences with varying structure and translate them into your target language, something tim ferris suggests in the 4-hour-chef. Exercises like this allow you to find the pattern that will most likely hold true in 80%+ of all sentences. This is makes for a very solid foundation that would otherwise take weeks if one were just frantically reviewing, and learning step by step, instead focus on what the majority of sentences look like, dissect the key elements, and apply them.
2. Find and use a handful of excellent resources at a time; get involved in online communities. The most important thing to keep in mind when one is beginning to learn a language is to find high-quality resources. Find online communities for your target language by googling something like “learn german forum” and see what people are saying, which books their recommending etc. Another good way to find solid resources is to go on Amazon see which books in your target language have good reviews/sales. When I started learning my first foreign language, Japanese, I bought 4-5 books on Japanese, enrolled in two podcasts, had various decks in my flash card program, ranging from beginner to advanced, and used 4 different websites. This was a HORRIBLE idea. Not only was grammar, and vocabulary introduced at different times in each book, but managing progress was very hard, with notes in one book, flash cards, on my computer, and trying to juggle which activity I should do next.