Archive for January, 2013

15
Jan
13

What they don’t tell you that could help you learn a language

When you wonder why you have difficulty learning a foreign language, before you beat up on yourself, consider this: a lot of language learning programs are not just stuck in the 20th century, but they might even be in the Middle Ages.  Try some of these techniques and let me know how you get on:

1.  Listen.  Before you try to talk, listen–a lot.  The first thing you want to do is to learn how to hear the music of the language.  Just sit back, relax, listen, and let it roll into your ears.  Have fun with it.  Notice the funny sounds.  Listen for about ten minutes every day for a week.  See if you can pick out your target language from other languages.  Listen to a two minute recording over and over again.  See what works for you.

2.  Get movies in your target language with English subtitles.  Maybe some of the foreign films from the Academy Award nominations will help you. Enjoy the movie.  Get to know the culture of your target language.   If you can get a dubbed version of your favorite TV show like Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, or The Office,  that helps too.

3.  If you want a tutor to help you, plan your own lessons.  What do you want to know how to say?  Do you want to know how to order at Starbucks? Write it down.  Give the list to your tutor.  Sometimes the best tutor is someone who knows your target language and will be willing to follow what you want.  Sometimes, the best tutors are the ones who had to painfully learn the language like you did. Their accent will be easier for you to understand.  A native speaker is good as you get further along.

4.  Don’t repeat what you hear.  Just learn to listen.  There is no rush to repeat.  Ask your tutor to teach you different commands to which you can respond–like the game “Simon Says.”  You only obey the commands without speaking.  It gets your body involved.  The language is real to you.  And you don’t have to say anything.  You just want to know how to start learning how to recognize words:  Close the window.  Open the door.  Can I have a glass of water please?  You don’t have to understand every word.  You succeed if you do what your tutor asked you to do.

5.  After you have listened to the language for a few weeks, have been able to fulfill requests, now you may want to talk.  But again, make sure that you have listened to what you want to say enough times.  Sometimes, you may need to slow it down.  Sometimes you may need to hear it many, many times–especially in the beginning.

6.  Do not repeat it aloud.  First, repeat your responses in your mind.  Don’t repeat them aloud until you are happy with what you hear in your head.  Each time you listen for it in your head, you are creating synapses which will help you be more successful when you say it aloud.  For instance, take a phrase that you want to learn how to say.  Listen to it three times at least.  Then listen and repeat it in your mind.  Do this three times.  Now you are ready to repeat it aloud–even if it is only to your golden retriever.  He’s very non-judgmental.

7.  Make sure that your tutor only corrects you if you cannot be understood–not if your articulation is not perfect.  You are just beginning.  Remember pronunciation is caught not taught.  It comes over a long period of time.  Be patient with yourself.

13
Jan
13

Steps to avoid the flu

There are some common sense steps you can take to help you avoid the flu.

1.  Get plenty of sleep.  Getting a good night’s sleep is the best way to keep your body’s immune system strong.  The flu season is not the time to pull all-nighters at work or at play.

2.  Eat right.  If you know how to use a computer, the internet, google, then you know how to eat right, right?  The flu season is not the time to have the chocolate cake.  Kill the sugar for now.  Don’t have the extra cup of coffee.  Try putting cinnamon in your coffee.  Choose fish instead of red meat for now–or at least chicken.

3.  Eat Indian food. This is the time to go vegetarian.  Order dahl.  It’s lentils.  All the spices in Indian food are good for your immune system and fight germs.  Eat yogurt, especially if it gets too spicy for you.

4. Eat yogurt and raw honey. This is the time to shell out and use raw honey.  Forget the sugar substitutes during flu season.  You need what is good for you.

5. Avoid alcohol.  Flu season is not the time to drink a lot, or at all.  Let your immune system get what it needs.

6.  Avoid stressors.  Stressors are as bad as anything.  Avoid people who stress you out if possible.  Be nice, but find excuses.  You can talk to them after the flu season.  Know what you can handle.  You don’t have to have a two-hour conversation with your girlfriend and hear how she broke up with her boyfriend for the fifth time if it really stresses you out.  You have permission to cut short the conversation with your mother-in-law, over-chatty or bombastic co-worker.

7.  Don’t overdo anything.  Flu season is not the time for extra exercise to get rid of what you ate during Christmas.  Yoga and stretching however are good.  Really avoid jogging outside in the cold.

8. Lemon zest.  This is just me.  But there is some research that indicates that the lemon peel might help against the flu.  I’d appreciate further comments on this.  But it can’t hurt.  Put some lemon zest in your tea, etc.  Use the juice too.

9. And garlic and onions.  Raw garlic is best.  Throw it in your soups at the last minute.  You can cook your onions.

10:  You can be creative with soups.  If you feel that it is too cold for salads, then do soups.  Just throw the vegetables you have into a pot of boiling water. In this way, you save all the vitamins that you usually throw down the drain.  Add chicken stock for flavor.  Add tomato puree for color.  Experiment with beans.  Once you got the soup you like, make lots of it so you don’t have to cook a lot.  People will think you are incredible.

11.  Minimize your use on the computer and tv.  Flu season isn’t the time for marathon video games, hours on Facebook and twittering about the flu.  It eats at your immune system.  Same for TV.  Radio is better.  Order some audio books.

12. Leave cyberspace and get to know your real neighbours.  If you get the flu, no matter how many friends you have on Facebook, they can’t help you.  Especially if you live alone, you may need some help.  Don’t wait until you are sick.  Get to know your neighbours now and make nice nice.  They don’t have to be your best friends, but try to work out an alliance.  Get to know the medical people who live around you–those who know how to fix things–those who have connections, etc.  If you have made good relationships in your neighbourhood, then you are living with less stress, and…well you get it.  Now if they are too chatty, bombastic, depressed, see number 6.