Ego And Why To Control It

Have you ever had a time where you completely ignore the advice someone gives you because you think you know better? Or maybe you get in an argument which damages your relationship with someone and you wait indefinitely for the other person to apologize to you first? Maybe you refuse to do something you know you should because you are worried you won’t do it well and will look stupid.

 

These are some examples of how ego can control us. We think our ego is there to protect us, but really it usually serves as more of a hindrance. We overestimate ourselves and ultimately kick ourselves for it later (although we wouldn’t dare admit that to anyone). Why do we need to control it?

 

Rational Irrationality?

Most of the time when we look at how the ego controls us, it does so in a way that appears so stupid, but while we are under it’s spell, it’s normal to us. The ego contorts our image of reality with one that in any other case would seem ludicrous to us. A simple comment from someone appears to be an insult. Someone doing a normal every day thing becomes someone scheming against us. It’s like paranoia kicks in. Until we get out of our heads we are adding extra meaning to things that we shouldn’t be. In the examples I give, you’ll see how some of this plays out.

 

We Don’t Know Everything

No one knows everything. Sometimes someone tells us what we should do and we automatically assume the person is an idiot and doesn’t know what they are doing. “They are challenging my knowledge. They think I don’t know what I’m doing but I know more than that ^&%$&” we think to ourselves. This is an unhealthy way of thinking as it prevents us from being open to receiving criticism. When people criticize us, it can hurt. It’s not fun hearing someone tell you how you screwed up. While not all criticism is constructive, it is necessary to keep an open mind when people point out our weaknesses. After all, this is how we can improve. Being open to criticism allows us to see things that we otherwise would be blind to had someone not pointed it out to us.

 

Ego Gets Between Our Relationships

Ego can prevent us from having healthy relationships. We might come across someone that is a jack of all trades, causing us to feel insecure about our own skills. This can lead us to thinking that person doesn’t like us and just wants to cause problems for us. Often times, we might excel in a skill that the other person is lacking, causing them to feel insecure in front of us, giving them the same impression we have of them. Tension can arise as a result.

 

Maybe it has nothing to do with being insecure. It could just be a stupid argument that has left both sides refusing to talk to each other. Both sides feel like they have been wronged. Both waiting for the other side to apologize. After all, it was the other person’s fault, right? We want the other person to come up to us and tell us they were wrong because we want to feel like we were right. Apologizing feels like admitting to the other side that we messed up. The reality is often that both parties messed up.

 

Allowing ego to get in the way for these reasons is just stupid. Yeah, your ego feels threatened by the guy that has all these cool skills and experiences, who cares? Talk to him about them. Let him know you think it’s cool he could do that. Be genuine. Be the bigger person and apologize first to whomever you are mad at. Not only does tension go away, but sometimes this is where real friendships can be built. Maybe the other person will react coldly to you. That’s okay. You can still walk away knowing you tried. You put the ball in their court.

 

There’s the times when we don’t do something for fear of looking stupid. We have this image of ourselves in our heads that we want everyone else to have about us. Doing something we aren’t good at, especially in front of a bunch of people, can feel embarrassing, can eat away at that image of ourselves we try so hard to protect. Maybe it’s approaching a cute girl or guy. We see that person and worry they won’t think we are good enough. If they reject us, surely others will see and then everyone will laugh at us, and we can’t have that can we?

 

The thing is, everyone looks stupid at some point. Everyone is human and has their own insecurities. Something that seems normal to you terrifies someone else, and vice versa. Yet we rationalize to ourselves that the hard thing is somehow more difficult for us than it is for others. Our perception and ego betrays us. Are we really going to allow our worry of what other people think about us affect our lives? We only have one life. Why waste it in fear of what others think? The one opportunity we have to do what we want to do and we throw it away because of people we don’t even care about beyond the next two minutes. What is that one opportunity completely changes everything for you? You never know unless you just do it.

 

There’s lots of ways that ego affects us. Regardless of how it creeps in to our lives, we need to make sure we keep it under control. It’s vital to our success that we do so. We don’t have anything to benefit from by letting it run amok. It just prevents us from having more opportunities. So now that we know we need to control it, how do we? This is something we will look at next time.

 

When has ego prevented you from growing?

 

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Anyone that has talked with a group of native speakers in their L2 probably knows the feeling of being completely lost. All the vocab you don’t understand, weird grammar, slang, etc. Especially if you have been learning the language for a while, this can still be very discouraging. How are we ever going to be able to talk with natives at a decent level?
Maybe you’re reading a book in the L2. You look up every word you don’t know.  After 45 minutes you have read a grand total of… half a page. Great way to kill motivation right? Since it took you so long to finish the page, you already forgot the words you looked up at the beginning of the page. At this rate you will finish the book next year.
Sometimes we forget that we need to make small steps in order to improve. If we take too big of a leap in level, we sometimes end up hindering our progress. We aren’t ready yet for that much or that difficult material. It could be maybe that we don’t have enough time to maintain that kind of schedule needed to learn so much. This is fine. We only need to adjust the materials we use.
Do enough to challenge you. If you stay in your comfort zone, you won’t make any improvements. but make sure you pick a realistic goal.
It’s like when you lift weights: lift the same amount of weight each time and you won’t get stronger. Lift too much, and you’ll hurt yourself and have to spend more time recovering. In language learning, that means get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Going too much out of your depth though won’t allow you to learn effectively, and may cause burn out and lack of motivation, which again is wasted time.
Compare the following.
Person A only speaks one on one with native speakers. So when the natives talk to him, they talk in much simpler words, talk slower and use less slang. After a while person A has little difficulty talking to natives one on one. What’s going to happen now if he meets a group of natives? Most likely not what he had hoped. Probably he will be stunned to see how little he still understands.  All that one on one practice helped him a bit, but it didn’t teach him the slang commonly used, it didn’t challenge his listening by giving him more natural conversation. He essentially jumped from training wheels to a unicycle.
Person B decides to do the opposite: he only hangs out with groups of natives. He knows it will be hard at first, but he thinks he eventually will build up to his friends’ level. So he tries to listen, asks his friends to explain the conversation to him, and keeps listening. Sometimes he says things that make no sense in context, but this is due to his lack of understanding what people are saying. Eventually his friends get tired of stopping the conversation because person B doesn’t understand. They just want to chat, not give a grammar lesson every five minutes. Eventually person B just gives up paying attention.
As you can see, both processes need some work. Person A just sticks with what feels comfortable while person B jumped in the deep zone before he could swim.
Note: both of these processes can work, but are not very efficient. You’ll waste time sticking solely with one of these two methods. Of course, as I’ve stated before,  everyone has their own learning styles, so it is possible that one of these two approaches can help you quickly, but very rarely have I seen that happen.
How can we go in the middle?
Person C decides she wants to start off talking to one native at a time. Eventually went that gets easier, she decides to have two natives talk with her. This way there is a mix between natural conversation between the natives and easier conversation when they talk to her. Each time gets a bit harder, but it’s still easy enough where Person C won’t want to give up. Once person C got used to two natives, she can up the number of natives as she sees fit. Sometimes that’s what you have to do.
Same thing with reading a book. You need a book where you are looking up some words each page, not every other word. The more pages you can read, the more of a sense of accomplishment you have. If you can keep getting that sense of accomplishment, you will want to keep doing more, and thus you will achieve more. But if you can barely get through a page a day, you will give up before you know it.
Is it easy to find this balance? Not always, but after a while, you will get a feel for where you are and what is enough of a challenge for you (note my post on knowing yourself).
Don’t sweat it too much, because either way, you are still learning, and that’s the part that matters the most.
When have you felt out of your depth using your L2?

What Do You Spend Time With?

(On learning math) “If this was a beautiful young woman or a handsome young man, then all of you would want to get to know her/him. And how do we get to know someone better? We spend time with them. Learning math is the same way. If you want to learn more about math, you have to spend time with it. When you’re eating dinner, spend time looking over it; during commercial breaks of your TV show, spend time with math; you have a few free moments, spend more time with it. That’s how you are going to learn math.”

-My math teacher

 

 

That quote was from my senior year pre-calculus teacher. Now I’ll admit, I am horrible at math. Geometry was easy for me, but anything algebra or calculus related was not. Usually I would end up getting Cs. If I was lucky, a B. I was determined that year to get better grades in math. But how? Luckily for me, my math teacher gave the class this quote (along with many other quotes) near the beginning of the year. I decided that the advice made sense and so I would try to spend more time with math.

 

I am not kidding when I say that I spent at least an hour everyday studying math. It wasn’t fun, but how was I going to learn it if I didn’t study? Did I become amazing at math? No, but I was making B’s and A’s, a stellar contrast to the D which I received in math the year before.

 

We all have things we want to do. Big hopes and dreams for the future. Maybe we want to lose weight. Maybe we want to get better at our finances. Maybe we want to take on a new skill. After making all these plans and getting excited, real life comes our way. After all, who’s going to cook dinner for us? Who’s going to clean up after making dinner? By the time we get through the daily to do’s, we are usually exhausted. The last thing we want to do is try to take on a new task or skill. Besides, we can start tomorrow right?

 

Too Tired to Do What?

If we don’t start taking time to achieve our goals how will we ever do them? We are tired after a long day, yet no one has any problem going out to a bar with friends and staying out late, even if it makes them feel worse the next day. For some reason this is a much easier choice than doing what we should be doing, even if the next day we are kicking ourselves for staying out so late. Even if you are going to go out, what’s stopping you from first taking 30-60 minutes to work on your goals and then going to the bar? If you’re “tired” but still have the energy to spend time partying with friends, you have the energy to first spend time working on your goals.

 

Where Are Your Hours Going?

Look at how much time you actually spend each week doing things that don’t allow you to become the best you can be. I’m sure you have a friend that spends so much time watching TV shows each week that they know dozens of shows, look into all the “theory” of why characters do what they do, etc. This friend knows all this because they spend a lot of time with TV shows. Imagine if those 20 hours every week was turned into learning how to design apps or websites. That friend would know all the ins and outs of app/web design just like they know all the ins and outs of a bunch of different TV shows.

 

Now I’m not saying that you can’t do anything that’s fun and relaxing. I myself have a TV show that I enjoy watching. I watch it while I work out just so that I save time, but still, that’s only one hour a week. So I’m asking: what do you spend the majority of your time with?

 

Speak Faster With Sentence Patterns

I realize I’m late for this post. I’ve been a little sick recently, so I completely forgot about getting the post out earlier. Here it is now.

When we first start learning a language, we want to be able to speak NOW. We don’t want to have to wait to learn a bunch of boring grammar rules and then try to remember all them when we do go to speak. So how can we quickly and efficiently solve this problem? Sentence patterns!

 

The idea behind it is very simple: by learning a pattern, you can learn some of the basic grammar, vocab, as well as putting it all together. One of the hardest aspects when starting out learning a language is constructing your own sentences. By learning sentence patterns, you can be sure that the sentences you use are correct each time you go to speak.

 

Let me give you an example. If we want to learn how to ask where something is in Japanese, we say it like…. “________ wa doko desu ka.” The grammar is literally “____ where is?” So to practice this now, you need to practice asking where things are.

 

Let me show you how I do it. Start off with the pattern in your mother tongue.

 

Where is the bathroom? (My car, John, the restaurant)

 

 

Now we have to do some translation. Before we worry about the underlined part and the parenthesis, let’s first focus on the sentence and get it into Japanese. (I’m using the Romanized version here the make it simpler, but you would actually want to put it in the Japanese script).

 

Toire wa doko desu ka?

 

There we go.

Now you see, I have the bathroom underlined and then a couple words in parenthesis. This is because we will switch out the underlined words with the words in parenthesis to make more sentences.

 

Where is the bathroom? (My car, John, the restaurant)

Toire wa doko desu ka?

Watashi no kuruma wa doko desu ka?

Jon wa doko desu ka?

Resutoran wa doko desu ka?

 

In total, we have four sentences to help us practice asking where things are in Japanese. After writing these out, you will want to check with a native speaker to make sure you wrote them out correctly. Afterwards you will want to say the sentences to the native speaker to check your pronunciation. If you can get a recording of how you should say everything, even better. Some languages aren’t spoken like they are written, so it would be helpful go have audio in these cases.  Now you are done with the first part.

 

The second part is to practice. The end goal is to be able to look only at the English and spit out the sentences quickly and fluently. Doing so will train you to be able to say the sentences instinctively. That means looking at the English sentence and then then saying the Japanese. Next, still looking at the English say the sentence in Japanese subbing out the underlined word in parenthesis. Continue until all the sentences are done.

Now if you get creative with this, you can actually get a lot of variations off this. The example I provided was simple to get the point across, but I have come up with some pretty complicated ways to practice patterns. One thing you can do is turn all the statements into questions and questions into statements. You can also change the verb tenses for all the sentences. Your imagination is the only limit you have.

Happy speaking!

What challenges do you face when trying to speak in another language?

Teaching English In Taiwan: Money

How much money can I make teaching English in Taiwan? How much do things usually cost over there? Would I still be able to save money? These are some common questions that people have when thinking about coming to Taiwan to teach English. A while ago I wrote a basic overview of teaching English in Taiwan. Today, I will go more in depth to talk about the money side of things.

 

When talking about pay, I have to mention I live in Kaohsiung, which is in the southern part of Taiwan. The rates may be different in Taipei, I’m just not sure of them. I do know that things in general cost a lot more in Taipei.

 

What You Can Expect For Pay

Alright, so let’s take a look at typical salaries. Since I’m from America, I’m going to compare everything to USD.

So most English teaching jobs in Taiwan for foreigners are paid with an hourly wage. The usual wage for teaching is 600NTD/hour, which at the current moment is about $20USD. Most people work about 20-28 hours a week, so you’ll earn about 48,000NTD-67,000NTD per month. Making about 50,000NTD a month is typically all you need for comfortable living (note: the maximum legal hours foreigners can work in a cram school are 32 hours a week. Most schools do not reach this many hours even if you ask them to. You’ll have to do tutoring on the side if you want to earn more). Now how far does the money go? Let’s break down some common things people might buy.

Now some people might go out and get a TEFL certification and think it will give them a higher starting pay. Just from my own experience, a TEFL is only useful for making yourself look slightly more credible than other teachers, but will not boost your pay. In order for me to get my job with a resident visa, I had to take a pay cut.  I’m still undecided about if a TEFL is actually useful over here.

 

Apartment rent: 7,500NTD-20,000NTD depending on how big, new, near a metro station, kitchen(less), etc

Street Food meal: 60-150NTD

Beer at a bar: 150NTD-300NTD

Cocktail: 180NTD-500NTD

Three bananas from a grocery store: about 100NTD

Two chicken breasts at grocery store: 70NTD

One way trip on the metro: 25NTD-60NTD (60 is more like traveling from one end to the other)

A sandwich from 7-11: about 45NTD

Minimum taxi fare: 85NTD (a half an hour trip cost me about 300NTD)

One month internet: about 1000NTD

Doctor’s visit with insurance: about 150-300NTD (depending on the type of doctor)

ATM transaction fee: about 15NTD

 

Don’t Forget Taxes!

Luckily the prices you see in Taiwan already include tax (we don’t include tax in the price in America), but I wasn’t referring to sales tax. I was talking about income tax. In Taiwan, foreigners pay 18% tax. This covers things like healthcare. If you stay in Taiwan longer than 183 days, you only have to pay 5%. Meaning that when tax time comes, you get 13% of the taxes you paid as a refund, which is very nice.

 

Now for any Americans thinking about coming here, you still have to pay American income tax on everything you earn here. Basically, you have to pay taxes to two different countries. It sucks but you need to prepare for it. I think the only way out is if you haven’t set foot in the US for over 13 months. I’m not entirely sure, so make sure to double check everything before you decide not to pay/file. I’m not sure if people from other countries have to deal with this though.

 

Odd Scheduling

One thing that’s important to note for people in cram schools is that the schedule is usually not set in stone. I had one school change the schedule on me every week, so I never knew how many hours I would be working. Another school canceled classes without telling me until I was in the cram school. In six months at my current school, my schedule has changed three times. It can be frustrating because you get an apartment thinking you will earn a certain amount of money and then you get your hours cut in half for a month (which happened to me right when I was moving to a new place). The winter time at my current school had most teachers working around 15-20 hours a week, which while livable, it becomes problematic for anyone that lives in a more expensive area. Recently, there have been several teachers with reduced hours the past month. The point being, your hours will be up and down. As long as you save some money for times where you get hours cut, you should be fine.

 

Overall, if you make 55,000NTD/month after taxes, you can still very easily pay for all your living expenses, have a decent social life, and still put away 20,000NTD each month. Taiwan is very affordable, especially considering opportunities doing subbing work and tutoring.

 

If anyone has any questions in particular about teaching English in Taiwan, please write them in the comments.

 

Why Making Mistakes Is Good For Learning A Language

When it comes to people that make progress in language learning and those who don’t, there is one thing that usually determines which side of the fence one falls on: using the language. After tutoring and teaching students foreign languages, I noticed this pattern of usage and progress. Now it sounds obvious right? After all, you can’t learn to play piano by reading books on piano, you actually have to practice playing piano. Language learning must be the same. However, most people don’t stick with this idea in practice.

 

When I ask people why they don’t use their target language as much as they could, usually the answer I receive is along the lines of “My [insert language] isn’t good enough,” “I’m not ready yet,” “I don’t know how to say what I want to say,” “Others are going to think I sound stupid,” etc. We worry about not looking good in front of others, waiting for the day where we can bust out fluent sentences without any problems at all. After all, isn’t it embarrassing when you trip up speaking a foreign language or forget what word you wanted to use? Guess what? You do it in your native tongue. For some reason, we only care about the mistakes we make speaking a foreign language. I’ve heard Taiwanese speakers trip up Chinese sentences and forget words here and there (I’ve even corrected some of my Taiwanese student’s Chinese before) and I myself makes mistakes speaking English. It’s just natural, yet it prevents us from wanting to try, which hold us back even more.

 

See, making mistakes is actually a good thing for you. I say there are two main kinds of mistakes: comprehensible and incomprehensible. Sometimes when we talk, we make a slight mistake in grammar, but we are still understood. Again, no reason to fret over it because you still got your point across (which is the whole goal of language in the first place). Perfect grammar? Maybe not, but you at least found the bathroom, museum or managed to order that fried rice or whatever else you were trying to do.

 

Oddly enough, the mistakes that help us the most are the ones where we aren’t understood. Yeah, like the ones where you say something and everyone looks at you like you have seven heads. That feeling of idiocy is good, so enjoy it. Why? Because you will soon know what not to say. Usually at this point, you keep trying to explain your idea in several ways until someone understands you and then helps you say it the correct way and boom, you just learned how to make a sentence like a native.

 

Think about it, most comprehensible mistakes usually go uncorrected. So you could be making tons of mistakes without realizing it, yet you don’t feel bad because no one points it out. Unfortunately, this does not help your progress (other than provide speaking practice). Incomprehensible mistakes stop the conversation entirely, so in order to continue, you have to learn how to convey your idea in a comprehensible way, and then can learn the proper way to say the sentence.

 

So don’t view each mistake you make as a failure. See each mistake as yet another progress point in your goal of learning a language. And who knows, sometimes funny things happen because of mistakes we make.

 

When has making a mistake ultimately helped you learn more?

 

 

Focus On The Things You Can Change

I have to admit, I can get frustrated easily. Not necessarily when there’s a slew of bad things happening to me at once. That’s okay. I get frustrated when there’s a problem with a simple solution, or a problem that’s really important and people don’t attack it because of laziness or just plain stupidity. For me, the place where I constantly put up with this is at work.

 

I come across a mistake in a test, teaching material, etc, and I point it out to the manager. She thanks me for letting her know. Fast forward a couple months, I’m teaching the same level. I go over the same test I went over months ago and find the same mistakes unchanged. Again, I inform the manager and this time tell her that I’ll fix it, she just has to help pull up the file because I don’t have access to it. The response? I’m not allowed to because that’s not my job. Brilliant. The school tells us we are losing students and need to find ways of keeping them, yet do nothing when tons of students complain about mistakes in the books and tests, instead thinking adding a projector in each room will help solve the problem.

 

Accept What You Can’t Change

As frustrated as I get thinking about it, I stop for a moment and relax. I can’t change the lack of knowledge or initiative in the managers. I already tried. So then what can I do? Well, I can make sure I keep track of the materials that have mistakes and inform the kids of the mistakes. I can also make sure that I bring the highest level of teaching to my students that I can. Since the books don’t do a good job, I have to step up my own game.

 

To note, this does not just mean I throw away my own initiative. When the opportunity arises to do more, I still try to do it. Every time a mistake happens, I still ask to fix it. Just now, even if I can’t change it, I don’t fret over it. I just focus on what I can do.

 

What Are You Going to Do?

I take this from the stoics. The idea is essentially “Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Only focus on what you can control.” Funny enough, my dad had a saying about this: You are walking along a path, when all of a sudden, a giant boulder appears in your way. Now what are you doing to do? You can either get mad and beat your head against the boulder, or you can accept that the boulder is in your path and walk around it. The choice is yours.

 

There are a lot of things that happen in life that we have no control over. We just have to accept them. Think about it. Isn’t it more productive to just accept what happened and then find out what you can do about it? Why waste the small amount of time we have on Earth freaking out over what happens when you can use what happened as knowledge for you to plan your next move?

 

Find the Good

Sometimes it helps to see the silver lining. For me personally, I sometimes view it as a challenge. Teaching English? Too easy. Let’s see how well we can do if the teaching materials are flawed. That makes things more interesting. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Now you know what to expect and can get better accordingly. Running late for work because of traffic? Now you know what time not to leave at.

 

By looking at things in this way, we see the opportunity and good that comes out of each difficult situation. Practice this each time something difficult arises and soon you’ll realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Sometimes it’s in these tough situations where we learn and grow the most.

 

So the next time something bad happens or something doesn’t go the way you want, stop. Breathe. You didn’t get the desired outcome. It happens. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t get mad. Find out what the next steps are, and then do those. It’ll save you time and energy in the long run.

 

When have you found opportunity in a bad/difficult situation?

When Natives Only Speak English

The other day, I came across a question by an expat that lives in Taiwan saying how hard it is to get other Taiwanese people to talk to him in Chinese. He said wherever he goes, Taiwanese people always speak to him in English. Of course, he wanted to speak to them in Chinese, as well as wanted them to talk back to him in Chinese. His Chinese, from what it sounded, was still pretty basic, and he wanted to know what he should do to solve the problem.

 

Now for myself, I’ve run into this problem a lot. I go into conveniences stores and the clerks, if they have any English ability, talk to me in English. I’ve even had Taiwanese people try to become friends with me, only to have them leave because I spoke too much Chinese to them. Basically, they wanted free English lessons off of me.

 

I know how frustrating it can be when you are first learning a language, and you feel self-conscious about everything you’re saying. Despite this, you still muster up the courage to go talk to a native in their mother tongue, only to have them respond to you in English. When I first came to Taiwan, this problem was very common for me. Now, it’s something that still happens from time to time, but at a much lesser rate. There are a couple of reasons why this happens and why we shouldn’t be upset if it does happen.

 

Which Language is the Easiest for Comprehension?

When I first came to Taiwan, I understood close to nothing that the Taiwanese were telling me. This lack in understanding made it easier for the language of conversation to be English. Even if they didn’t exactly know how to convey the idea, it still was a lot easier for them to use English. In my own experience, it is much easier for native English speakers to understand butchered English than it is for native Chinese speakers to understand butchered Chinese. To make things worse, in Taiwan, there’s a stereotype that foreigners can’t speak Chinese at all, so every time a Taiwanese comes across a foreigner, they automatically try to use English.

 

The goal then becomes to make your conversation partner believe that the conversation will be easier in their native language.

 

Who Has the Strongest Ability?

Flash forward several months and now I’m at the airport. I’m going through customs to enter into Taiwan. I was in the normal visitor line because I was unaware that there was an expedited line for people with resident visas (Yeah I should’ve known. I live abroad, but I haven’t traveled much outside Taiwan). So, when I finally got to the counter, the lady asked me in English for my passport and for an immigration form they gave us on the plane. I told her in Chinese that I had a resident visa and asked if she needed it. She then told me yes, again in English. After doing the paperwork, she looked me in a nervous way, and then asked in Chinese if I spoke Chinese (they always ask foreigners this if the foreigner uses a little Chinese). When I said yes, she gave a sigh of relief and explained to me that people with resident visas could get into another line (which I originally confused with an EZ pass self-check-in kind of line). The funny thing though, was how  relieved she seemed to be when I told her I could speak Chinese before she explained all that to me. Others are just as nervous to use a foreign language as we are. After a long day of work, and trying to make sure they are understood, people will take the easier route of speaking their native tongue if you give them reason to believe it will be easier.

 

Some People Just Want to Practice.

Some people, regardless of how well they know you speak the language, will just want to practice speaking to you in English. In this case, there’s nothing you can do. The most practice you’ll get is just speaking practice. That’s fine though. Just keep talking. Remember, especially if you live in a foreign country, not everyone sees a native speaker of English every day, so when they do, it’s a chance for them to practice speaking English. They are essentially doing what you want to do.

 

Is there a chance that you’ll lose friends if you only speak your target language? Heck yeah. I’ve had a lot if Taiwanese friends stop talking to me because I mostly use Chinese. Now, I won’t ditch my own friends because of the language they choose to speak, but I try to find friends that can’t speak English. This way I know they want to talk to me for me, not for English. So my friends want to hang out with me because they like me and I hangout with my friends because I like them. Can language conversation partners make good friends? Yes, I’ve had that happen plenty of times. I just don’t recommend picking a friend simply because they speak a certain language. A shared language can help strengthen friendship, but it shouldn’t be the basis of it.

I hope this gave some insight to anyone that may have this problem. You just need to improve your own language abilities and not worry too much if people talk to you in English. Eventually, there reaches a point where one language is easier for discussing some topics than another language. It’s a good reason for you to expand your vocab and well was what subjects you can discuss. Happy speaking!

What do you do if natives only talk to you in your mother tongue?

Why I Read Everyday

I’ve mentioned before that habits are very important in order to have success in whatever we do. Not only is it important to have habits that help us get done what we need to get done, but there is another type of habit we must make sure we have: the habit of improving ourselves. We want to make sure we become the best version of ourselves possible as quickly as possible. What’s one simple way to do this? Read.

 

Now I know there’s a lot of types of things that people can read, such as online articles, but I noticed most articles don’t go that in-depth. For this reason (which will be explained later), the reading that I am talking about is book reading.

 

Learn From Someone Else

Reading is a great way to get more information. Each book offers insight into the author’s own thought process and experience. Often times, these tidbits of information in each book are incredibly useful and serve as a shortcut to success for us. We don’t have to make the same mistakes other people did; we can read what happened to them and thus make more informed decisions ourselves. By seeing a person’s experience as an outsider, we can find out how to be successful in a similar vein. We not only see what worked and what didn’t, but also how to tweak some processes to improve success or reduce failure. Think about it. Saving time and money by listening to (read: reading) someone else’s experience? I know I’d rather do that.

 

Expand Your Thinking

Reading also expands our thinking. Seeing how someone else thinks or an insight in a book can get the gears in our heads turning in a way they haven’t before, which in turn can help us figure out a problem that might have been bothering us, or even help us approach tasks in a new way. Sometimes it just adds another tool in the toolbox that will be useful in the future. It’s like giving your brain an update: faster and more productive.

 

Knowledge Carries Over

A lot of knowledge is interconnected. I’ve had a book on philosophy help shape my teaching methodology in class. I’ve had a marriage counseling book help refine my own learning strategies. Some management books have carried over to controlling kids in class. The more you read, and the more knowledge you gain. You slowly overtime see some patterns in what you read. Eventually, you will reach a point where something you read gives insight to a problem that is seemingly completely unrelated. So don’t immediately dismiss a book just because you aren’t 100% sure it’ll be useful to you. Chances are, down the line it will.

 

Stay Motivated

Another benefit we get from reading is that it can help us stay productive and motivated. Maybe it’s just me, but after I read a book on getting things done, or a book that gives me greater understanding of a problem I’m facing in life, I feel pumped and ready to take on the day. It’s as if you have daily exposure to a coach telling you to keep moving forward. Just like they say you are the average of the five people you hangout with most, I think a book can act like a person in this way. Think about it. Reading a book is essentially having someone tell you something. While yes, the book is a one way dialogue that can’t respond to you, you can still think about what the book said and make your own opinions about what you read. Going through this process at least 30 minutes a day gives you 3.5 hours a week of “conversation,” not even including if you take time to discuss what you read with someone else.

 

I know for myself if I go for a couple weeks without reading, I don’t have as much motivation. Without reading I lose that daily “friend” cheering me on to do more. Which is why I also press for reading books vs articles online. Sure, both are useful, but for me, just having the longer length of a book as well as the usual deeper level discussion of ideas in books helps me internalize the material better. So whereas an article online might give me 5 minutes of reading time and thus not much exposure to the idea (meaning everything I read will not stick as long), a book provides hours of exposure to the topics within which ensures that I have a greater understanding of the ideas. This greater understanding and prolonged exposure helps these ideas stay in my head and become a part of my thinking. With online articles, I have to find a really thought provoking post in order to get a similar effect. Think about like cliff notes: when you read the cliff notes, you know what happened, but don’t have a good understanding as to why. Thus you forget the information much faster than if you read the book.

 

What Should We Read? 

So then what types of books should we read? Honestly, this is depends on the person. Read what interests you. Read about subjects you enjoy and slowly expand from there. Try something new every so often. As for what I do, I read whatever catches my eye. Often times, I see a book, think to myself “this could be useful one day” and then buy it. I’ve read marketing books, self-help, management/leadership, psychology, philosophy, economics, personal finance and even marriage counseling (I’m not married, but you never know when something like that might be useful). Why do I read such a wide range? Like I stated before, gaining knowledge in one area of your life can help you in a totally different area. Maybe the knowledge isn’t applicable right now, but you never know when you’ll need it. I’ve gone back to almost all of my books at one time or another.

What books have either helped you grow as a person or solve a problem you were facing?

 

Can A Foreign BF/GF Help You Learn A Language?

I’ve been recently asked by a couple of my Taiwanese friends if they think having a Taiwanese girlfriend was the main reason I learned Chinese. These friends also happened to be the ones having a hard time studying English and thought maybe a foreign bf/gf would help them. After all, if you are dating someone who speaks your target language, you can always speak to them in another language, ask them questions, and they’ll always be so happy to help you, right? It must be a fantastic way to learn another language. However, this isn’t always the case. For anyone thinking of getting a significant other that can speak a language you want to learn, I offer you my thoughts.

 

Before going any further though, I’ll start of by saying that the majority of the foreign languages I’ve learned were learned without having a girlfriend that spoke the language. So, for anyone looking for a straight answer, learning another language is just as hard dating someone as it is without dating.

 

 

Lots of People Have Foreign Bfs/Gfs.

I’ve met several Westerners in Taiwan dating a Taiwanese. Surprisingly (to me at least), most of the relationships involve the Taiwanese person speaking English with a Westerner that can barely speak Chinese. What’s also interesting is that the Taiwanese usually had a high level of English before dating the Westerner.  Most Taiwanese have had exposure to English for a long time, since being a kid in elementary school. Plus, they have constantly had the idea of “English provides a better job” idea hammered into their head. They have a lot of motivation to learn English.

 

Either way, what we end up with is a Westerner who didn’t learn Chinese and a Taiwanese who learned English outside of their lover. So clearly having a significant other doesn’t make much of a difference. There is an advantage to a foreign bf/gf though if you know how to take it.

 

 

More Opportunities.

Having a Taiwanese girlfriend has helped give me tons of opportunities to practice Chinese. It’s like having a friend that always wants to talk to you. Not only do I text her a lot but I also see her on the weekends. So, I pretty much get a solid 48 hours of practice time. That’s a lot of talking.

 

I also meet her friends and family, who in turn mostly use Chinese, meaning that I have more contacts to talk to, which turns into more practice. It adds up very quickly.

 

Now of course just having a lot of Taiwanese friends can give me the same opportunities to talk to a lot of people in Chinese. So, I wouldn’t need to rely on a girlfriend to practice speaking.

 

A Walking Dictionary?

Some people think having a girlfriend is like having a walking dictionary. I can say one thing for sure, while a significant other may have more patience for correcting your blunders than a friend might, they will still have their own limit. While in context you can ask questions that make sense, but if you keep forgetting what they teach you, you will annoy them. I learned this the hard way. Like I mentioned in a previous post, just talking won’t help. You also need to pay attention to the corrections and words being told to you.

 

Battle of the Languages

Just like talking to some natives can cause a battle between which language you will talk in, you can have that same dynamic in a relationship. Sometimes both parties want to practice the other’s language. This can be a problem for someone wanting to practice speaking, as then you end up just using your native language instead of practicing your target language. The one with the strongest will wins.

 

Some people I know have a schedule when they use certain languages. One person I know speaks Chinese with his wife Monday through Friday, only speaking English on the weekends. Some people switch daily. Maybe you just speak whatever language you feel like speaking.  It’s all up to you.

 

Date Someone that Can’t Speak Your Native Language.

Now one way to avoid the problem of which language to speak is by dating someone that can’t speak your native language. Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to pull this off. However, this comes with its own set of problems, primarily for your relationship.

 

If your speaking and listening levels aren’t that good, or you are just overall new to the language, you will have a hard time communicating to your significant other. It’s easy for you to have the normal small talk you’ve had 500 times with other people. Anything more than that though, and you soon find yourself out of your depth speaking your target language. While this can be a great opportunity for you to learn more and improve, there will be times where the last thing you want to do is use the language, but you have to. You have to because your girlfriend is mad at you for being late for a date because you misunderstood where you were meeting/the time/not doing X errand/etc. Trying to argue with someone who can barely understand you or whom you barely understand is a great first step towards future relationship problems. Not always the most fun. Learn quickly though, and this is no longer a problem. (You will still have misunderstandings at times. It’s just natural)

 

So Should You Find a Foreign Gf/Bf?

Now would I recommend you get a significant other just for practicing a foreign language?  No. Get a language exchange buddy for that. Don’t date someone just cause they speak a language you want to learn. It’s not a good idea.

 

In conclusion, while having a foreign significant other can help with learning a language. It does not offer anything you can’t get having several friends that speak the target language. In some ways, it can actually make things more difficult. It all depends on how you interact in your relationship. So, don’t worry, you don’t need to find some foreign dude/gal to help you learn that language.

 

Do you think it’s easier to learn a language with a foreign significant other?