Tag Archives: language

The very very basics… Bonjour!

Classes are finally over and I get to live again. I get to learn all the things I want to learn during the entire summer and not the ones my textbooks impose on me. I get to start this summer with a clean slate.

Almost two months ago I decided to learn French for numerous reasons, but mostly because it has been a language I have always thought about but never really taken seriously. Now that I study literature and want to learn about the world, French appears to be everywhere. From the French names I can’t pronounce and the cuisine I’m unfamiliar with to the provinces and cities I have yet to explore in France. I have never been to Paris, and even though it seems to be on the top of everyone’s travel list, it’s not really on the top of mine. But it’s still there, because even if I’m not one of those true romantics, there’s still a certain magic that showers the city of love that I’m in love with.

That’s what I think about when I hear the language. French sounds like magic, it sounds like gloves holding a glass of cognac next to a gentleman with a mustache and a naked woman in a black and white image smoking a cigarette while  laying on top of her lover. French has a certain way of being silly and mysterious, It sounds like my next target.

I started the evening by typing “how to learn french” in Google, even though I’ve clearly learned throughout the years how to look for resources by picking up techniques for learning languages. I clicked on the Babbel site an started their basic lesson…

1. Bonjour!

2. Bienvenue!

3. Comment tu t’appelles?

4. Je suis Monica.

5. Ça va?

6. Bien, Merci.

From this lesson I learned that I’m going to be watching french films throughout the summer and that I’m going to start by focusing on how the language sounds. Once I get the phonetics right, everything else should be able to flow.

Bienvenue to my journey!

It’s time to learn French!

As I listen to “Je t’aime moi non plus” I realized that even though I don’t understand the lyrics, only the “Je t’aime” part of it, the tone explains a lot about the situation.

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French music is beautiful and it saddens me that I don’t understand what is being said in the songs. Besides this, when you study literature like I do, you encounter French everywhere and at some point I want to read the French classics in French and enjoy their literature as well. And how wonderful it would be to stroll down the streets of Paris talking to the locals in their native tongue. I know that French films have this sort of realistic, crude and artistic point of view and I want to understand them. So, because of all of this, I’ve decided that it’s time to learn French.

I remember that the first language I showed interest in learning was French. I was young an curious and loved to buy books at the Borders bookstore when they existed. I was 11 years old and I wanted to learn French. I already knew Spanish because it’s my native language and I learned English in school even though at the beginning I didn’t really like it.

So, my mom bought me a brand new Berlitz course that had just come out called “French Premier” and I went home and started the course. The course had 5 CD’s and it was a complete audio course. I don’t think I ever went past the first CD, I got bored at some point and put it aside.

Now, almost ten years later, I want to start again. It’s never too late, right? I still have that Berlitz course on my bookshelve always reminding me that some day I had to go back to French. Well, today is the day. There are much better resources now and the internet makes it really easy to learn languages, so there is no excuse.

I still remember a few greetings and phrases so I’ll start from there…

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Monica.

The first Saturday as a “Spaniard” (May 31, 2014)

We stayed out late last night and I realized after reading the last sentence of the last post, that the weekend is really just starting…

I woke up around 10-11am. The plan that day was to go to Madrid and either stay the night or come back really late. I think the latest we could come back was at around 2am because of the bus and train schedules.

I met up with some students from the program and while I was walking to the plaza I saw a wedding ceremony taking place. Well.. more like the dancing part of it. It was awesome!

After everyone goes home for lunch, it’s really hard to get back together to do something. Everyone has lunch at different hours and want to do different things. We tried for hours to plan what to do that day through Facebook messages but having a lot of people agree on what to do for one day is really not as easy as I thought.

I spent an hour sitting at the Mcdonald’s by the Plaza de Cervantes messaging back and forth to try to figure out what to do. (Mcdonald’s has Wi-Fi). I decided to walk around and get lost in this little city and that I did.

I got lost. And then I kept walking and I eventually found my way home.

We decided to go to “El Rastro” the morning after. A very popular open air flee market that they have every Sunday in Madrid.

After I went back home, I watched T.V. with my host family and realized that every American show was in Spanish and had a Spanish accent from Spain. It was the most hilarious event. Don’t get me wrong I laugh with the Simpsons, but hearing Marge telling Bart, “No me agobies que me he quedao viuda” made me laugh so much, even after the show was over. I had never enjoyed the Simpsons so much.

When you study abroad you enjoy everything a little bit more. You get impressed by the little things. You appreciate the every day.

A Puerto Rican in Israel…

My name is Roberto Rodriguez Calderon and I’m 19 years old. I live in Canovanas, Puerto Rico and I’m a third year B.A. student of psychology at the University of Puerto Rico in the town of Carolina. Usually in my free time, if I ever have any, I like to write, read subjects of astronomy, neuropsychology, philosophy, physics, literature and history, listen to music and sleep.

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What do you think about traveling?

I believe traveling has to be a vital decision on the life of every human being, especially on young people. If we look at it from a philosophical point of view, its stated that we humans are always trying to understand our surroundings, of course some of that understanding can be done by reading books, but obviously it doesn’t compare to what you experience by actually doing the traveling. It is in that particular experience that you learn from the world and about yourself, at the same time. Traveling helps you grow as a person and brings personal joy, when you realize that you know a lot more about the world you live in.

What do you think is most important, the journey or the destination?

I pretty much believe that the journey is the most important thing. Because, yeah choosing the destination is always a hard choice because they’re a lot of places that one wishes to go, but it would definitely be the journey you do since most of the learning that really counts occurs from the moment  you go out the front door until the moment you come back.

Before this summer, had you traveled anywhere outside the island of Puerto Rico? Did you learn anything?

Yeah, I traveled to the Dominican Republic, the states of Florida and North Carolina. I can’t say I learned much from those places since I was a little kid when I first visited them. But I still have the memories which I usually analyze and I get some bit of information that helps me think about deeper things. For example, I have memories of being with my family in the Dominican Republic and having conversations, even though we all speak Spanish, in which they would laugh about some words that I said. By the time I didn’t know the reason behind their laughter, until I read a book in which I learned that some Spanish words in a country have a different meaning in another country.

It seems that culture is always a key component when traveling. Why did you decide to go to Israel, out of all the countries in the world, during this summer?

That’s simple. I have a cousin that lives there and so I thought it would be a great idea to go visit her, visit the country and actually meet her for the first time. I had no idea about the political history, neither the language but I knew one or two things about their culture.

Did any negative events occurred while you were visiting? and if so, how did those events affect your stay?

More than an event I would referred to it as a social phenomenon which is war. Is funny because I always had this dream of becoming this great soldier, obviously I got rid of that dream once I got into college, but having experienced that phenomenon in which my family and I took on the role of the civilians suffering casualties, helped me recognize that I made the right decision on not joining the army. The war affected in great way the whole stay since we had to keep moving from city to city trying to escape the missiles. It was really hard because it didn’t matter in which city we were, we always had the alarms go on as a sign that there were missiles directed to the city.

When you heard those alarms, what thoughts came to your mind?

The first time I heard the alarms I was reading so I didn’t really assimilate what was happening. But after having the alarms go on from 4 to 8 times per day I started having thoughts on wanting to get back to Puerto Rico. I was scared that the airport was going to get hit by a missile and that the war was going to get out of control.

Having experienced a situation like this one, what would you say to people who want to travel but are worried about safety issues?

Well… I mean we always have to, not be worried, but conscious about everywhere we go. Because bad situations can happen anywhere and it’s just a matter of knowing what to do when things like that happen. But nevertheless you shouldn’t deprive yourself from traveling just because of safety issues, because at the end of the day we never really know what’s going to happen.

Considering this particular voyage, what has been your most memorable ‘out of my comfort zone’ experience?

I have some memorables ‘out of my comfort zone’ experiences from this trip. First, the fact that I was traveling alone and without a cell phone from Puerto Rico to Israel was a bit nerve-racking. Second, since every Friday afternoon we did a religious ceremony call “Shabbat”, through all the afternoon of Friday until Saturday afternoon we couldn’t use any electronic devices.  That was hard because I’m always reading or studying from my laptop. And the last one was changing my eating habits for the period of time I spent there from eating rice, chicken and beans to vegetables, fish, bread and a lot of hummus.

From all the things you experienced when you traveled to Israel, what are the top places or main attractions that you would recommend to other travelers that are wanting to go to Israel as well?

I would tell that someone to go to the dead sea and have a great time floating in it covered in mud. If the person is into old fashion or vintage I would tell them to go to Tel Aviv/Yafo especifically the Yafo part. To those who like to be more active and go out I would recommend to go to Eilat, which is a city packed with a lot of hotels and a lot of people to meet. Jerusalem should be visited because it has a lot of history, plus visiting the wailing wall is a great experience. The beach definitely has to visited and stay there until you experience watching that beautiful sunset that Israel has to offer. The last one I definitely think it should be the Holocaust Museum(Yad Vashem) which is a World Center for Holocaust Research and has much information about the holocaust.

Do you have any travel plans in the immediate future? Or where is the number one place on your list to visit next?

For now I’m planning to visit once again the Dominican Republic to spend some time with my family and actually travel within the country and learn more about their culture, history and famous places. But my number one place to visit I believe is India. India is recognized as a place of much wisdom but at the same time much poverty, so it makes it really interesting for me.

Would you ever go back to Israel?

Yes, I would. Because even though I couldn’t experience much of the country because of the war, I had an amazing experience in those short periods of time that I was doing something else besides escaping. As a result, I ended wanting to see more and experience more and because of that I would love to go back to Israel and spend more time in that amazing place.

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