All posts by katiejurek

Back from Christmas in Amsterdam!

Hello! I was caught up in doing all kinds of things in the Netherlands, but now I’m back home and starting a new school semester! Here’s a very short list of some things that happened:

  • Met a great and close online friend of mine, at whose house I ended up staying for three full weeks out of the month I was there!
  • Lived in Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Noordwijkerhout
  • Stuffed my face with so much Dutch food it’s criminal. My favorites include appelflappen, pannenkoeken, and stroopwafels, pictured in order:


Continue reading Back from Christmas in Amsterdam!

To Amsterdam I go!

I’ve bought my ticket to Amsterdam for December 9th to January 7th. I’m, as you can imagine, exTREMEly excited, though I won’t let time go to waste while waiting for the date to come; there is more Dutch to be learned and games to be programmed! I’ll be flying with KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines, an airline I chose specifically because it was Dutch. I want to immerse myself as fully as possible and it was only a few dollars more expensive, so why not?

If any of you Nederlanders want to go out for a cup of coffee or something during that time, drop me a line and let me know and I’m sure we’ll be able to set something up! =)

My first major language breakthrough

Two nights ago I made a huge breakthrough in Dutch. When someone hears a language that they don’t speak, they’ll often think that the person speaking is doing so too quickly. More often than not, the listener’s ears are simply not attuned to discerning the sounds in that particular language. For me, this is no longer the case with Dutch, as my listening comprehension is catching up to my reading: I can now understand the individual words someone is speaking in Dutch instead of just hearing a jumble of sounds. This is a huge step in the right direction, and it came nearly all at once. I was studying my Lonely Planet Dutch phrasebook outside of my calculus class two days ago and found that, when I had come home and started listening to Dutch music, I could pick out individual words. I may not be able to spell them or even know what they mean, but I can’t complain!

Continue reading My first major language breakthrough

Gaining confidence in life through language

I’ve been learning a lot about my own emotions recently alongside my Dutch studies. I’m starting to put down on job applications and the like that I know enough Dutch to be able to handle merchandise-related issues and general customer service. Of course, this is unlikely to ever be needed, because most Dutch people speak English, especially if they live in the United States!

I like being more empathetic. As I progress in language and speaking to my friends about their problems, I’ve noticed that there’s barely anything I’m afraid of anymore when it comes to job duties. When I got my first job at Honey Baked Ham, I was insecure and unsure of my abilities. Now it seems so silly to me now to have been such a worrywart when all I had to do was ask if I had a question. Often times I did ask, but then would have a mental countdown in my head of how long I had to wait until I allowed myself to ask another. It was really a silly way of doing things, but it was better than never asking anything at all and screwing up people’s orders left and right!

Thus, my language endeavors have taught me confidence, and this confidence of course now extends to many other areas of my life! πŸ™‚

Speaking Japanese with the Japanese

I spent the day at Orlando Science Center with my friend from Ohio (after leaving the house of my other friend where we had a bonfire the night before). Little did I know that, along with getting some fantastic pictures of the animals on the bottom floor of the place (esPECially the bearded dragon and crayfish!), I would also get a chance to practice my Japanese with real Japanese natives.

After spending time in basically every room the museum had to offer, my friend and I happened upon a Japanese family of about 5-6 people messing around with a specific attraction, one where it was emphasized that if you increase an object’s orbit, it’ll slow down considerably. This was done with a large chrome marble that the family was throwing into orbit constantly. They seemed very happy and approachable, and I had already identified their language as Japanese a few minutes prior, so I jumped in to talk to them. I was still a little shy, so I only said a handful of one-word phrases, but the reaction was incredible! As soon as I said 凄い/Sugoi! (“Amazing!”), they all looked up at me. The little boy present even repeated what I said in the more masculine fashion, which sounds more like “suge”. My interaction with them prompted the little girl to hand me the marble with a big smile on her face! I repeated what they did, and since the way I threw the marble made it take longer to fall out of orbit, I whined ι€Ÿγ/Hayaku! (“Hurry up!/Faster!”) Now they knew that me speaking their language was no accident. The oldest lady there turned to me and said “You speak Japanese?” and I said “A little bit,” returning her smile. Boy, there was a lot of smiling going on! πŸ™‚

Continue reading Speaking Japanese with the Japanese

Small, but not insignificant

Today was a good day that reinforced even further my desire to travel. As I was standing on the beach looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from about six stories in the air, I realized just how small human beings are, and yet how incredibly interesting each one of them can be. Here I was with a friend gazing at this vast, blue ocean, so tranquil and serene, and it hit me that humans can make me feel that way, too, just like the calm evening waters of the ocean. I enjoyed this day very much, if for nothing else, than certainly for this realization, among others.

Help a friend speak, too!

I was able to encourage a friend to begin Michel Thomas’s Language Learning Method today, and he blazed through the first disc of French mere hours after he started it! I’d normally suggest he go a bit slower, but as long as he’s motivated, I won’t get in his way! This made me feel pretty accomplished given that he had a seriously stubborn attitude about language learning beforehand, even calling me overconfident and cocky for thinking I’d be able to speak Dutch this December! All it takes is the right materials to get you started, and once you’ve gained the insight that learning languages is not hard, you’re one step closer on your way to becoming an efficient language learner!

Singing helps when learn languages!

One of the best language tips I can think of would be to sing to music in your target language. The number one area on which this works is pronunciation, which I like getting down to a science before starting to learn too many words if at all possible. It takes a lot of the average person’s stress out of learning a language, being able to look at at least 75% of words and say “I know how to say that aloud.”

I’ve also noticed that singing a song in another language can have a slightly different system from the way the language is usually spoken (I’m looking at you, Japanese!). For instance, sentences or words are often pronounced a certain way in a song to sound more melodic or gentler. This makes it easy to recognize individual sounds since they’re often exaggerated, and when you study sung language as opposed to just conversational language, the way words are sung can make you more familiar with different phonemes. This process has indoctrinated me the pronunciation of Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised; for instance, Japanese and Spanish have remarkably similar pronunciation on the vast majority of words, but you wouldn’t expect that from a Latin vs. an Asian (more specifically Japonic) language!

My Spanish school experience

AP Spanish Class 2009 (click to enlarge)
One of the two white girls outta place!

Ever since I’ve found a method of learning languages that works for me, I’ve found that the academic approach I used in school for four classes’ worth of Spanish is vastly different and focuses FAR too heavily on writing. I didn’t actually SAY much in Spanish until the fourth class, which often required it. This meant that I only began speaking about the time I was in an atmosphere that wasΒ almost entirely dominated by native Spanish speakers. This can do a number on one’s confidence! I had always spoken to myself to practice, but taking three classes where others were also a bit unsure about speaking and then reaching the fourth – which only students genuinely interested in Spanish volunteered to take – meant that the difficulty of my lessons changed drastically!

Michel Thomas audio language method review

This is a short snippet of my thoughts on the Michel Thomas Language Learning Method, which I use to introduce myself to a language before speaking it with natives.Β The Michel Thomas method is one I regard very highly. It is an audio software, but don’t let that discourage you! I’ve had my fair share of terrible audio materials before, or ones that were unsatisfactory at best. However, with Michel Thomas, I went through the Japanese course a few months ago, but what I learned I still remember quite well! I love the pacing and the vision is incredibly unique: the teacher really does the majority of the work and you’re just there for the ride and to reap the incredible benefits! This method is how I introduce myself to a language (provided it’s one of the 12 that Michel Thomas covers, of course; I’ll have to look elsewhere for Swedish, for example); I am currently going through the Dutch version and am learning a TON in a very short period of time. After I finish the course, I speak to natives for the rest and continue studying every now and then, especially vocabulary. I 100% recommend this method to ANYONE, esPECially if you’ve been let down by language-learning materials in the past. You’ll learn quite a bit with Michel, but not only that; you’ll REMEMBER it!

Highly recommended! πŸ™‚