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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Learning a New Language: My Experience

I'm shaking things up today on Curious Alisa! I thought I'd write about something quite big that I've been doing for almost a year now: learning a new language!

Now, to quickly give you a backdrop: I am a twenty year old girl from Canada. My first language is English (duh), but I am also fluent in Russian thanks to my parents, which essentially allows me to label myself as "bilingual". And I was totally content having those two languages. I took French at high school, and was pretty darn good at the grammar bits. However, I haven't used any French ever since I graduated High School and therefore hardly remember any of it. It became a passive knowledge, rather than active.

But then for several personal reasons, I ended up moving to Germany last year. And in order for me to be able to study at the local university here, I had to learn German. Don't get me wrong, I didn't exactly start with zero knowledge when I got here. I had taken a couple german courses at my university back home, but it just gave me some basic knowledge. I mean, you can't exactly learn a whole language from just two classes a week, 45 minutes each...

Now you're probably wondering, did I actually want to learn German? Well, my answer is yes and no. I didn't want to seriously learn it, maybe just a phew basic phrases and words. The reason behind that was that I honestly didn't think it was possible to actually learn a whole new language after childhood. After all, the brains of children are like sponges when it comes to languages. And even if it was possible, it would take several years.

Boooy, was I wrong! I started seriously learning the language and taking intensive courses in January, and I went from being an A2 to a B2 in 5 months. That's insane if you think about it. Here's a table that explains exactly what each level stands for. For reference, I have just passed an exam for B2 and am now currently doing a C1 course. I am getting closer to fluency day by day and it's an overwhelming feeling, having succeeded something that I thought was completely undoable. Words simply cannot express my joy and surprise.

So essentially I learned two things: not only is it actually possible to learn a new language, regardless of your age, but it is also possible to learn it quickly! The main key to success is doing it intensively rather than moderately. High School and Uni courses are moderate and barely scrape the surface, whereas 3 hour  lessons per day is intense and leads to incredibly fast progress! Of course, living in the actual country does help a lot because you hear the language all the time. Therefore, immersing yourself as best as you can is definitely an essential.

However, my weakness in the language is ironically talking. This might sound strange, especially since I now live in Germany, but hear me out. Just because you may live in the country where the language is spoken, does not actually mean you have to use it a lot. You hardly talk when you go out, whether it be to a store or something of the sort. All you normally would say is: "hi, yes or no, thank you, bye". Unless you have friends that only speak in the language you are learning, you will essentially never really have an opportunity to practice speaking.

Another reason why talking is a challenge for me is because I'm a perfectionist. I can't stand the idea of making a mistake *cringes at thought*. It sounds silly, but it really does stop and hinder me from saying a sentence sometimes. Talking is naturally a very spontaneous thing, and therefore we don't exactly have the time to "auto-correct" what we say. And that scares me. I'd rather say something 100% perfectly or say nothing at all. Which of course, is totally the wrong approach! You learn by making mistakes, so you have to risk making them. I try to push myself outside my comfort zone and I do see results from it.

This post is getting quite long, so I think I'll save my thoughts on how I find the German language itself for a different post :). But my main message is this: anyone can learn a language, as long as you put the hours into it! :) Let me know if you'd like to see more posts like these in the future. It's become quite a big part of my life and I would love to share it with you all!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Where are the Layers?

I know I've had a long hiatus, but I can assure you that it is somewhat justified. My reasoning is not your average writer's block. It sadly went much further than that... I essentially got stuck in a rut. Every time I wanted to write something, for example a review, I just thought to myself: what's the point? there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of the exact same thing already out on the internet. Did the world really need another virtually identical post?

Yes, of course, there are many different aspects to a beauty product that one can look at: does it work well, packaging, pricing, longevity, etc etc. But is that actual depth? Or is there really only one layer to it? Don't get me wrong, I am still utterly obsessed with all things beauty related! I can never just "go" a drugstore and not stop at the makeup aisle and swatch things for 20 minutes. Heck, I went to the store yesterday to just buy detergent and I came out with two new moisturizers (don't judge, we've all been there...). It's just that it's quite difficult to pour your heart and soul into something that is - dare I say it - a bit superficial *waits to receive a smite from the gods of beauty as punishment*. Apologies aside, it is in fact hard to bring your personality into something that can only go so far in terms of meaningfulness.

I guess it only makes sense as to why beauty bloggers always eventually start to branch out into writing lifestyle posts as well. To me, writing is a form of art, in which the author can beautifully portray his or her personal thoughts and emotions. But how many thoughts and emotions can a lipstick really hold?

Essentially, what I'm trying to convey here, is that I'd like my blog to grow and sprout new branches. I'd like my audience to be able to get to know me through my writing. And I know that people are more interested in reading about whether a new palette is worth the hype, rather than something a bit more philosophical like the idea of beauty (which I did write about here), but I am going to try and ignore the obvious difference in page views and push forward regardlessly.

Honestly, I still don't have a single notion of what I'll be writing about in the future. There will still be reviews and things of the sort, but it will no longer be the main content of this blog. It'll just be a feature. I will certainly need time to figure out in which direction I want to go, but I am excited (mixed in with a bit of fear and panicking) to begin this soul-searching journey. I can only hope that you'll stick around for it.

Much love,

- Alisa