English Corner – Conjunctions

This ‘English Corner’ on the subject of conjunctions is a continuation of an ongoing blog post series with a new post every month to help English language learners to better understand the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in order to better develop their own proficiency. I have over two years of experience of teaching the English language to non-native speakers, both online and in person.

I hope to use these posts to help you, the reader, improve your understanding of English, and also develop your fluency. If you have any questions about this ‘English Corner’ post, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Any constructive feedback is appreciated and I hope that this will become a popular series of posts within my website. If you enjoy my ‘English Corner’ series, you can also request private English lessons with me through the WordPress message system.

Second only to ‘Prepositions’ in terms of grammatical importance, ‘Conjunctions’ play a vital role in the formation of sentences in the English language. Conjunctions do the important job of connecting words and phrases together to form a complete sentence. Examples of conjunctions include although, and, because, but, etc. Instead of forming simple sentences such as: “I like to play sports”, we can then add on to this sentence by adding the word ‘and’ to create a complete sentence which could be “I like to play sports and hang out with my friends on the weekends.”

Having a good grasp on conjunctions can make writing complete sentences a lot easier and give you the ability to form paragraphs and even entire essays by adhering to the sentence structure by adding a conjunction or two. When it comes to grammar topics like conjunctions, it’s important to be able to remember the correct words that fit into the category and to know when to apply them in your sentence.

The word ‘And’ is the most popular conjunction because it can be used for three different functions. Not only can it connect words but clauses as well as phrases. ‘And’ is also used to describe more than one person in a sentence by grouping them together such as “Tim and Tina went to the movies together last time. In addition to the word ‘and’, other popular conjunctions that are commonly used to connect sentences are ‘although, since, but, unless, or, yet, so, etc.’

Contrary to popular belief, conjunctions can be used in the beginning of a sentence rather than just in the heart of a sentence. For example: “Although he was tired from working late, James still decided to go out for a drink with his friends.” A conjunction is a part of speech that can also be more than one word. Examples of conjunctions that make up more than one word include ‘so that, in order to, as long as, etc.’ By clearing up the confusion and misleading information regarding conjunctions, beginner students of English will better be able to handle this important grammar subject.

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Conjunctions: Successfully joining words and phrases together in order to form complete sentences.”

Learners of the English language often forget that conjunctions can be divided into two categories: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions are known for connecting two parts of a sentence or phrase together to form a complete sentence. This first type of conjunctions is usually used in the middle of a sentence and is supposed to connect words and clauses together along with two parts of a sentence.

An example of a sentence where a coordinating conjunction would be used could be “John picked up Tim after his soccer practice in the park and then they went to the movies together.” There are many different coordinating conjunctions but the most popular ones are ‘and, but, for, or, so, yet.’

Subordinating conjunctions have a more specific purpose than their coordinating counterparts. The main purpose of subordinating conjunctions is to join the dependent clause of a sentence to its’ independent clause to form a complete sentence. The main clause is also known as the independent clause and the conjunction is placed in between the two clauses in order to create the grammatical structure of the sentence.

For example, a sentence with a subordinating conjunction would look like “I had to study hard last night because we have an important English test today. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions include ‘although, because, since, unless.’ It’s important to remember that a subordinating conjunction will always come at the beginning of the subordinate clause, which could either be before or after the main clause. This means that there is some flexibility when it comes to inserting your subordinate conjunction in that it can come in either the beginning or middle of a sentence.

Lastly, in addition to conjunctions that are subordinate or coordinate and are one word usually, there are other types of conjunctions that can be a few words in all when forming a sentence. These two other types of conjunctions are known as compound or correlative.

Compound conjunctions often end in the words ‘that’ or ‘as’ and some examples of these conjunctions include: ‘as long as’, ‘provided that’, ‘because of that’, ‘in order to.’ Remember that a compound conjunction does not always end in ‘as’ or ‘that’ but it’s usually true in most instances. For example, a sentence with a compound conjunction would be like; “You can eat ice cream later as long as you eat your vegetables first.”

Correlative conjunctions are often made up of pairs of two corresponding words such as ‘neither…nor’, ‘either…or’, ‘both…and’, which serve to balance the sentence and the two clauses. For example, you could write a sentence like “We could either go to Spain or Italy for vacation this summer.” When using correlative conjunctions, remember that there needs to be two words that relate to each other in the overall meaning.

Like our previous topic of ‘Prepositions’, learning about ‘Conjunctions’ will help a beginner in English to gain confidence in developing both grammar and vocabulary. Both of these topics are important to review and go over with a student in order for them to correctly form a sentence by adhering to the necessary structure.

By knowing about the different types of conjunctions, some key examples, and their varied uses, students of English reading this post will gain a better understanding of this vital grammar topic. If you have any questions or comments about this ‘English Corner’ post, please feel free to write me a message. In the mean time, good luck with your continuing studies of the English language! I promise that there will be a new post next month focusing on another key topic.

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The Art of Traveling Solo

The famous English author, J.R.R. Tolkien, once wrote in his poem “All that is gold does not glitter” a line that should be noted for its’ truth and its’ profundity. The 2nd line of the poem states, “Not all those who wander are lost.” This is a fitting statement for those of us travelers who have stepped foot in another city or country being completely on our own. It’s not something that can be easily done and requires a bit of mental fortitude to be able to enjoy it despite the inherent challenges.

While most travelers like to go from place to place in packs, big groups, or in guided tours, I believe that it is necessary to try out traveling alone especially if you have prior experience in traveling to other cities and countries. Once you are comfortable with the art of traveling itself, I think it’s a good idea to challenge yourself by traveling alone. I won’t choose to judge you if you decide to never try it by I respect any fellow traveler more when they tell me that they have been by themselves in a new country for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time.

In order to travel alone successfully, I would recommend that a person be able to adapt or inherently have a few traits or characteristics that will put them more at ease with the idea. First, you have to be comfortable being alone. You have to be able to embrace the solitude of your thoughts and to be more observant of the world. This is a hard thing to accomplish for strictly extroverted people who thrive off of the energy of being around others. However, if you’re a strict introvert or fall somewhere in the middle of those two broad categories like myself, then you won’t find traveling solo as hard as pure extroverts. Sometimes, you will have to be alone in a restaurant, in a museum, or in your train/plane/taxi.

I think there’s a benefit to this because then you’re more likely to focus on the place you’re traveling to and be able to better absorb the culture, customs, and especially the food/drinks of the new place you’re traveling to. When you’re with your friends and family on a trip, you’re often wrapped up in what they’re thinking, what you’re going to do with them for the day, if they’re having a good time or not, etc. With friends and family, you’re in a mini-bubble that’s hard to break out of. When you’re traveling with another person or a group in general, you’re less likely to appreciate other aspects of the trip. How can you focus on the sheer beauty of the Coliseum in Rome, Italy when your close friend is trying to discuss the latest Game of Thrones episode with you?

Some critics of traveling solo also forget about the fact that you will still meet people during your travels to new places. You’ll only truly be alone if you never open your mouth and be social. It’s easier now than ever to connect with new people and make new friends due to the wonders of the Internet. Due to the popularity of websites like AirBNB, Couchsurfing, and the ubiquitous amount of hostels in every part of the globe, even if you travel alone for an extended period of time, it’s still easy to meet people due to the sharing economy’s emphasis on affordable, shared living spaces.

I also couldn’t forget the sheer amount of other opportunities to have language exchanges, expat gatherings, and to just make the effort to open your mouth to someone and start a conversation. I find that it’s easier to meet people on the road than it is when I’m at home because they’re curious about where you’re from, how long you have been traveling for, and what you are doing in their country, etc. and you’ll also be curious about the same things.

During my recent trip to Santa Marta, which was done solo, I was able to befriend my kind AirBNB host from Bogota, hang out with the locals at a bar, and practice my beginner Portuguese with a Brazilian woman from Rio de Janeiro. When you’re traveling alone, you really have to put yourself out there and be more social. That’s not easy for a lot of people but it’s important to try it at least once. If you have any kind of social anxiety or shyness, you’ll be able to overcome it more and more due to solo travels.

Traveling alone is something that you have to ease into over time. I think it’s wise to start with a day trip to a nearby city where you don’t know anyone and then eventually work your way up to visiting a new country by yourself for a few days or a week. Personally, the longest that I’ve traveled by myself for has been about two weeks. I’d like to eventually reach that level of a month or more on the road without anyone holding my hand. Traveling alone forces you out of your comfort zone and mentally challenges you. You have to navigate a new city and country, practice the language by yourself, and be able to handle flights, trains, and buses without the guidance of others.

While this is not easy and takes practice, you’ll feel more confident and sure of yourself as a result. The times where you could have been taking selfies with your friends or partying until the wee hours of the morning are instead focused on having a nice coffee by the river or taking your time in an art museum by going through the galleries at your own pace. Traveling solo is a good time to be selfish as you can set your schedule, your own destinations, and decide where you want to go and when you want to go. There’s nobody holding you back and that’s quite liberating. I often get a feeling of true freedom while traveling alone that’s not easily replicated.

Even if there was no one else physically with me, I have nice memories of my past solo travels. The moment when I woke up on my train to Krakow, Poland in the early morning to open my window to see fresh snow on the ground and the sun rising as we entered the train station. The feeling of pure relaxation as I enjoyed a nice mid-day cappuccino with a view of the Prague skyline in the Czech Republic, and the absolute quiet I felt as I sat on the beach in Parque Tayrona, Colombia and heard nothing but the soft, sea breeze and the waves splashing against my feet. These are the memories that I will cherish and never forget. That is why I enjoy the art of solo traveling.

A Weekend In Santa Marta

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“Santa Marta Marina”

Santa Marta is an undiscovered gem of a city located on the northeastern tip of Atlantic coast of Colombia. I say that it’s an ‘undiscovered gem’ because it usually flies under the radar when compared to its’ coastal counterparts of Cartagena and Barranquilla. Still though, for Colombians and foreigners alike on vacation, Santa Marta has a lot to offer its’ visitors. I was drawn to Santa Marta a couple of months ago when I visited its’ neighboring town of Minca, which is also quite beautiful and full of lush scenery up in the mountains. Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much time in Santa Marta so I decided that during my 2nd time living in Colombia, I could not pass up the chance to visit this city if I had the chance.

Luckily, due to the recent religious holiday observed in Colombia which falls on a Monday, I was able to make my return to the Atlantic coast via Santa Marta for a long weekend and I had a great time overall. Even with three full days, I felt like I could have done and seen even more so if you’re planning on coming to Santa Marta, five days or so and that should be enough to cover everything. Due to the fact that I live in Medellin, which is surrounded by mountains with no sea in sight, I took full advantage of my time on the coast by hitting up the local beaches, sampling some great seafood and doing some hiking.

Santa Marta is a small and navigable city, which made it easier to visit for a long weekend. The locals I met were extremely helpful to me, and especially the taxi drivers who were patient with my handwritten directions. The historic center of Santa Marta was well preserved in my opinion and very walkable. There are a lot of bars and restaurants located around the Parque de Los Novios, which made it easy for me to choose places to eat and drink. Beyond that, you can easily go to La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, which is place where the liberator of most of South America died in 1830. The hacienda is a museum, resting place, and has a really nice art gallery as well.

My recent trip mostly focused on visiting the different beaches located in Santa Marta, Rodadero, and Parque Tayrona. Santa Marta has many public beaches, which I found to be refreshing because there are a lot of hotels and private apartments located close to the sea but families and locals can mix with tourists to enjoy the beaches as well in the city. I found that to be a great idea and a contrast to other places, which have private beaches that only guests of the hotel or apartment can use freely. The public beach in Santa Marta is clean and nice to swim in but it can become quite crowded especially on holiday weekends.

The highlight of my trip was a visit to Parque Tayrona, one of the biggest and most popular national parks in Colombia. Well-preserved, pristine beaches, and great hiking opportunities, Parque Tayrona is the reason a lot of tourists come to Santa Marta in the first place. The park offers a lot of beautiful natural scenery of mountains, trees, and small rivers, which you can hike through for a day or more. Some visitors choose to spend a night or more in the park because it’s too big and vast to spend only a day there. The beaches are especially gorgeous because they are quite unspoiled and have no trash or residue of human presence for the most part. The water is clear, blue, and enjoyable to swim in. There’s a powerful rip-toe and large waves so be careful if you are to go swimming in some of the beaches there.

The particular beach that I visited, which is called Arrecifes, was barely inhabited and I enjoyed my time swimming, sunbathing, and listening to the clear sound of the waves without a care in the world. It was a very rewarding feeling to soak myself in the waters of the Atlantic again after a long day of waiting to get into the park and hiking through the park. For a couple of hours, I had the whole beach to myself so I was able to hear the sounds of the waves uninterrupted without any outside noise or voices to disturb the flow of nature. If there is one regret I have about the park is that I did not have enough time to see other beaches and that I should have woken up earlier to get into the park without waiting in line. If you plan on coming to Tayrona, make sure to get there by 8 or 9 AM, otherwise you will be waiting for a while to get in.

Before I left Santa Marta, I made sure to check out Rodadero, which was very different from Santa Marta and felt more like Miami Beach. High-rises, hotels, and apartments make up quite the skyline for this small city, which sits between the mountains and the coast. Rodadero is a great hub for restaurants and nightlife but also has nice public beaches which locals and tourists can enjoy alike. On my last day in the area, I decided to check out Playa Blanca, which was well worth the boat trip. Having a nice, private cabana that kept me out of the sun was welcome after two previous days in the sun. If you can’t make it to Parque Tayrona, spending the day in Rodadero is a great back up plan especially if you can make it to Playa Blanca where it’s less crowded and the water is crystal blue.

In addition to swimming and sunbathing, there are a multitude of activities to take part in. The fishing village of Taganga, which is nice to check out for a day due to its’ coastal style boardwalk also offers diving classes if you’re into learning that skill. There are also numerous tour groups offering snorkeling, hiking trips in the Santa Marta area for reasonable prices. If you’re feeling more leisurely, you can go jet skiing, banana boat riding, canoeing, and paddle boarding if that suits your fancy. The multitude of activities and places to visit in the area make it clear that Santa Marta is worth at least five days or so if you want to explore each nook and cranny of what the area has to offer. You simply can’t be bored if you decide to visit.

Despite being relatively undiscovered when compared to Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and other vacation getaways, Santa Marta is a city on the rise and its’ making a lot of progress in developing its’ tourism infrastructure. There are many cranes working on building the next hotel or apartment complex especially in Rodadero. The Santa Marta airport, which may be the smallest airport I’ve ever visited is getting a makeover and is going through a lot of construction in order to make it a hub for Colombians and tourists alike. With investments in infrastructure and education, Santa Marta will continue to grow in popularity.

I hope that tourists will continue to get along with the locals and respect the great natural beauty of the area especially in Parque Tayrona. The one thing that was difficult for me to deal with was the coastal humidity, which will cause you to sweat like no other. Be prepared to be hot but you get used to it eventually. Lastly, using AirBNB to meet some locals was really nice and I highly recommend the online service to my readers. Just make sure to do your research first and choose places to stay, which are conducive to your travel needs. A holiday weekend well spent in my opinion and I have a feeling that I will be back in Santa Marta one day soon. Parque Tayrona and Rodadero were my favorite parts of the trip and I’m sure others will enjoy those places too if they choose to visit this great area of the country.

Parque Tayrona

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Parque Tayrona (Nacional); Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia

El Desfile de Los Silleteros

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CameraiPod Touch, 6th Generation

Location: El Desfile de Los Silleteros (Flower Men and Women Parade), La Feria de Las Flores; Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

El Desfile de Los Carros Antiguos

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CameraiPod Touch, 6th Generation

Location: El Desfile de Los Carros Antiguos (Antique Car Parade), La Feria de Las Flores; Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

 

Botero Plaza

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CameraiPod Touch, 6th Generation

LocationPlaza de Botero; Medellin, Colombia