Five Steps to Making Language Gains Quickly

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“Which direction are you headed in?”

Getting better at a foreign language or achieving an advanced level of proficiency in one is not an easy task. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Regardless of which language you’re focusing on, it can months or even years to get the hang of it. Depending upon how much hard work and effort you put in, you are going to likely improve quicker and remain committed to the process of becoming bilingual or multilingual. Certain people are going to pick up language(s) quicker because they may have a natural talent for it or because they truly enjoy learning the subject and find it easy to excel in.

However, even if you’re not naturally gifted or don’t pick it up quickly, you can still get ahead and make gains in the language through a number of ways. As someone who has studied foreign languages for over half of my life and has also taught English as a Second Language for a few years now, I have a pretty good idea at what separates those students who are going to succeed in their language studies and those students who are likely to fail.

Even though, you may want to be fluently writing in Japanese or speaking to friends in Spanish, you have to put the work in even if language learning happens to come easy to you. It won’t happen overnight but the process can be sped up if you want to boost your ability to learn with a few key steps that I will highlight in the rest of this post. Take these five steps that I will flesh out to heart because it could mean the difference between you being at an advanced level in a year rather than being stuck at the intermediate stage. You don’t have to do all of my five recommend steps to make language gains quickly but it’s definitely recommended to try our at least one or two of them for your own personal benefit as a student of foreign languages.

  1. Be Consistent

While not the most noteworthy recommendation, some language learners forget to put the work in on a consistent basis. If you happen to work five hours on one day specifically on learning a language, that sounds great on paper but if you happen to neglect the six other days of the week, then you’re not really going to make any progress. This is partly why if you study a foreign language in a school or at a university, you’re going to usually have classes four or five days a week so that it stays fresh in your mind. One or two hours per night five or six days a week will go a long way for you and your learning language goals.

Being consistent and responsible in your hours of study will pay off much greater dividends than cramming all of your language studies into one night for a bunch of hours. It’s likely that your brain and memory will be so overwhelmed by all of that information if you cram it into one night that you won’t be able to remember anything you learned by the next week or month. When it comes to any academic subject including foreign languages, you should listen to wise words of a popular phrase that I remember from my high school days: “It’s better to study smart, then it is to study hard.” Don’t overwhelm yourself, stay committed to a language study schedule, and remember to take one day off instead of five or six days off to retain the vocabulary, grammar, phrases, etc. that you have been learning.

  1. Use Both Online and Offline Resources

We live in an amazing time and I would argue that it’s easier than ever to learn a foreign language if you’re willing to do your research, both online and offline. When it comes to online resources, there is almost a limitless amount of information that you can discover dealing with the study of a foreign language. Whether it’s grammar, vocabulary, listening, writing activities, etc. you’re likely to find what you need in order to study and improve if you make the effort to research carefully. In addition to that, it’s easier now than ever to do a language exchange with a native speaker through the medium of an online platform such as Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. You can also use a website like Meetup.com to find a social group to meet up, hang out, and practice your target language with if you happen to live in a big city or large town.

Beyond just online resources, you can network in person by offering to have coffee for an hour with a native speaker of the language you’re learning and if you haven’t had success with Meetup, you can enroll in language classes for a fee at either a foreign language center, community college, or at a local university of note. It’s much easier to make language gains when you live in a big city and have a good amount of money to spare for some formal classes. However, not everybody in the world has that luxury, which leads me to my next step.

  1. Invest in a Private Tutor / Teacher

As mentioned before, not everybody can live in a big city or have the ability to pay for classes at a university or a language center. However, if you can make the more affordable investment of getting a private tutor, it will save you some money and you will be able to practice directly, one-on-one with a native speaker and teacher of the target language.

Usually, a private tutor or teacher who you meet with face to face in person is going to be a bit more expensive than an online tutor. If you prefer to be physically present with your tutor to make it easier for you to learn and clarify the content that you’re absorbing, you may prefer to shell out the extra money for them to meet you at a café or to make a house call to your home and apartment.

However, if you are on a budget, don’t have access to a native speaker of the language you’re learning in your current location because you’re in a small town, don’t live near a foreign language center, etc. you should consider getting an online tutor or teacher. Even though you won’t be physically in the same room as your tutor, you’ll still be able to learn new material, go through lessons together, speak in the target language, and be able to complete homework and classwork to improve your fluency. Online tutors also tend to be less expensive as an investment when compared to real life tutors or to enroll in group classes.

You have to consider how much time you have to devote to the foreign language you’re learning and what your budget is. The cheapest and least expensive option is to have a free exchange of languages if you have a friend or colleague who wants to improve at your language in exchange for them teaching you their language. If you are particularly interested in learning a foreign language online, you should check out platforms like Verbling or Italki.

  1. Immerse Yourself (Books, Music, Movies, TV)

Another great way to boost your foreign language abilities is by seeking out opportunities outside of the classroom or textbook to brush up on your knowledge. Through a variety of media that is available both online and offline, you can spend an hour or two each day going through books, music (songs), movies, TV shows, etc. to listen and absorb the language you’re learning. For example, when you’re reading a book in a foreign language, you can highlight the words that you do not know and find out the meaning with a dictionary. You can also look up news articles online and take the time to translate the sentences and paragraphs from the foreign language into your own language.

You can immerse yourself more deeply into the culture behind the language you’re learning by being exposed to the songs and dances whose lyrics you’ll be able to study and analyze. In addition, you can pick up a lot of a language when you watch a popular TV Show, Movie, or other program. You can not only pick up a lot of a foreign language by spending some time listening to the language and interacting with it but also by observing the host culture(s), and finding out more about the individual expressions and phrases that also make this language you’re studying unique in its’ own ways.

  1. Move Overseas

To save the best and most important step for last, if you want to immerse yourself fully and take your foreign language studies to the next level, you’re going to want to move overseas for a period of time for some intense study of the language. You can watch a lot of movies, you can take a lot of classes, and you can study five or six nights out of the week, but moving to a country where they speak the language you’re learning as a fact of life will challenge your language skills and abilities as never before and put you to the test. Out of the five steps that I mentioned, this one will be the most beneficial to your language studies and also make the biggest impact on your life. I cannot recommend it enough for you as the student to go overseas for as long as you need to improve your language skills and improve as much as you can.

Even if you can only make it overseas for a cultural / language study exchange program for a month or two, you should take advantage of an opportunity like that. Also, if you happen to be in university and have the chance to study abroad for a semester or even a year, you should really do it especially if you’re committed to mastering the foreign language you’ve chosen. Foreign language learning doesn’t have to end even after you have earned your diploma.

You can continue to make trips to those countries where the language is the official one into the future. Other options include taking a gap year off from work or school to devote yourself to language study while you’re traveling around the world. If you are TEFL certified and want to learn a foreign language at the same time, you can move overseas to teach your language to students while receiving lessons from a teacher in that country as well as being immersed in the culture at the same time. There are tons of options out there so if you want to boost your language skills as much as possible, moving overseas for a long period of time could be a great chance for you.

There is no ‘magic bullet’ that will guarantee you perfect, almost native-like fluency in a foreign language. It’s a goal that takes a lifetime to master and even then you’ll still make mistakes and may retain your accent while speaking the language. Learning a foreign language is a lifetime project and is a skill that has to be consistently studied and improved upon.

It’s a common fact that the younger a person is when they start a foreign language, the better off they’ll be. If you start learning Chinese at five years old, you’ll be at a clear advantage when compared to somebody who is first starting a language at twenty years old. The younger a learner is when it comes to a foreign language, the more vocabulary and grammar they’ll be able to retain.

However, it’s important to not be discouraged about this fact even if you’re starting a foreign language in your 20’s and 30’s. With hard work and determination, you can still make a lot of progress especially if you follow these five steps. You can boost your level quicker than usual if you consider implementing these useful steps in your weekly or daily routine.

It’s also a positive that after you learn your first foreign language well, it’s likely to be easier for you when it comes to getting a high proficiency for your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th foreign language. Anything worth doing in life does not come easy so you have to decide how much the study of languages means to you personally. However, with the five steps that I have outlined in detail for you as the reader, you will be able to learn the language well, improve quickly, and reach your goals as a student to develop this crucial skill for the 21st century.

If you liked this article of mine and you are looking to improve your English language skills, please consider the option of having me as your private tutor. You can find out more information about this opportunity at https://benjweinberg.com/learn-english-with-me/. Whether it’s a lesson through Verbling, Italki, or another platform, I’d be happy to work with any English language student from around the world in their quest to achieve an advanced proficiency in my mother tongue. Good luck!

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English Corner – Simple Future Tense

In the past couple of editions of the ‘English Corner’, we’ve gone from the past to the present in terms of understanding and using the grammar structures that encompass these lengths of time. Now, we’re going to take our knowledge of English grammar into the future by going over and analyzing the ‘Simple Future’ tense. If you have a good basis of understanding when it comes to the past tense and the present tense, you should have no trouble with the future tense, especially the ‘simple’ version of the tense to start out with.

In order to master the simple future tense, we need to use the word ‘will’ and implement that word into the correct order of the sentence. This is why the simple future tense is sometimes known as the ‘will tense’ instead due to the importance of this particular word. In order to create the correct form of the simple future tense, we need to get the structure down without any problems.

As always in the English language, we are going to want to start our sentence even in the simple future tense with the ‘subject’ at the beginning whether it is ‘I, You, They, We, He / She, It, etc. After the subject comes the auxiliary verb first which in this case you are going to put the future indicator ‘will’ right after the subject. Once you have the subject and the auxiliary verb set up, you can then put the main verb after that to fill out the third part of the sentence. Lastly, you’re going to finish the sentence with the action taking place and the object that is being referred to. Overall, the structure of a ‘simple future’ tense sentence should be ‘subject + auxiliary verb + main verb + action (object).

Here are a few examples to consider:

  • I will go to the store today.
  • He will do his homework before tomorrow.
  • We will attend the theater musical later tonight.
  • They will finish the job as necessary.
  • She will study mathematics for her test tomorrow.

Sometimes, you’re going to want to make the simple future tense from its’ usual, positive form into the negative form which isn’t that much different except for one important difference. In order to make this grammar tense negative, you’re going to want to put the word ‘not’ between the auxiliary verb, which is the word ‘will’ and the main verb, which could be any number of verbs to express what you would like to be doing in the future.

If you want to go ahead and put the simple future tense into the question form, you’re going to want to exchange the usual placement of the subject for the auxiliary verb and switch them around with each other. In order to get a better understanding of the negative and question forms of the simple future tense, let us take a look at some examples that I have listed below:

Negative

  • I will not go to the store tomorrow.
  • He will not beg to keep his job.
  • You will not get a promotion unfortunately.

Questions

  • Will you do your homework please?
  • Will she go out with you to the dance this weekend?
  • Will we win the match if we practice hard today?

Another thing to be aware of when it comes to the simple future tense is that you don’t need to use ‘will’ in the auxiliary verb part of the sentence all of the time. To express the future, you can exchange ‘will’ for ‘shall’ in order to get your point across.

Examples

  • I shall not waver from this decision that I must make tomorrow.
  • I shall work my hardest to ace this job interview on Wednesday.

Beyond just writing correctly in the simple future tense, when it comes to the spoken form, you can be much more informal with your choice of words. If you’re speaking to someone about the future, you’re going to want to contract both the subject and the auxiliary verb. You should push them together to become one word with the help of a well-placed apostrophe. You don’t have to speak or write in the contracted form but you can do so if you’re being informal and don’t feel the need to sound everything out for the other person or for the audience.

Examples

I will –> I’ll

I’ll be sure to call you back after I’m done cooking.

You’ll need more time to study tonight since your exam is tomorrow.

In addition to contracting the positive form, you can also contract the negative form of ‘will’ with a slight difference in its’ wording. Instead of ‘will’ being contracted into ‘I’ll’, it becomes something else entirely.

Examples

I will –> I won’t

We won’t stop the strike until our demands are met.

They won’t stop playing their awful music in the house next door.

Now that we have the structure of the simple present tense down to a science, let’s focus on the ways in which we can use this grammar form to the best of our ability.

More often than not, the main reason we choose to use the simple future tense is because we have no plans or obligations ahead of us so we can choose to do things spontaneously instead without putting much thought into it. Sometimes, as human beings, we do things without much planning so using ‘will’ in a sentence to express a spontaneous action is quite useful. The decision that you make or the action that you take can occur right away or within a short notice.

Examples

  • I’ll bring you a drink.
  • We will go see the new Star Wars movie tonight.
  • They will leave after dessert is served.

It should be kept in mind that there are a few known exceptions where ‘will’ is actually the main verb in a sentence and the auxiliary verb is another word that can take its’ place to express a future action to take place. The primary example of this exception is the word ‘think’, which can exchange places with ‘will’ to become the auxiliary verb and to express what the subject may do in the future with regards to their plans or obligations.

Examples

  • I think I’ll buy a bike later today.
  • We think they’ll do the right thing and return the money.
  • She doesn’t think that you are guilty.

Another main use of the simple future tense is to try and predict the future. While these predictions aren’t foolproof and could end up being wrong, we try to be as certain as possible before using ‘will’ in a sentence to prove its’ inevitability. As human beings, we are prone to make mistakes but we try to predict the future as if it is set in stone.

Examples

  • It will snow heavily tomorrow.
  • He said the Yankees will win the World Series this season.
  • We will be victorious in the spelling bee next week.

Lastly, without changing the structure of the simple future tense, you can add the verb ‘to be’ after the important auxiliary verb ‘will’ to create some additional sentences with the same grammatical form. It is not necessary to use ‘be’ in a sentence with ‘will’ but it can help you to create additional examples such as the ones below.

Examples

  • I will be waiting for you outside the doctor’s office when you finish.
  • Will we be meeting at the ice skating rink at 8 PM?
  • They won’t be able to come tonight to dinner, should we reschedule?

Oftentimes, you can use ‘going to’, the present progressive (continuous) tense to express what plans or actions you have for the future. However, for now and for the next edition of ‘English Corner’, we are going to continue to focus on how to use ‘will’ to express the future including its’ continuous form, which we will review next month. Until then, keep studying your English and please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

An Urban Transformation

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“The kids were cheering me on.”

I had the pleasure recently of visiting Comuna 13, a neighborhood in Medellin that has had a difficult history with gang violence and the illegal drug trade but which is showing signs of both progress and renewal. Due to the investments made by both the local and city government, Comuna 13 has become a hotbed for beautiful street art and graffiti murals, which has attracted many local artists to make a positive mark on this community. Many of these artists are from Medellin and grew up in the neighborhoods of Comuna 13. Rather than discuss the past of Comuna 13, I would rather talk about why this particular community is poised to have a brighter future.

Beyond just the new street art and the graffiti murals that you can find around Comuna 13 are the relatively new escalators that connect the San Javier metro station to the communities located in the hills surrounding this transportation hub. These escalators make it a lot easier for both students and workers to gain easier access to the rest of the Medellin metropolitan area and are an easy way to get from point A to point B. The escalators are free to use for all people including the tourists who come to visit this part of the city.

While the escalators are not so numerous, it is possible that more of them will be added to other parts of the city in the future if I were to haphazard a guess. Medellin can set an example to other urban cities on how to connect neighborhoods efficiently with the use of escalators, especially those with sloping hills and steep mountains within the city limits. For the elderly and children as well, these escalators can be quite useful in helping them get around the neighborhood without too much trouble.

If you don’t feel like taking the escalators, there are concrete staircases adjacent to the new escalators so you can choose which way you want to go up or go down. The escalators are weatherproof as well which is quite genius when you think about. On your way to the metro, the overhang, which is a bright, fluorescent orange color, will protect you fully from the elements such as rain, snow, hail, etc. It only takes about five to ten minutes to get from the top of the escalators to the bottom of the escalators so if you’re in a rush, you won’t have to go through too many escalators to get to your final destination.

The city government of Medellin and local police has done a great job in my opinion with regards to keeping this part of Comuna 13 safe and secure. I noticed during my visit that locals and volunteers are instrumental in helping to keep the area around the escalators clean and orderly. There are park benches and small parks nearby to encourage community get-togethers as well as the fact that there is a big slide where the local children can use to slide up and down to have some fun in the neighborhood. Being the kid at heart that I am, I partook in one of the slides because it is pretty enjoyable and you do go down at a pretty fast speed.

Beyond just the new escalators, the cool slides, and the park benches, there are also now a few library parks, which are free for members of the community to enjoy, explore, and learn. In addition to being places for education, the libraries are great meeting places for the community and can strengthen neighborhood ties. You can also hold cultural, recreational, and educational activities such as group English classes or a family birthday party. Books in these libraries are free to borrow and use.

Everyone can use them regardless of their age, educational level or social status. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and because of the twelve library parks in Comuna 13 and other parts of Medellin, city residents here have a real chance to learn new things and satisfy their curiosity. One particular volunteer group that I’m interested in learning about is called ‘Stairway to English’, which provides free English classes with native speakers to members of the Comuna 13 community.

My visit to Comuna 13 left quite an impact on me. I did go through an organized tour this time, which I do recommend to people visiting this webpage. It was really useful to learn about the history, background, and the progress being made for this part of Medellin. Medellin is quite a large city and it can be easy to get caught up in only staying within your own neighborhood and to not see other parts of the city. Personally, I do hope that other escalator projects in urban areas will become popular in Colombia and other parts of the world.

Human beings are increasingly becoming more urban with over 70% of the world’s population projected to be living in cities by mid-century. This puts the onus on local, city, and national governments to adapt to this reality and try to make life easier and better for the millions of people who call a city their home. Other cities should take note of the social progress being made in Comuna 13 and I can only hope that more and more residents of Medellin will be able to improve their lives in different ways because of urban projects like building library parks or constructing escalator routes.

If you’re in Medellin sometime and you’re curious to check out the positive urban transformation that is ongoing in Comuna 13 and other parts of the city, I would recommend using Comuna 13 Tours, which has a very knowledgeable, kind, and helpful staff members who are bilingual and want to share their city with foreigners out of the goodness in their heart. This is not an official endorsement and I don’t get paid or receive any benefits from mentioning this tour on my website.

I’m doing it because I really enjoyed the experience I had recently with them and I think other visitors who come to Medellin should do the same based off my positive experience using this tour group. Perhaps, most importantly of all, you’ll meet a few locals during your tour and you can see how hospitable, kind, and open they are in Comuna 13. My only advice is to be careful about your photo taking, and to be respectful of both the tour guide and the locals who are kind enough to take some time out of their day to share with you. I look forward to visiting Comuna 13 again someday and I hope to use that giant slide again too.

For more information: http://www.comuna13tours.com/

English Corner – Present Progressive Tense

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“If you’re not sure where the Present Progressive Tense fits into the timeline, I have a useful chart for you to study.”

As a student of the English language, once you’re able to understand and use the ‘Simple Present Tense’ with proficiency and are ready to move on to the next grammar step, it would be wise to start learning about the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ This particular grammar tense can help you to describe a number of different topics and can be used in a variety of ways. By studying the examples listed in this blog post and knowing when to apply the present progressive tense, you’ll be able to advance and get better in your study of English grammar rules.

The ‘Present Tense’ is divided into two kinds: the ‘Simple’ present tense and the ‘Continuous’ or ‘Progressive’ present tense. In order to fully understand the present tense grammar form, it’s important to understand both the ‘simple’ and ‘progressive’ aspects to this concept. Please follow along and read through this blog post if you’re a student of English grammar and want to better understand the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ We will start by looking at a couple of examples regarding how this grammar tense is supposed to be structured. I would recommend that you copy these particular examples so you have some idea on how to use the present progressive tense in a sentence.

Examples

  1. I am going to the store today.
  2. We are planning on coming to your wedding tonight.
  3. What are you doing for dinner later this evening?

For the actual structure of the Present Progressive tense, it’s a little bit different when compared to the Simple Present tense. It’s necessary to begin the sentence with the ‘subject’ word whether it is “I, You, We, They, He / She, etc.” and you can also use the question form as well with “What, When, Where, Why, etc.” at the beginning of a sentence. The auxiliary verb, which is supposed to be conjugated in the Simple Present tense would come next and is modified depending upon which ‘subject’ word is used at the beginning of the sentence.

The auxiliary verb “to be” is the most popular form when it comes to the present tense so it is meant to be used often when it comes to creating the sentence. When you conjugate “to be” in the simple present form, you’ll end up with “is, are, am, etc.” depending upon the subject word. The auxiliary verb is always followed by the main verb, which is supposed to be displayed in present participle form. When we mention the present participle form, it basically involves the verb such as “do” and adding an “ing” to the end of the verb.

For negative sentences, the form of the present progressive sentence is a little bit different compared to regular sentences. It’s necessary to put the word ‘not’ in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in order for the sentence to make grammatical sense.

Examples

  1. I am not dancing at the ball tonight.
  2. You are not playing basketball tomorrow.

If you’re thinking about making a question sentence with the present progressive tense, there’s a clear step that you need to take in order to make it work. The ‘subject’ at the beginning of the sentence must be exchanged for the ‘auxiliary verb’ due to a necessary change in the structure of the sentence in order to make the question work.

Examples

  1. Am I doing the right thing?
  2. Are you playing the piano for the recital?

As you can see, the ‘am’ which is the auxiliary verb comes at the beginning of the sentence this time and the ‘I’ word comes after and becomes secondary in terms of its’ placement. The positive and negative forms of the present progressive tense are quite similar to each other with the only difference being that the ‘not’ is added into the structure of the sentence in order to create that difference but the actual structure of the present progressive tense does not change at all. When it comes to the question form however, there is a change in the actual structure of the present progressive tense with the fact that the ‘subject’ and the ‘auxiliary verb’ essentially change places in order to form the actual question.

Now that we know the structure of the present progressive tense in its’ main forms of usage, how do we know when to put this grammatical tense into action? Well, it’s quite simple actually. There are some fundamental principles that guide the use of the present progressive tense in formal sentences. The present progressive tense can describe actions that are happening in real time and are continuing into the near future.

These could be actions or occurrences that are happening right now and have not been finished yet. These are actions that are in progress and have not reached the completion stage yet. This is why we add the –ing to our verbs to indicate that the action is ongoing and hasn’t reached an end yet.

Examples

  1. The wheels are spinning.
  2. The tables are turning.
  3. The guns are firing.

In addition to those actions that are occurring right now, there are also actions that have no set time frame or completion date yet but are ongoing and will require some time to finish. This is the most popular use for the –ing form and there are a lot of examples that can be construed from it.

Examples

  1. John is taking Salsa lessons.
  2. Martha is learning how to cook.
  3. Bob is starting a new job.

Despite being known as the ‘present progressive’ tense, this grammatical tense can also be used to describe actions or habits that will be occurring in the near future. In order to make this work though, you must add a word to indicate that something will happen in the future. Some examples of these words include ‘tonight, tomorrow, next week, this weekend, two days from now, etc. Usually, you are describing something that has been planned out to occur in the future with a specific date or timeframe in mind. People are long-term planners and thus, we are able to talk about actions that we will take in the future having made the plans ahead of time.

Examples

  1. I am going to attend university next August.
  2. I am planning to go to Mexico this winter.
  3. We are thinking about having our honeymoon in Hawaii next month.

The plan has already been set in motion and that’s why you’re discussing what you’re going to be doing but at a future time and place. It’s vital to remember that the present progressive tense does not exist without adding -ing to any verb regardless of which verb it is. The present progressive tense may not be the most popular grammatical tense but it is extremely important to practice, create examples, and master it both in its’ written form and its’ spoken form. Before you can go on to the ‘past’ and ‘future’ grammatical tenses, I believe that it’s necessary to have a good handle on the present progressive tense first before moving on to something else. Keep my explanations and examples in mind and look out for another ‘English Corner’ coming to you all soon.

The Blog Turns One

This week officially marks a year of my blog’s existence and I have to say that it’s been a rewarding and fulfilling experience overall. It started over seventy-five posts ago with my first look into the increasing presence of smartphones in today’s society with “Smartphones: Man’s New Best Friend?” and has continued up through this September with pictures during my recent trip to Guatepe, Antioquia, Colombia.

Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about the writing process especially when it comes to topics like travel and self-development. While my writing and photography skills are still a work in progress, I believe that I am a better writer and photographer than I was a year ago. I have put a lot of time and effort into this blog over the past year and I am thankful to all of the readers, friends, and family who have supported it by reading the articles, leaving comments, and giving me constructive feedback.

I’ve been through some big life changes with moving home and then back to Colombia recently. This blog has changed to become more travel and culture focused since that’s where I am right now in my life but I hope to continue writing about self-development and even ESL topics. I’m quite proud of the work that has gone into this blog and hope that you as the reader have learned a lot or gained something from my writings. So far, I have had a couple of thousand unique visitors from many different countries along with thousands of individual views and that’s very exciting to see.

As this blog enters year two, I am hoping to invest more time and money into the layout and formatting as well as creating more content for the reader. The first year has been very rewarding for me and I hope to continue developing this blog and expanding the readership. As a writer who enjoys hearing constructive comments, feedback, and criticism, I hope that you will leave a comment telling me your thoughts and suggestions about the blog. I am open to any advice as long as its’ respectful and within reason. I will continue to have eight to ten posts per month in 2017 and will highlight more of my experiences of living, working in Colombia as well as some upcoming travels to different parts of South America.

If you’re new to this blog and don’t know much about me or my writings, I have organized an archives section which has the location of all seventy-five of my posts which have occurred in the past year. I also have a ‘Best Of’ Articles page where I highlight the ten blog posts that I like the most when it comes to culture, lifestyle, traveling, music/movies/books, and personal development. You can find the individual links to these ten top posts here: https://benjweinberg.com/best-of-articles/.

I am now one year into my blogging hobby and I am happy with the results so far. I hope that this website will continue to grow in terms of audience and expand in terms of its’ content. I want to say thank you to all the readers and supports of benjweinberg.com and I look forward to keeping in touch with you throughout the rest of the year and into 2017. Please feel free to leave a comment on this particular post if you would like to share your thoughts or express your opinion about the blog so far and where you might like to see it go in the next year. Cheers to the future and here’s hoping to a great 2nd year of this blog!

Fear of The Unknown

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“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Why do people sometimes have a fear of the unknown? As human beings, we each have our own unique doubts, fears, and phobias that develop as we deal with the world and its’ challenges. Whether they are fears related to heights, spiders, snakes, or even speaking in front of a large audience, it’s part of what makes us human to have fears. Facing and confronting your fears is not an easy struggle and it takes courage, compassion, and emotional maturity to get past your phobias. One of the most common fears that most of us have from time to time is ‘Fear of the Unknown.’

To have a strong desire to control your circumstances, your path in life, and your future is only natural. However, it’s clear that some things can never be fully known and that there will be changes that we will have to cope with. Trying to control everything and everybody around you is a recipe for disaster. Facing the unknown without fear is not easy but it is necessary in order to become a more mature and more centered person. Fear of the unknown is related to other fears that people have which have a connection to one another such as the fear of death, the fear of getting old, the fear of being homeless, the fear of life changes, etc.

There’s a popular saying that goes, “You always fear what you don’t understand.” This quote ties into a central idea that people fear most what they cannot change, anticipate, or prevent from happening. Some examples of this phenomena include economic recessions, societal changes, job loss, personal loss, election results, retirement planning, health problems, environmental concerns, etc. All of these phenomenon tie into the overall ‘fear of the unknown’ for the average man or woman. None of these phenomena can be controlled or even changed by one individual. Since we cannot usually have a great effect on preventing these fears from becoming real or taking place in our lives, what can we do or what should we do?

It’s best not to resist the changes that are bound to happen at some point in our lives. We simply cannot know everything that is to occur in the future and it would be useless to try to plan for everything ahead of time. Most of the time, it’s best to go with the flow, try best not to fight what comes your way, and to make the most out of things. Do not give in to fear, hate, doubt, disappointment, and anger, which are all negative consequences that come with fearing the unknown and the unseen. Having fear about what can happen a week, a month, a year, or a decade from today is a waste of time because you simply can’t know what exactly lies ahead in the future.

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to be adaptable and malleable to the future. Trying to plan everything out is a waste of time and energy. While seeking stability, security for yourself and others is an important part of the human condition. Sometimes, you need to cope with some instability and insecurity that will come your way. Another notable saying that people rely on for strength is the popular quote; “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Persistent fear of what’s to come is not productive, not enjoyable, and not healthy for anyone in the long-term.

What happens to most people when they feel a palpable sense of fear? Well, there are a number of common symptoms and ailments that one can experience as a result. Your heart rate starts to increase, and your breath will become shorter and more harried. You may begin to panic, and feel an enormous sense of tension in your body. You’re going to be anxious and stressed about the unknown and what you’re going to do about it. The more extreme symptoms of feeling fear involve nausea, fainting, vomiting, crying, and shaking uncontrollably. I mention these reactions to fear not to scare my readers but so you can better learn to recognize these symptoms and try to control and alleviate them as best as you can.

Now that we know what the ‘Fear of the Unknown’ is and how to classify it along with the related symptoms, how can we cope we this fact of life? The most important thing to keep in mind when confronting this particular fear is to stay positive about what’s to come. Not everything in life will go smoothly and there will be challenges ahead. However, it’s important to remove the negative associations, conclusions that your mind will come up with sometimes when it comes to thinking and planning for the unknown. A little bit of anxiety and stress is natural when it comes to facing the future but it should not affect your daily activities and your personal relationships.

You’ll have a more peaceful state of mind when you react to the strange and unforeseen future with a positive and upbeat outlook. It’s best to focus on your goals, stay focused, and don’t get sidetracked about what might or what not happen to you in the future. Changing your thoughts and your mindset through meditation for five to ten minutes on a daily basis can also be a great self-help remedy for getting rid of your fear of the unknown.

Embracing a new environment, new friends, and new work opportunities can also keep your imagination in the right state of mind. If your sense of anxiety and fear of the unknown is extremely strong and hard to break, it may be best to consider neurolinguistic programming, cognitive behavioral therapy, and even certain medications if the problem becomes that severe. However, these kinds of remedies should be used only as a last resort.

Having a sense of ownership and direction in our lives is extremely important. However, we cannot control everything especially the unknown that lies ahead. Whether its’ moving to a new city or country, jumping into a dark lake, starting a new job or hiking up a mountain, these are all instances in life that can give us reasons to worry and to be anxious. However, by controlling our thoughts and emotions, and having the ability to stay positive regardless of the circumstances will keep you both mentally and physically fit.

As the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated famously during his 1st inaugural address to the American people on the subject of facing the Great Depression, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”

English Corner – Prepositions

The ‘English Corner’ will be a new blog post series from me 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.

One of the biggest struggles that new learners of the English language will encounter during their studies is mastering the grammatical concept of the ‘Preposition.’ The most common issue that a lot of my ESL students have come across is how to better understand and memorize the grammar rules of the ‘Preposition.’

It’s nearly impossible to memorize all of the ‘Prepositions’ and their specific uses in English. I find that it’s best to examine certain examples where the individual preposition is being used in the sentence and for what context does it most apply fittingly. It’s important to remember that a preposition is considered to be a part-of-speech that comes before a noun type of phrase and connects it to another part of the sentence. The name of ‘Preposition’ can be broken down into pre-position which gives us a good hint that this part-of-speech needs to be placed before the noun. There are different types of noun phrases such as the noun phrase (the short boy), the noun (meat), the pronoun (us), and the ‘gerund or before the verb in –ing form’ (dancing).

The most common prepositions are on, in, to, for, with, by, and. There are numerous other prepositions and for a full list of them, I highly recommend going to this link: https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm

There are three types of relationships that the preposition has with the rest of the sentence. They are relationships in time, in space, and of a certain method.

For some examples of prepositions in these three different relationships, let’s look at the following sentences:

  • The soccer ball is on the floor. (relationship in space)

Note: The physical location of the soccer ball is located on the floor. ‘On’ is a good example of a preposition that is used to demonstrate the relationship in space between itself and the noun.

  • You will meet him in October to discuss the business deal. (relationship in time)

Note: When it comes to date / time / place, a preposition like in is perfect for highlighting the relationship of time when it comes to a noun like ‘October.’ For months, days, weeks, and other words for time, it’s important to use the correct preposition to express this relationship.

  • I sent the wedding invite to you by postal mail. (relationship of method)

Note: When describing a method with a preposition, using by is the most popular and the most useful. Whether its’ mailing a package, or writing a reply to your boss, this kind of preposition will come in handy especially when it comes to connecting the gerund (verb + ing) to the part of speech.

There are several kinds of relationships that are expressed with the help of prepositions but the most common relate to space, time, and method.

Prepositions can either be one word (after, in, by, etc.) or a couple of words, which makes them more complex in their overall nature. (according to, despite that, because of, etc.)

Prepositions will usually come in the middle of a sentence to connect two parts of a whole sentence. However, there are exceptions and sometimes they will appear at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Examples:

Which person did you talk to?

To which person did you talk?

____________________________________________

Another important distinction between prepositions is related to whether they involve place or time.

Prepositions of place describe the relation of an object or thing to another object or thing in terms of space.

This chart below provided by http://www.englishclub.com explains this phenomenon along with a list of corresponding prepositions of place:

prepositions-of-place

Here are some example sentences for preposition of place:

  • My dinner plate is on the table.
  • The boy hid under his bed.
  • He stood in front of the door.
  • The bird flew above the crowd.
  • He looked over his assembled troops on the battlefield.

Prepositions of time usually involve prepositions like at, in, on, by, etc. We use at to describe a specific time or date. We use in to highlight months, years, decades, and long periods of time. The last preposition of on is the most specific and deals with days of the week, and dates in time. By is the least common preposition of time but can be used to express important due dates when it comes to days and weeks.

Here are some example sentences for preposition of time:

  • I have a salsa class at 8 pm tonight.
  • In September, I started my new job.
  • We ended our job strike on Tuesday because our demands were met.
  • You need to finish this project by next week.
  • We will be back from our vacation by Friday night at 11 PM.

This chart below from http://www.englishlearnsite.com is very useful in giving us more examples on how to use these prepositions of time in the correct manner without getting frustrated.

prepositions-of-time

Prepositions are an important grammatical concept to master in order to become fluent in the English language. I hope this first ‘English Corner’ session was helpful to you as a reader of my website. Remember that a preposition is always followed by a noun, and never by a verb. Prepositions usually appear in the middle of a sentence but sometimes at the beginning or end too. Placing your prepositions before the ‘noun’ and after the subject/verb will help you greatly with regards to your English grammar.

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of ‘English Corner’ and I look forward to sharing another topic with all of my visitors again soon.