A Lifetime of Learning

Contrary to popular belief, one’s education does not stop when you finish high school, college, or even graduate school. While formal education is often necessary and useful especially for skilled and professional fields, it is not the end all be all for actual learning. Even if you have been through 12 – 18 years of formal schooling, that doesn’t mean that you should stop learning. If anything, you may have the time, the money, and the ability now to study and learn about subjects that you never had the chance to before. Learning doesn’t stop in your teens or in your 20’s. It’s a lifelong process and you should never want to stop learning.

In a previous article titled, “A Wealth of Knowledge”, I highlighted a number of ways and places where you can continue to learn new things to broaden your horizons and expand your interests. As I mentioned previously, we are currently living in a time where knowledge is seemingly infinite, more affordable, and easier to access than ever. While information, data, and subject matter is limitless in the ways that it can be obtained and analyzed, the ways in which you can stand out as a learner is in how much time you devote to the learning process and how dedicated you are to absorbing this knowledge.

Whether it’s coding, learning a language, or developing financial literacy, the amount of effort you put into it will decide how much you get out of it. Even if you’re just learning a new skill or subject as an interest or hobby, it will help you to stand out from the crowd. If you use part of your free time to develop yourself by learning a new skill or trade, it is guaranteed to help you both personally and professionally. There are also different types of learning so if you happen to decide to revisit subjects you forgot about from high school like algebra, physics or chemistry, you may be doing your brain a favor. If you’re not so much into math and science but enjoy the written word much more, perhaps you would be better suited for strengthening your reading, writing, and editing skills. You may want to start your own blog like I did, or become a freelance editor to make extra money, but you are using your personal interests to further your learning to make yourself well rounded.

Reading a new book each month, learning a language for one hour each day, or doing a daily crossword puzzle takes both discipline and effort. A lifetime of learning is not for everyone because it takes some characteristics that some people aren’t capable of implementing. You have to set goals when you’re learning outside of a university or a class setting. Only you will be accountable for your actions and how far you go when it comes to your outside the box learning experiences. It can be difficult to learn new things when you don’t have a teacher or professor looking over your shoulder but you’ll develop more self-confidence, maturity, and intellectual depth by being able to learn and study on your own.

When it comes to learning by yourself, in addition to no one holding your hand through the process, don’t expect others to recognize the work or effort you put in to it. You should be learning for yourself and not for the approval of other people. If you’re expecting recognition just for reading a lot or creating your first website, the world doesn’t work like that. Being confident in your abilities, proud of your efforts, and seeing the fruits of your labor change the world in some way is the icing on the proverbial cake when it comes to taking the initiative to learn.

To make the excuse that you don’t have time or you’re too old or it’s going to be too hard are not good enough. There’s a popular expression that you never know until you try. How can you know that you’re going to fail if you haven’t even tried yet? Don’t limit yourself based on your educational background as well because you may find that you were bad at mathematics but ended up becoming a great coder when you gave it a shot. If you find that you don’t like what you’re learning or that you’ve made little progress over the period of at least a few months of serious effort and hard work, then it may be a good idea to do something else.

You should always be learning something, especially when it’s something new. Letting your creative and intellectual juices stagnate is not good for either the mind or the body in my opinion. Even if learning new things may become more difficult as you get older, it’s still not impossible and it would be good for your mental dexterity. Do not let pressure from your friends and your family prevent you from learning. If they love and care about you, they’ll support your thirst for knowledge. Reading a book, learning a foreign language, or playing an instrument are activities that we should always be encouraging in people regardless of their age and background.

Learning new skills has many mental benefits especially for the brain. ‘Myelin’, the white matter that makes up a good portion of our cerebral nervous system becomes denser when we learn new skills allowing us to improve our performance when it comes to processing new information. In addition to your brain chemistry seeing a boost, the more you learn, the more neural pathways are formed in the brain allowing the electrical impulses to fire off quicker than ever making it continually easier to learn new things. It’s a positive feedback loop for your brain when you learn on a consistent and unyielding basis.

Existing knowledge that you’ve compiled is also more easily retained because you’ll be making connections between the new information you’re learning and the old information that you remember clearly. Having more knowledge and more learning experiences is proven to make you a more interesting person as well. Being able to discuss a wide variety of books or have a detailed conversation with another person in a foreign language are great ways to form deeper connections with people and to boost your self-esteem.

If you’re bored and don’t have much of a challenge in your life, then try something new! Putting yourself to the test with learning a new skill is perhaps the most rewarding thing you can do in your life. In this hyper-technological age, adapting to change is a key trait that you’ll need to take on in order to succeed both personally and professionally. Adapting to the times often means learning new skills so if you embrace this process, you won’t be as afraid of change and you will be better able to meet those challenges.

As mentioned before, your brain is full of muscles that need to be exercised like any other part of the body. You don’t want one of your most important organs to atrophy and stagnate. A good way to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s is to keep learning throughout your life to make those degenerative, painful diseases less of a possibility. Learning is contagious so if you have a friend or a family member who seems bored by life or wanting to pursue something new, give them a few suggestions and see what they do with them. Practicing a new language or joining a book club are examples of ideal social activities that are focused around these new learning experiences. A lifetime of learning can truly do a world of good.

SourcePreventing Alzheimer’s Disease

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English Corner – Present Perfect Tense

While not the most widely used or well-known grammar tense in the English language, the ‘perfect’ tense does come up every now and then in either your writing, speaking, or listening skills. It’s important to understand both the usage of the ‘perfect tense’ as well as the forming of this grammar tense. We’ll begin this series of the ‘perfect tense’ with its’ usage and formation in the present. In the next two posts, we’ll then dive into the past and future forms and uses of the ‘perfect tense.’ When you get the basic grammar tenses down as I have gone over in past ‘English Corner’ posts, you can move onto more challenging and specifically used tenses such as the ‘perfect tense.’

It may be surprising to teach this right off the bat but the present perfect tense helps to create a link between the past and the present. In a present perfect sentence, you are going to be describing an action or an event that has happened before but it isn’t certain whether that action or event is ongoing. When you use the present perfect tense, you are going to want to focus on the result or conclusion of an action rather than if it’s still continuing or not.

There are five main circumstances in which you can use the present perfect tense. You can do so when discussing an action or situation, which began in the past and has continued into the present. You can talk about an action that was undertaken during a period of time and that has not yet been finished. You could also discuss a repeated action or event that occurred over an unspecified amount of time between the past up until now.

You can also insert the word ‘just’ into your sentence to indicate that an action or event was completed very recently in the past to emphasize how close it was to the present. Lastly, you can describe an action or event that simply took place and was completed without mentioning the time or date at all. If you want to be more detailed about asking why, when, where, what, how, who, etc., you’re going to want to focus on using the simple past tense instead so as to not to confuse these two distinct tenses. In order to get a better idea of these five different uses for the present perfect tense, here are some examples to remember.

Actions Started In The Past that Continue Into The Present

Examples:

  • We haven’t lived in our house for years.
  • He has worked in the high school for decades.
  • Have you played the guitar since you were a teenager?

The Time Period Hasn’t Been Completed Yet

Examples:

  • I have traveled very far this week.
  • They have danced a lot tonight.
  • It has snowed a little bit this winter.

Repeated Actions Between The Past and Now (Unknown Period)

Examples:

  • We have seen The Terminator three times.
  • I have been on that roller coaster ride multiple times.
  • She has visited her parents occasionally.

Completed Actions In The Very Recent Past – ‘Just’

Examples:

  • Have you just eaten dinner?
  • I have just finished my thesis.
  • Has he just left the ballpark?

The Timing of the Action is Not Known or Not Important

Examples:

  • Have you been to Washington DC?
  • Somebody has eaten my lunch.
  • You have studied many foreign languages.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that additional words like ‘just’, ‘since’, ‘for’, and ‘still’ may pop up every now and then in your present perfect tense sentences depending upon which of the five uses you are utilizing this specific grammar tense for.

When it comes to forming the present perfect tense, there is an actual formula towards creating the right form that each English learner should be aware of. There are two elements to the present perfect tense. The first is the right form of the auxiliary verb represented by the verb to have in the present tense. The second element is represented by using the past participle of the main verb with the base verb + ed. For some examples, the past participle of these regular verbs could be danced, finished, worked, etc. The two elements will also go together when the base verb is irregular regardless of the circumstances.

Positive Form – Example

  1. He has traveled to Japan.

(Subject + verb ‘to have’ + past participle)

Negative Form – Example

  1. She has not traveled to Brazil.

(Subject + verb ‘to have + not’ + past participle)

Question Form – Example

  1. Have they traveled to Colombia?

(Verb ‘to have’ + subject + past participle)

Negative Question Form – Example

  1. Hasn’t he traveled to Japan?

(Verb ‘to have + not’ + subject + past participle)

To finish off this entry on the ‘present perfect’ tense, I’d like to leave my readers with an additional example of how to use a simple verb and express that word in the positive, negative, and question forms by using the present perfect tense. You can use these examples to help yourself when it comes time for you as the student to use this particular grammar tense in your everyday speaking and writing activities as an English language student.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about my ‘English Corner’ posts, please do let me know. Next time, I’ll be covering the ‘past perfect’ grammar tense, which is quite similar to the ‘present perfect’ tense but with a few differences to highlight. In the meantime, keep studying hard and do check out my previous ‘English Corner’ posts on my website.

To Run – Present Perfect Tense

Positive Form

  1. I have ran
  2. You have ran
  3. He, She, It has ran
  4. We have ran
  5. You have ran
  6. They have ran

Negative Form

  1. I haven’t ran
  2. You haven’t ran
  3. He, She, It hasn’t ran
  4. We haven’t ran
  5. You haven’t ran
  6. They haven’t ran

Question Form

  1. Have I run?
  2. Have you run?
  3. Has he, she, it ran?
  4. Have we run?
  5. Have you run?
  6. Have they run?

Note: It’s important to remember that the verb ‘to run’ goes from ran to run when it comes to the question form of the ‘present perfect’ tense. Otherwise, in the positive and negative forms of this grammar tense, you will use ‘ran’ instead to describe this particular verb in the ‘present perfect.’ This is a helpful tip to remember for readers if you happen to be confused by this change.

Why You Should Learn to Cook in Your 20’s

You’ve got the good job. You live in a nice apartment. You are able to move out of your parents’ house. You’re lucky enough to consider yourself to be pretty independent and self-sufficient in your 20’s, which isn’t so easy to come by these days. However, have you learned how to cook? Can you feed yourself without needing to go to a restaurant or to order from Domino’s?

I consider that being able to learn how to cook is one of the most important skills any young adult should have a good proficiency in by the time they turn 30. You don’t need to be on the level of Anthony Bourdain or Emeril Lagasse but you should be able to know a decent amount of recipes and be able to cook yourself a couple of homemade meals each week. There are a number of good reasons as to why it’s important to learn how to cook in your 20’s and I’ll cover a few of them in this post.

1.) You’ll save money.

Regardless of where you’re living in the world, it’s often the case that buying groceries from the local market or supermarket and cooking meals for yourself will be less expensive than going out to eat for lunch or dinner or even both meals. The costs really add up after a while from eating out all of the time or from ordering a lot of meals to be delivered to your door. In your 20’s, many people are trying to save up money for graduate school, or to buy a car or to lease an apartment so if you’re able to buy food for yourself and then cook it, you’re way ahead of the game and you’ll probably save a good amount of money each month. Any kind of savings that you can create in your 20’s will make a sizable impact down the road and cooking your own meals is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on your personal budget each month.

2.) It’s healthier for you.

Let’s be honest: ordering out or eating out at a restaurant are not the healthiest options to do repeatedly. While there are healthy options out there, they are usually the exception and not the rule. Eating a takeout pizza with extra cheese from Domino’s is simply not as preparing a fresh salad from scratch for your dinner. Unless you go to a higher-end restaurant, a lot of restaurants these days use a lot of sugar, salt, or other preservatives that can lead you to put on some extra weight if you’re not careful. Knowing how to cook forces you to create your own daily diet without having any outside influence. You’ll be more responsible for your intake of different foods and learning how to properly balance your diet with fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, meats, etc. This is a skill that is better to be learned in your 20’s so that it can be a healthy habit that can stay with you for the rest of your life. You’re making a conscious choice every time you prepare and cook your own food and that’s a great skill to have.

3.) You’ll become more independent and self-reliant.

Being comfortable with your cooking skills and knowing that you’ll never go hungry or rely on others to cook your food is a great thing for your self-esteem. The confidence that you’ll gain as you get better at cooking is something that can transfer over to your parts of your life. It’s a skill that you can share with other people whether it’s your friends, your parents or other members of your family. A lot of your 20’s is learning how to function as an individual who is independent from other people and one of the best ways to do that is to learn how to cook a good meal. It may take time and a lot of effort but the rewards will be ever present throughout your life. You can make other people in your life happier and healthier by cooking for them and they’ll appreciate the fact that you can take care of yourself in the kitchen.

4.) It’s easier now than ever.

With modern technology like the stove, the gas oven, and the many utensils and kitchenware you can buy for pretty cheap, learning how to cook is easier now than ever. In addition, any aspiring cook has the entirety of the Internet at their disposal. Whether it’s learning the basics for the first time or trying out a new recipe, there is a limitless amount of information out there that can help you achieve your cooking goals. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that can walk you through a recipe step by step and there are thousands of unique recipes that you can look up on a moment’s notice through Google that can make cooking more fun and creative.

Centuries ago, cooking food was much more of a daily ordeal with the average meal taking a full day to prepare but due to the advent of modern technology, it really is easier now than ever. For example, I learned of a website recently called Blue Apron, which actually delivers all of the fresh ingredients for the different recipes you want to make without you leaving your apartment or house to scavenge for the ingredients at the local market. There are also a number of companies out there such as Whole Foods that can deliver all of your groceries to your door making it even easier and more cost effective to cook your own meals.

5.) It makes you more creative.

With thousands of recipes to choose from and with different ingredients to mix and match with your favorite foods, cooking is really an art just like painting or music. You can experiment as much as you want and really tailor your meal to your own preferences. When you order food at a restaurant, it’s really up to the chef’s own taste on how he puts your meal together. When you cook for yourself, you’re giving back control to yourself. You can work with your hands and you can slice and dice as you please.

While you may struggle at first with getting the recipes down to a science, you’ll keep getting better and better the more you practice and that’s what makes it so fun. Even if you burn the chicken or undercook the spaghetti, you can learn from your mistakes and know what to do better the next time. Cooking is a skill that really utilizes both your mind and your body. While it takes a lot of effort and time to master, the results are often delicious.

Put away the Chinese takeout menu, and put that apron on. It’s time to take these reasons into consideration as you begin your cooking career. Even if you’re a single guy or gal living in the heart of the city with restaurants abound, you should still give yourself the joy of cooking. You’ll thank yourself later when you have a wife or children to cook for at home and you can put together a meal that’s more than just scrambled eggs or spaghetti. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to make myself dinner.

Cuisine Spotlight – Sancocho

Many cultures around the world have their own unique take on stews and soups that are both hearty and comes with a number of different ingredients. This is also the case in many Latin American countries where the stew itself is called ‘sancocho’ and is closely related to the Spanish stew known as ‘cocido.’ Along with the Spanish influence, Sancocho takes most of its’ ingredients from local foods that are popular and add flavor to the dish. Sancocho is also considered to be the national dish in a few of the Latin American countries where it is made and eaten.

Among the countries where Sancocho is a popular food dish includes the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Venezuela, etc. so you could say that it’s a staple and has become popular in many households and restaurants. Sancocho is believed to have originated from the Canary Islands where it is a dish that heavily is made of a whole-cooked fish with broth and potatoes.

The dish was brought over to Latin America when the Canarians and their descendants immigrated to parts of the new world centuries ago. As is the case with many different foods, the immigrants who move to a different part of the world often bring their favorite dishes with them. While fish was a main ingredient in the ‘original’ sancocho, there are many different types of meats and vegetables that make up variations on the popular dish depending upon which country you’re in. Sancocho is especially common to be served during lunchtime as it is quite filling and can hold a person over until dinner comes around. It’s common for Sancocho to be served in a huge pot for a family gathering or birthday party where the dish can be expanded to served dozens of people total.

In Colombia, specifically, sancocho is an extremely popular dish with a wide range of ingredients that can range from chicken to ox tail. Other meats that can be apart of sancocho include hen, pork ribs, cow ribs, fish, etc. For example, sancocho with fish is really popular on the Atlantic coast of Colombia while pork and beef is more commonly found in the interior of the country. In addition to mean, sancocho can also include large portions of plantains, yucca, potatoes, and various vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, cilantro, scallions, mazorca (corn on the cob), etc.

There is simply no limit as to what can be put into sancocho and each country puts a different spin on the popular dish. In the Dominican Republic, for example, there is Sancocho de siete carnes, which is a dish made up of a mixture of different meats including chicken, beef, pork, etc. Sancocho de gallina, which is made up of free-range chicken is quite popular in Panama and is also the national dish of the country. Puerto Rico has the distinction of even adding smoked ham, pork feet with chick feats, which is known as sancocho de patitas and is quite unique in terms of its’ culinary characteristics.

The beautiful thing about sancocho is that there are so many different regional and national varieties to this dish are that the possibilities of mixing and matching different ingredients or toppings is simply endless. Any nation that has been touched by Spanish influence or colonization has adapted their own version of sancocho including even in the Philippines, which has a huge amount of meats and vegetables to offer in its own national take on the dish. Keeping to the Spanish heritage of the dish, they call it cocido as it is known in Spain.

If you decide to come to Latin America and find yourself at someone’s family gathering, hanging out with a few friends, or enjoying a birthday party, it’s likely that you’ll get a good serving of sancocho. In addition, the sancocho you get depending upon the country or the region in which the dish is being served to you will most likely be different and have some variation to it. The beauty of a popular dish like sancocho is its’ history, its’ adaptability, as well as the chance to gather with a group of people and dig in to this delicious food together.

 

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.

part-speech-nounb
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.