Hello! I'm originally from the West Midlands in The UK, but I am now settled close to Paris with my partner and our two cats.
I completed my BA in English and Creative Writing and then went into teaching at the age of 21, but writing has formed a huge part of my work, academic and personal life. I'm pretty versatile and enjoy writing in lots of styles and exploring different niches.
My other interests include drawing and illustration, music, languages, film (particularly black and white and social realist films) and cooking. I grew up reading a lot about history, particularly medieval history.
In 2021, the possibilities for language learning are boundless - whether that means getting started with a new language or going up a notch on the CEFR.
I have spent a huge part of my adult life living and working abroad - in China and now in France where I intend to permanently settle. My BA is in English & Creative Writing and now I am an English teacher so in a variety of ways, language has made up a massive portion of my academic, personal and work life.
Since I started to seriously try learning another language (Mandarin), I've probably tried and tested every language learning trick in the book and have been lucky enough, as a learner, to experience a number of different teachers with their own, unique teaching styles, complemented by a multitude of apps and language sites.
I am currently studying B2 level French with my personal favourite - Lingoda. Some people prefer having only one teacher (though individual classes are also an option on Lingoda) but I love the diversity of teachers and classes at Lingoda and having a different teacher for each class. It gives me the opportunity to habituate myself to a range of accents, teaching methods and experience various class dynamics (plus, it's safely within my budget - my €48 per month subscription works out at only €12 per hour for one class per week - nice!).
On the other hand, if you're not up for spending too much, there are lots of even cheaper (or free) alternatives. A lot of people report success with Duolingo and Memrise, two of the most popular apps out there right now. Duolingo was a great tool for me when I started relearning French (five years of secondary school) to brush up on the basics before jumping into classes. There are so many choices of languages to learn on there that you can try out the less common ones, too - I've even had a go at Welsh and Norwegian!
In this post, I would like to share some of the challenges and obstacles I am (very much still) working to overcome as someone learning a foreign language.Confidence and Fear of Being Judged
Confidence has been by far the biggest hurdle for me up to this point. It's pretty terrifying conversing with native speakers when you aren't fluent and know full well there's plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings or worse, not being understood or understanding at all. It's even scarier when, like me, you're a sensitive person who is a bit shy and finds social situations hard even in your own language!
You really have to talk yourself into trying in spite of all these possibilities and remember that most people will be understanding and accomodating. Effort and growth is something to be respected, not laughed at and decent people will understand this. There will always be the occasional rude person who will go out of their way to not understand you or snigger at your mistakes, but I have found people like this to be the exception and not the rule.
Another thing I have learned is that some people are naturals at talking to foreigners because they instinctively know when to adjust their pace and avoid colloquialisms that might cause confusion to a non-native speaker who isn't at the idiomatic level yet. Others aren't.
Whoever you're interacting with, you have to give it a shot because it's pretty much impossible to be good at a language if you are not practicing using it in real-life situations. And it's all about your progress, not someone's reaction. To conclude - tale as old as time - we really do learn by trial and error and making a LOT of mistakes.
This is another reason I'm glad I do pre-booked classes now - classes that I cannot get refunded for unless I cancel 7 or more days in advance. You'll have days where you feel a bit demotivated or crappy and think "It won't hurt if I cancel a few classes". In my case, I find this is a very easy way to fall off the wagon. A few days or weeks off for me can turn into months and then I'm onto trying something else while thinking "I can come back to it later". I've made it a habit to book all my classes weeks in advance to avoid this.
Even on days when I really don't feel like going into a class and speaking another language when I don't even feel like speaking my own, 9/10 times I feel a lot better when it's done and I can feel I've achieved something that day. Sometimes it can be surprising what you can achieve even when you feel rubbish.
Everyone has their weak points, whether than be pronunciation, memorizing, vocabulary, grammar... the list is endless. For me, it has always been grammar, particularly in French. Those verb conjugations can be rough, there's no two ways about it. When using verbs, I frequently find myself stopping mid-sentence and madly trying to conjugate as quickly as possible in my head.
I get confused between so many tenses. In my experience (with French), memorization of patterns here is key. Those conjugation tables are very daunting but learning a rule I can then apply in each instance has really been the only possible way for me. Sometimes there are a lot of rules, and therein lies my biggest struggle. It's something I'm still working through.
Despite living in a time when it's so easy to sign up for classes or download a language app, learning a language takes perserverence, discipline and, I believe, courage. It takes guts to put yourself in situations where you know you might feel stupid or be misunderstood. So, if you're learning a language, whether that's just starting out or trying to get to the next level and the challenges feel overwhelming to you at times, try to remember that having the courage to learn a new language demonstrates a great deal of fortitude and strength of character and you deserve every bit of encouragement!
On y va!
My skeleton cries for cover.
Rain ripples off its gentle edges.
The story is told.
I am the canvas,
the night is ink.
A mist upon the river
comes up to my waist.
My gentle frame clutches at itself.
Time passes immemorial.
My soul is paper
that takes in the water
and breaks bonds like ghosts scattered
in fear of the living
in the city.
The river runs at my side -
a deluge of memories
I do not wish to possess -
seeds that did not grow into magnolias.
My heart is the crevasse.
are a jumble of words
the skies try to tell you now.
My waters are deep and
I am sure to drown in them.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or medical professional, so if you are considering switching food brands, please consult your veterinarian first! This is just written from personal experience only.
Fussy cat? Fat cat? Smelly cat? As a fellow parent of two beloved but demanding fluffy princesses, I understand that every cat has (often very specific) differing needs in the nutrition department. This is why, since I started feeding my slightly overweight Siamese Royal Canin Appetite Control, I've never looked back.
Having heard horror stories about how bad some brands of standard dry and wet food can be for cats, I have to admit I was formerly somewhat dubious about big pet food brands. What I didn't expect to discover was a multitude of options catering to pretty much every possible feline nutritional need.
For the first few years of my life with Pixie the Siamese, I was living in Beijing. I noticed that Royal Canin was the only brand of cat food advertised and sold at the International Clinic I had registered her at (ICVS). I couldn't get over how many different types there were - alongside your standard kitten and adult formulas were Urinary Care, Hair and Skin Care, Digestive and Indoor Cat to name a few.
Having a huge amount of trust in the clinic (they had always been exceptionally thorough and meticulous in their annual checkups) and knowing they would only advertise the best possible option, I decided to try "Royal Canin Indoor Cat" (perfect for apartment and house cats). Pixie has always had a bit of a problem with self-control and can often be found trying (and sometimes succeeding) to steal food from our younger cat, so we later switched to "Appetite Control". She is looking healthy, shiny, a little slimmer and even more active than I can ever remember her (she's prone to laziness as well as being greedy).
This could be due in part to the addition of an adorable rescue kitten by the name of Strumpf (translation: "Smurf") who is a complete livewire, but I wouldn't be surprised if her diet had a fair bit to do with that, too. On the backs of the bags of dry food, you'll find detailed recommendations from experts on the correct amount to feed your cat depending on their physical condition. I found this massively helpful as I really had no idea how much was a good amount to feed and every cat is an individual case.
Royal Canin may seem a little pricey compared to typical supermarket cat breeds, but I would argue that, in this case, the quality is absolutely worth it. Consider it an investment in the overall happiness, health and longevity of your fluffy friends. Personally, I purchase one 2kg bag per cat per month (the younger cat is still on kitten food) which only works out at around €1 or less per day per cat. Pretty fair, I'd say!
Don't just take it from me - a quick google search will show you that Royal Canin is one of the most trusted and well-respected brands known today. In light of this, I highly recommend giving them a try.
Don't fur-get to head on over to their website using the links above!