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Up Close and Personal

How to Learn a Language (When You’re an Adult)

you can never understand one language until you understand at least two

As you guys know, I’ve been taking French since early last fall. A few weeks ago, the Level 4 class began. Even after being exposed to the language for weeks and months on end, this class has been a whole new ball game. At Fluent City, where I’m taking the courses, only native speakers are allowed to teach this class, and I’ve found the students in it are way more advanced. I think that’s because in earlier levels, the types of people taking classes were those who had maybe done Rosetta Stone on their own, or had taken French in high school years and years ago. In this class? There are people who have lived in France. Or speak it regularly with their (French) spouse and (French) friends. Or majored in it in college. Totally intimidating, right?

But, I’m not getting discouraged — which, I’ll admit, was my first instinct. Instead, I’ve been trying to hone in on the lessons I’ve learned after trying to learn a language as an adult over the last half year. I know that learning a new language is a goal/dream for so many people, so I thought I’d share some tips on what I’ve discovered with you today. Hopefully, these will encourage and inspire you to start learning and not give up!

STOP TRANSLATING WEB PAGES: Whenever I used to land on pages like Sézane and Garance Doré, the first thing I would do would be to either switch to the site’s English version, or have Google translate it for me within Chrome. Now? I really, really try not to do that. It’s like a pop quiz — out of nowhere, I have to take a minute and try and think about what I’m reading. Two things happen when you do this: one, you realize how much you actually can read and interpret in another language, and two, you end up being exposed to colloquialisms (which is a good thing). There have been a few times I’ve read a Garance essay and not known what a phrase meant, but when I Googled it, realized it was a French idiom. Knowing these little phrases is what makes your language skills sound more legit!

SPLURGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL GLOSSIES: The first time I ever splurged on a copy of Vogue Paris, I had serious doubt. The magazine stand I found it at was charging $15 for a single issue. Ouch! But, after a while, I realized it was a good value. For one thing, I can’t plow through a magazine written entirely in French at the same speed as an English one — it takes me months (yes, months). But the other thing is that a French magazine provides a lot of learning benefits because of the contextual clues it provides. A fashion mag like Vogue Paris isn’t so different from its American counterpart, or other style magazines. The way the book is laid out, plus the types of topics it covers are all really similar, so you have a ton of context to help you through vocab words you don’t know. Plus, magazines inherently give you some choices of what to tackle — front of book pieces (like a short piece on a new skin cream) are easy to digest and can be read in a few minutes; longer features can be tackled when you have more time to sit, study and look up words. Plus, magazines give you pretty pictures to look at while you’re learning. What’s not to love?!   Read more »

Girl, Put Your Records On

record store

My father was very similar to me in that he had an endless fascination with technology and the “new”. There was one Christmas, probably around 1990 or so, that he and my mother bought a six-CD changer to accompany the record player and dual cassette recorder we had in our living room. In those days, a CD changer like that was a crazy thing to have, but that was my dad. He was a total gadget guy, and though not extravagant with anything else in life, he always wanted the newest technology.

Like me, he was also really into pop culture. The first CD he ever bought, even before the six-CD changer? Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl. I remember going with him into a record store (like, a REAL record store) and buying the CD. Compact Discs had their own tiny little section along one wall, and they were all propped up on shelves, because back then, CDs came packaged in thin boxes that were about a foot long (anyone else remember that??).


We shared a love of VH1, cartoons, and computer games, but the one thing we didn’t share a love of is what I used to call his “oldie music”. We would be driving around town and he would switch from the pop station to the “oldies” station on the radio, quieting any complaints I raised. “This is the music I grew up with,” he’d tell me, “One day you’ll understand.” I’d harumph and tell him that I never would. I think my famous last words were something along the lines of, “I won’t have to, because MY music will always be cool!”

Suffices to say, these days, I totally understand. Now if I happen to hear an oldies station in a cab, they’re always playing 90s music, and I adore it and don’t want them to switch stations. Anyone who ever comes to my house (or goes karaoke-ing with me) will soon learn that I have an undying love for 90s music. I think it’s a product of being an only child, and spending a lot of time alone in my room as a kid and teenager. My life revolved around my stereo system. Before music could be downloaded, I’d sit by the stereo for hours on the weekends making cassette mix tapes. Then, I’d spend just as many hours laying on my waterbed (yes, you read that right) and memorizing their lyrics. Once things like WinAmp existed (OMG, does anyone remember that?), I’d spend just as many hours downloading songs, organizing playlists, and then burning them onto CDs. Sans the waterbed, in case you’re wondering.


The trend continues today. I’ll catch up on current music every now and again, but my favorite songs (and playlists) are still ones that are firmly rooted in the 20th century. It always cracks me up to share these types of playlists when I’m entertaining, because inevitably a song comes on that friends haven’t heard in years — and it instantly takes them back. A song like “Semi-Charmed Life” can play, and while most people can sing the chorus and stumble through other parts, who has two thumbs and can sing every last word? This girl. Trust me when I say, you want me on your karaoke team. I mean, the first concert I ever attended was Montell Jordan. Who was the opening act for TLC. Who was the opening act for Boyz II Men. Do you see where I’m going with this?

vintage records

Today I wanted to share a playlist of some of my absolute, all-time favorite, never-gonna-get-sick-of-’em songs from the 90s. If you can clearly remember cassette tapes existing in your childhood, I promise, you’ll find a tune here that’ll leave you longing for your old Walkman. There are classics below, to be sure (y’all, is it just me, or does “Hand in My Pocket” totally hold up?), and a few tracks that run so deep, you might not even remember them (be honest, when is the last time you even thought about the song “Candy Rain”?). Enjoy, and tell me – what 90s song would you add to the list?

Images: Record Store: Wish Wish Wish , check out Carrie’s blog here; Loudness: Orin Zebest; Record Stack: Knar Bedian; Vintage Records: Thomas

Full disclosure: This is a sponspored post, and compensation was provided by Spotify via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Spotify.

Long Weekend Recap

robert sinskey vineyards

Wow, what a weekend! And for a minute there, it looked like it wasn’t even going to happen. But all’s well that end’s well, and we ended up having a great time in California. On Instagram, I alluded to the fact that Friday was a pretty crazy day — definitely a Valentine’s Day we won’t soon forget. Basically, despite clear skies and warmer temps on Friday morning, our flight was cancelled in the middle of the night. After hours on the phone hold with United and taking a gamble and going to JFK very early in the morning, we lucked into a flight to Phoenix and a connecting flight to SF. The flights were out of another airport (and if you want to get really technical, another state) and on another airline, but we took it! I’m so, so, so, SO glad we got to the airport when we did. The woman who was two places behind us in line was told the earliest she could get to California was Monday, maybe Tuesday. This will shock no one who lives on the east coast, but air travel be crazy when winter sucks. Definitely our first time experiencing the madness!

When we finally made it out to Newark, this is what we saw on the tarmac:

airport snow


To give you a frame of reference, in the first photo the snow is probably double the height of the truck; in the second, you can see where the plow was at work on the edge, and the plow is probably a little shorter than I am. So….  Read more »