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The Last Sequence – 13-12-11

Today is a very special day from a numerological point of view. It is the last time for 90 years that a date can be written in a direct number sequence, with next time being in 2103/02/01.

As I have always found number sequences interesting and because today is such a special day, I planned something special to mark the occasion. Therefore, at 10:09 today, I did 100 push ups which has been on my bucketlist for quite some time, in order to make an interesting number sequence even more special, ending up with 13/12/11 10:09.

About three weeks ago I decided that I wanted to challenge myself a bit extra, so almost jokingly I told a friend of mine that I would do 100 push ups on the 11th December, which was about three weeks away at the time. As of saying that, my personal record was only 60 push ups, so in the last few weeks I have really tried to push my own limits.

All in all, I am extremely proud of this, even though this is definitely not going to be my max for long! I’ve caught a push up bug!

Swedish Classic – The Beginnings

ESK_banner1I have decided together with a good friend of mine to complete one of the toughest series of endurance races available in Sweden, called A Swedish Classic (webpage in Swedish). It consists of four separate races that you have to complete within a 12 month span, in order for you to be able to say that you have completed a Swedish Classic. So far the Swedish Classic diploma has been awarded to 23’486 men and 4’959 women since it started in 1972.

Update: As we were too late to book ours slots for Vasaloppet 2014, we will start the Swedish Classic with the Vätternrundan race and complete Vasaloppet in 2015 instead. A positive thing about this is that we will get more time to prepare for the various different races, but it is too bad that we won’t be able to complete the whole thing during 2014.

Update 2: We were lucky enough to get tickets for an earlier race called Engelbrektsloppet, which also is a part of the Swedish Classic race, which means that we will be able to complete the Swedish Classic in 2014! This is so exciting! On another note, I have needed to buy new gear for almost all of these races, such as new skis and a racing bike for the 300 km long Vätternrundan!

The Swedish Classic races are:

Vasaloppet

logotype.vasaloppetThe race that we will be starting with is the ‘Vasaloppet’ cross country ski race, which is 90 km long. It is the oldest, the longest, and the biggest (in terms of participants, normally with over 15’000 people in the main race and an additional 60’000 in related races the same week) cross-country ski race in the world and has been a Swedish traditional race since 1922. The race is held in memory of the Swedish king Gustav Vasa, who fled towards Norway in 1521 on skis. Read more about Gustav Vasa here. The race annually has millions of people in Sweden as well as around the world hooked to the TV or radio and is one of the biggest sporting events of the year in Sweden. Read more about Vasaloppet on Wikipedia. Vasaloppet is held annually on the first Sunday of Mars.

Vätternrundan

VätternrundanVätternrundan is the world’s longest recreational bicycle race, 300 km or 186.4 miles long, circling the second largest lake in Sweden. The race isn’t officially a competition, but instead everybody receives an RF transponder so that they can find out their own race time. In 2011, 27’973 cyclists passed the finish line in the 30 hours that the race is going on for. During the race you can stop at any of the nine stop locations to receive water, food and a free massage and once you have completed the race you are awarded a medal, a diploma and a warm meal.  Read more about Vätternrundan on Wikipedia. Vätternrundan is held during the weekend before midsummer, ever since 1966.

Vansbrosimningen

VansbrosimningenThe Vansbrosimningen is a 3 km long race has been going on since 1950, with participants swimming with the current for around 2000 meters and then up against the current in an adjoining river. For the race in 2014, there are already 3643 people who have signed up as of the time that I’m writing this article. Read more about Vansbrosimningen on the official website (in Swedish).

Lidingöloppet

LidingoloppetIn 2014 Lidingöloppet celebrates it’s 50th anniversary, which makes it an even more special event. The race is a 30 km long cross country running event. During 2013 there were 43’500 participants in the race, making it the largest cross country running event in the world. Read more about Lidingöloppet on Wikipedia. Lidingöloppet is held annually on the last Saturday in September.

Preparation

As these races are all endurance races, we have both been training conditioning a lot, in addition to strength training during the summer. The summer’s training culminated in a short 5 km race on the 14th of September, where I due to stomach issues only was able to complete the race with a time of 29:56. Still, for my first ever race, it felt good to have finished in under 30 minutes.

I’m really excited to having committed to this project, so now I can’t wait for the snow to come so that I can start training skiing in anticipation of Vasaloppet. Of course I will keep you all update on the progress and the results of the races. Wish me luck!

The summer of 2013 – Updates

I realize that I haven’t been writing for a very long time. There are several reasons for this, but I promise that I will write a few posts about what has been happening lately. I also know that I haven’t been writing any personal blog posts in almost a year, so I think that it’s time that they come back too.

new-year-new-job

One of the biggest things that have happened lately is that I have gotten a new job that I’m really excited about. I was unemployed for a few months during the summer, but I think that I used my time quite well.

For example, I had a lot of time to go to the gym, which really has started to show results; I have finally started to be able to see my six-pack abs! At the moment they can’t be seen all the time, so I still have some ways to go to improve that, but at least they’re there!

I filled my summer quite well with other activities as well, some of which I am planning to share with you here on the blog in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

I am quite excited to having started writing again, so expect a few new blog posts soon!

Korean Hangul in 20 minutes

If you have never tried to learn another script, anything that you see in a different script looks mysterious, strange and difficult to understand. There are many different kinds of scripts in the world, but few as simple as the Korean Hangul.

Creating Hangul

If you’ve seen the writing systems that look like strange scribbles from the far eastern countries, you probably also come across the Korean writing system known as Hangul. Hangul is actually a proper alphabet that was created rather than developed over time. The story goes that a Korean king named Sejong the Great wanted to promote literacy in Korea, especially among his own soldiers, and thought that the Chinese writing system (called hanzi in Chinese, hanja in Korean) was too complicated and didn’t properly correlate to the way Korean was spoken. He set up a competition for linguists to create a writing system specially designed for Korean, which was to be as simple as possible so that anyone could learn it. There were many scripts that were developed in this competition, and the Hangul we see now was elected the winner of the competition.

Well, if the idea was to make a simple writing system, why does it look so complicated, you may ask. Well it really isn’t complicated at all. You just haven’t tried to learn it yet, and as you know, anything you haven’t tried to learn could either be extremely complicated or very easy to learn. In this case, you just don’t know how easy it is just yet.

Hangul is Easy

I believe that anyone can learn to read and write Hangul in less than an hour, no matter what excuses you may come up with, that you just don’t have a mind for languages, that you are too old, or anything else. I also firmly believe that most people can learn it in 20 minutes or less. How cool wouldn’t it be if you could learn a completely new writing system in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of The Simpsons? Continue reading Korean Hangul in 20 minutes

How to Tie a Tie – Exotic Style

In my previous post about classic tie knots I showed you how to tie the four classical tie knots. In this post we will go well beyond the basics and focus on a few really cool looking tie knots that can best be described as exotic and definitely will draw attention.

Exotic tie knots that draw attention!

Never heard of a tie knot drawing attention before? Well, now you’re going to learn several that do. I have found these knots in various places on the internet and just like with the classic knots, I haven’t invented them myself, but they are nevertheless very cool.

The Eldredge Knot

We start off with my new favourite knot; The Eldredge knot. It looks pretty amazing, don’t you think?

eldredge-knot Continue reading How to Tie a Tie – Exotic Style

How to Tie a Tie – The Classics

There are basically four tie knots that can be classified as the classics, namely the Four in Hand, Half Windsor, Full Windsor and the Shell Knot. I will describe how to tie them individually in this post as well, but feel free to copy the following diagram to your computer, print it and put it up on your wall or memorize it if you like.

Classics

1. Four in Hand

The easiest one of the classics is the Four in Hand knot, doesn’t take much time at all to learn. It looks alright and is a handy one to know. The negative thing about the Four in Hand knot is that it is asymmetrical, which gives you a slanting line at the top.

four-in-hand

Here is how you tie the Four in Hand:

  1. Begin by crossing the wide end over the narrow end.
  2. Fold the wide end underneath the narrow end.
  3. Pass the wide end horizontally over the narrow end again.
  4. Take the wide end up and through the loop around your neck.
  5. Take the wide end through the knot in front. Proceed to tighten the knot and pull it up to your collar.

2. Half Windsor

The second one of the classics that everybody should know is the Half Windsor. It looks fantastic, it’s symmetrical and it suits almost all occasions. This is your go-to knot most of the time. The Half Windsor works very well for ties made of thick fabric.

half-windsor

Here is how you tie the Half Windsor:

  1. Begin by crossing the wide end over the narrow end.
  2. Fold the wide end underneath the narrow end.
  3. Pull the wide end up.
  4. Take the wide end back down through the loop.
  5. Move the wide end horizontally over the narrow end.
  6. Take the wide end up through the loop.
  7. Pull the wide end through the knot in front. Proceed to tighten the knot and pull it up to your collar.

3. Full Windsor

The third classic knot is the Full Windsor. It looks great, it’s symmetrical and it suits almost all occasions and looks more business style than the Half Windsor knot. This is the one to use when you go to the office or if you have a thin fabric tie.

full-windsor

Here is how you tie the Full Windsor:

  1. Begin by crossing the wide end over the narrow end.
  2. Take the wide end back through the loop around your neck.
  3. Take the wide end over the narrow end in the same direction you crossed it at step 1.
  4. Fold the wide end underneath the narrow end.
  5. Take the wide end up…
  6. And back through the loop in the same direction as step 4.
  7. Fold the wide end horizontally over the narrow end.
  8. Bring the wide end up through the loop once more, like you did in step 2.
  9. Pull the wide end through the knot.

4. Shell Knot

The last of the classics is the Shell Knot, also known as the Shellby Knot and Pratt Knot. It’s easy to make, it’s symmetrical and doesn’t feel as imposing as the Windsor knots. This knot can be used almost at any time. In size it’s roughly between the Four in Hand and Half Windsor knots.

shell-knot

Here is how you tie the Shell Knot:

  1. Begin by crossing the wide end under the narrow end, while the tie hangs inside out around your neck.
  2. Pull the wide end up over the narrow end.
  3. Take the wide end down through the loop and tighten the knot.
  4. Move the wide end horizontally over the narrow end.
  5. Pull the wide end back up through the  loop.
  6. Pull the wide end through the knot in front. Proceed to tighten the knot and pull it up to your collar.

These are the classic tie knots that everybody should know. There are several ways of tying the Half and Full Windsor knots, so if you’re interested, feel free to roam the web in search of more.

I hope you have learned a lot! However, there are still a lot of other styles of tie knots, if you are interested. In the next post I will teach you how to make even fancier and more exotic knots! Check it out here!

Learn to Relax

Learning to relax is something very important. Almost as important as drinking enough water. Many of us don’t take time to relax enough, and when we set out to relax, we often just sit in a sofa in front of the TV or in a chair in front of the computer. I know that I do. This doesn’t allow the body to fully relax, so it’s good to sometimes just take a break and really relax for real. This problem also ties into being able to fall asleep. Because we don’t allow our minds and bodies to be relaxed before we sleep, we often make it harder for ourselves when the time comes to go to bed.

How to fall asleep is quite an interesting topic to discuss. For some people it’s quite difficult to manage to fall asleep, for some people it’s quite easy and for some people who are suffering from different forms of sleeping disorders, it’s near impossible.

At times in my life I have had huge problems with falling asleep. My brain just keeps churning things over, making it impossible to shut out the chatter from inside my own head. It was during the time that I had the most problems with these things that I read quite a lot about relaxation techniques, ways of making yourself falling asleep etc, and eventually I developed two techniques that work really well for me. One to relax my body completely, or at least as completely as it’s possible to relax oneself, and the other to blank out my mind and relax my mind. And from that relaxed state of mind, I found that it was much easier to fall asleep.

My body relaxation technique might look like some other techniques that you’ve seen somewhere else and since as far as I know it hasn’t been patented, you can feel free to claim it as your own as well. If you’ve seen or used a technique similar to this, write a comment and tell me your experience with it, that would be really cool.

 Relaxed Body

For the first technique, you can either sit in a comfortable chair or lay down on a bench, bed, or on the floor. Keep your arms by the side of your body, be comfortable, and make sure you’re not going to get too cold or too warm for the next half an hour or so.

Close your eyes, and breathe through your nose. Take deep long breaths and just get used to breathing this way for about ten seconds or so. Once you have gotten used to the rhythm, breathe in, and as you breathe out, give a huge sigh and just relax your muscles as much as possible, just let everything go. Try to sink into the floor or mattress as much as possible. Become a puddle of goo.

This is where it becomes a bit more difficult and the real relaxation will start. The idea of the relaxation technique is to relax body-part by body-part one by one, starting from the head. I like to start from the face, but you might as well do it from your feet and go upwards. I like to start from the top, because you have loads of muscles in your face, and to me, the head, neck and shoulders are the most important to relax, to be able to continue relaxing the rest of the body.

Start by allowing your face muscles relax. Let them sink back, your eyebrows relax and your cheeks get loose. Open your lips ever so slightly and relax your tongue. It might feel like it’s going to block your throat, but you are breathing through your nose, so don’t worry. Continue focusing on relaxing one muscle group at the time in your face, then your neck, shoulders and arms, etc. Really focus on relaxing and letting go of any tension you have.

Keep it to one muscle per breath or slower if you can. The more times that you use this technique, the more muscles you will find to relax. If you want, have a look at a drawing of the human physiology and imagine going through all those muscles when you’re relaxing. Just keep going through the whole of your body until you’ve reached your legs and feet. Once you have, just go through your body one more time and make sure that you’re completely relaxed.

The first time you try this technique, you might not get further than a couple of muscles in your face before you lose focus. Don’t worry about it, but just keep trying. You’ll get it eventually.

Mind Relaxation

For the mind-relaxation technique, I needed to add a couple of triggers to make it work properly for myself. My mind is very active, and thus will always want to think of two or three other things at the same time, even if I try to tone it down. This can be quite disturbing when trying to focus on this technique, because the purpose of it is to empty out your mind, slow yourself down into a relaxed state of mind and ultimately either just relax or get a chance to peacefully fall asleep.

Visualize a huge clock in front of you. The clock only has one arm, the seconds arm. The other arms of the clock are irrelevant, so you leave them out or visualize them as you like. Just firmly burn the image of the clock into your mind and let the seconds tick away. Make the image clearer, the white of the clock face whiter, bigger and brighter. Shut everything else out but the face of the clock.

Once you have a firm image of the clock face and the seconds arm in your mind, match the speed of the arm’s ticking to your own heartbeat and just watch it tick on as you feel your heart beating. Keep letting it tick, and make the image stick in your mind.

As you get used to the rhythm, you start to will the arm to tick slower, as you observe it, obstruct it in your mind, and at the same time you keep matching it to the pace of your heartbeat. Keep willing it to move slower and slower, feeling your heart beat slower and slower as you will the clock to tick slower. Keep going and keep focusing on the clock, the ticking of the arm and your own heartbeat.

At first you will find that a lot of distractions will try to obstruct you from fully visualizing the clock, from matching the ticking of the arm to the beating of your heart and from willing it to slow down. As the distractions keep coming in, acknowledge them and let them go. It’s much more difficult to getting rid of an image or thought if you don’t acknowledge that it’s there, but as soon as you have, focus even harder on the clock. Make it brighter, bigger and more tangible in your mind. Keep it going and you’ll soon be able to summon that clock at any given time.

Energy Booster

I also have another technique, to boost my energy, that I had almost forgotten about. I just remembered it when I was discussing this article with a friend of mine, so I thought it could be cool to add it in here as well. As I said, I had almost forgotten about it because I haven’t been using it for years. I don’t know why or when I really stopped using it, but it’s well worth a mention.

Basically what I do is that when I’m in a relaxed state, I focus my energy on the inside of my eyelids or just above my eyes, and breathe through my nose. I inhale carefully, but exhale with a bit of force. Not so much as if I was blowing my nose, but almost as if I was blowing up a very light balloon. I keep the focus and try to visualize energy and adrenaline pumping through my body. With every breath I keep this going and visualize that I have a torrent of energy that goes from the top of my head, down my back and up through my chest. I keep feeding this torrent with more and more energy, starting to move my body ever so slightly, rolling my shoulders, and let the energy flow through me.

Then I open my eyes and go about my business, feeling much more energized than before.

 Combination

You can also combine all three of these techniques, once you have gotten used to them. First, relax your body, then your mind and as you decide to come to, or if you’ve set an alarm for a certain period of time, use the energy-boost technique just to get a little extra kick.

If you decide to try any of these techniques out, please tell me how your experience with them was, comment if there is anything that you’re wondering about and share it if it has been beneficial to you.

The Art of Drinking Water

Drinking is something that everybody does, what most of us don’t do is drink enough, or drink the right things.

As you might already know, our bodies consist of about 55-70% water. To further break it down, your brain consists of almost 78% water, your lungs are about 90% water, blood around 83%, and lean muscle contains about 75% water by weight. Body fat contains around 10% water and bone 22%. As you can see, this adds up to quite a lot of water. If you weigh 80 kg, that would equate to between 44 and 56 liters of water. One of the biggest factors of how big a percentage of water you are made up of is your body fat percentage. Body fat contains much less water than lean muscle does.

So, what does all of this mean?

Why is all of this important? Well, part of knowing gives you context to knowing why drinking is so important. Maybe you’ve heard from parents, partner or friends that it’s important to drink a lot of water. This is why. You consist of so much of water that if you don’t properly rehydrate, your body simply can’t function as effectively as it otherwise would.

 Water also lubricates your joints and cartilages and allows them to move more fluidly. When dehydrated, the body rations water away from the joints. Less lubrication equals greater friction and that can cause joint, knee and back pain potentially leading to injuries and arthritis. Even your eyeballs need plenty of lubrication to work well and remain healthy.

The scary thing is that as little as a 2% drop in hydration could lead to showing signs of dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Fuzzy short-term memory
  • Decreased urine output
  • Few or no tears while crying
  • Trouble focusing on small print (such as a computer screen)
  • Trouble with basic math
  • Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Constipation

Chronic Dehydration

If you keep going dehydrated even after seeing signs of dehydration, you could even become chronically dehydrated. Over time when the body is not properly hydrated chronic dehydration occurs which can lead to high/low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, repertory problems, and many other severe problems. But even still, many will walk around dehydrated, most of the time unknowingly, because thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration. By the time you get thirsty, it is too late!

In addition to avoiding a lot of negative things by drinking, you introduce a lot of benefits by drinking.

Benefits of drinking a lot of water

  • It helps your body get rid of waste, it helps your body transport nutrients to your cells.
  • Water helps to maintain healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating appetite.
  • Water leads to increased energy levels.
  • Drinking adequate amounts can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and breast cancer.
  • Drinking water can significantly reduce joint and/or back pain.
  • Water leads to overall greater health by flushing out wastes and bacteria that can cause disease.
  • Water can prevent and alleviate headaches.
  • Water naturally moisturizes skin and ensures proper cellular formation underneath layers of skin to give it a healthy, glowing appearance.
  • Water aids in the digestion process and prevents constipation.
  • Water is the primary mode of transportation for all nutrients in the body and is essential for proper circulation.
  • Water helps regulate your body temperature as water has a high heat capacity.

So how much should I drink?

Every day you have replace around 2.4 liters of water that you lose through breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. Around 20% of this volume will be provided through food, but the rest is needed to be ingested through fluids.

That doesn’t mean that you can go around drinking just anything and count it to the total amount of daily intake. Drinks such as alcohol, sodas and drinks with caffeine (such as coffee) may feel nice going down, but they are not meant to hydrate you, in fact they promote urination and makes you lose water, which means that for every cup of coffee you drink, you have to drink at least one glass of water to make up for it.

Also the amount of water you need depends on your physical activity, the climate you live in and a lot of other factors, but drinking at least 2 liters of water every day is a good goal to aim for, after all.

Is it possible to drink too much?

In one word; yes. But it is very difficult to drink too much, as it is not how much you drink that matters as much as how fast you drink. Of course I’m not saying that you should start drinking more slowly, it’s when you drink enormous amounts at one time that it becomes dangerous. Your body can process as much as 15 liters of water per day, so there is no extreme danger that you’d drink too much unless you start chugging instead of spreading fluid intake out over the day.

Then what is dangerous drinking?

When you drink a lot in a short timespan, that is dangerous because essentially you dilute your cells and can lead to a condition called Water Intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body, hyponatremia. Water acts like a solvent and breaks down minerals to transport to your cells, and when the water to mineral concentration becomes too small, your cells start behaving the same way they would if you were drowning in fresh water. Water intoxication and hyponatremia result when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanying electrolytes.

Electrolyte imbalance and tissue swelling can cause an irregular heartbeat, allow fluid to enter the lungs, and may cause fluttering eyelids. Swelling puts pressure on the brain and nerves, which can cause behaviors resembling alcohol intoxication. Swelling of brain tissues can cause seizures, coma and ultimately death unless water intake is restricted and a hypertonic saline (salt) solution is administered. If treatment is given before tissue swelling causes too much cellular damage, then a complete recovery can be expected within a few days.

What to drink and not to drink (more about this in a later blog post)

During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia (loss of Sodium), which can be life-threatening. Also it’s very important to continue to replace fluids after you are finished exercising.

There are three important rules when it comes to drinking water:

  1. Drink twice as much as it takes to quench your thirst.
  2. Drink frequently throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
  3. Drink at least eight glasses daily (around 2-3 liters).

 

How Language Exchange is like Tug of War

Tug of War

How language exchange is like tug of war

When you learn a language you will eventually come to the stage where you want to practice what you have learned and start using it in real situations. When you come to this stage, you might start looking for a native speaker of your target language, who is in turn learning your native language. When you do find someone who is willing to practice with you, it can lead to a mutually beneficial language exchange and even good friendship. More about this in a little bit.

When should I start with language exchanges?

Some people will tell you that you should start speaking right away, using what you know and push yourself to gain better understanding through putting yourself out there, while others will tell you that you should first internalize the language, the rhythm, the sounds and gain a lot of vocabulary  before you speak. Some even go so far as to say that you shouldn’t speak at all  until you have a better understanding of the language you’re learning. Whatever way you choose to go, there will at some point come a time where you need to start speaking, if you want to be able to use the language.

You probably will benefit the most from language exchanges once you reach an intermediate level in your languages (due to being able to express yourself better and being able to understand explanations and replies given in the language), but in my experience, it is good to get speaking practice even from when you are in the early stages of your learning, just to get used to producing the sounds of the language. If you keep putting it off for later, when you know the language better, you might get caught in the trap of understanding a language, but not being able to speak it at all. It’s good to progress your level evenly over the different areas of learning a language, so make sure that you don’t only build up a passive vocabulary. This is where you need practice speaking the language.

Finding a language exchange partner

Finding someone to practice with can be quite difficult, if you are learning a rare or exotic language, but the most difficult thing is to find someone who you enjoy talking with and who can help you with your language learning. There are many websites for getting in contact with people who want to practice languages such as sharedtalkbusuu, and livemocha. There are a lot of them, so you only have to search on Google for language exchange and you will find more sites than you’ll ever be able to go through.

Once you have found a language exchange partner, the initial session is in my opinion the far most important one. That’s where you decide what languages are going to be practiced, and you get to know each other.

Tug of war

When you start talking to each other, it’s usually the one who has the biggest vocabulary or has the most confidence in speaking their target language that sets the common communication language (or the language that you use to talk, most of the time). Of course, you will want to practice your target language and your language exchange partner will want to practice his/her target language. This can lead to a conflict of interests, like a tug of war. Usually the language that you use to communicate between yourselves will be set in the first few sessions, after which it will be a bit more difficult to change the dynamics of your exchange, unless you address the issue directly and talk about it.

So, let’s say that you are learning Hindi, and you meet someone online and start talking. After a while you will have used up much of your vocabulary in the language you are practising and you might fall back on your native language, so that the conversation will have a better flow. Do this, and you will be doing yourself a disservice in the end. Once you start getting more comfortable and get back to your native language, you are on a slippery slope and it will take more energy to get back to the language you want to practice again. It is better to struggle a bit, and taste the sweet taste of victory when you find that you can express yourself in your target language. If you don’t try, you might get stuck talking in your native language with this person for as long as you know him/her.

Solution

There are many ways to deal with this issue, but the best thing you can do is to be prepared for a language exchange and have a clear idea of how it can be the most beneficial for you and what things you need specific help with. Make sure that you know for yourself what it is that you need from the language exchange. Maybe you need to practice some grammar points or want to make sure with a native speaker that you’re using the grammar correctly; this could be a much more fun way to go through grammar exercises. Or maybe you need to practice reading out loud and want to make sure that you are pronouncing things correctly and have the correct speed and intonation for the language. If you really want to work on your pronunciation I would recommend that you record yourself as well when you read out loud, that way you would also be able to tell from listening to yourself where you need to improve. Communicate your needs and expectations to your language exchange partner in the beginning of getting to know each other, and he/she will be able to help you out a lot more as well.

A language exchange can be a great thing and it should be both fun and beneficial for the both of you. Take turns talking in your native language and the language you want to learn, and use a timer, if you want. Make sure that you speak equally much in both languages and make sure that you know what your language exchange partner expects from you as well. That way the exchange will be beneficial for both of you, and you wouldn’t need to feel like it’s unnatural to switch between languages, talk about grammar exercises or just read texts out loud to each other. Just set the guidelines when you get started and you will benefit a lot more from language exchanges. Also, make sure that you update your goals regularly, so that you don’t start feeling too comfortable talking about only one thing, but push your limits as well. You will become more productive and will help your language exchange partner a lot more too!

I would also like to add that if you are feeling adventurous or feel very confident, the best kind of language exchange partner is not a language exchange partner at all, but a friend who doesn’t share any common language with you, except for the language you are learning. That way, you force yourself to stay with the language and you will most definitely get the best kind of practice there is. It is more challenging and especially in the beginning it can be quite tiresome, but it will leave you feeling amazing. (I still remember the first time I talked with a guy from Vietnam who didn’t know any English at all. We were talking about shopping and buying shoes or something like that, something that I’m not interested in at all, but it still made me feel really good about myself, being able to express myself in Vietnamese for the first time.) Just do what you feel you are capable of, and have fun!

Summary

To sum it all up

  • Look for a language partner you feel comfortable talking to. There are many websites available to look for people to talk to.
  • Make sure you know what it is that you need to improve on in the language.
  • Agree on how you will divide your time between your languages and stick to it.
  • Stick to the language you are learning even though it’s difficult at times and slows the conversation down, you will thank yourself later for doing it.
  • Use a timer to divide your time if it makes you more comfortable.
  • Change to more difficult topics when you start getting comfortable at the level you are right now, to push yourself to learn.
  • The best language exchange partner is someone who isn’t interested in learning from you, but talking to you naturally (in his/her own language).
  • Have fun and enjoy your progress! Savour the moments of breakthrough!

I had originally written this article as a guest blogpost for my friend Luca on his blog www.thepolyglotdream.com

The biggest secret of learning a new language

The most difficult step in learning a new language is getting started. I have heard countless people say that they wish they knew how to speak another language, but that they don’t have the time, don’t have talent for languages or a million other excuses.

Have you have ever dreamt about being able to speak Spanish fluently, being able to follow Anime completely without subtitles, or understanding the songs in your favourite Bollywood movies? I am here to tell you that you CAN! You don’t have to be a genius, move to a different country or set aside hours every day to learn. My point is, if you want to learn another language, you can!

The only thing holding you back from being able to is that you haven’t started yet.

The problem is not that you can’t find the perfect material, find the perfect teacher or having the right circumstances to learn. If you want to learn, the only thing you have to do is start. Start right now.

Take a moment right now and think of what language you want to learn. This article can wait, just write it down somewhere. Write “I am learning” followed by the language you have decided on.

Now that you know what it is that you want to learn, you can start acting on it. Don’t give excuses for why you can’t, or why you should wait with it. You have been carrying it around for quite some time already, so why would you want to push it further into the future? Today is the day you start! Go on, tell a friend about it, write it on your Facebook wall, tweet it out, make it public!

Congratulations! You are now enrolled and you owe it to yourself to take the next step in learning, to find material. I promise you, it’s not that difficult. Google is a great place to start. Just start by typing “Learning [language]” and see what you get. You can even get a lot of material on YouTube nowadays, so you might want to check that out too. 🙂

Now suddenly you are not stuck in the limbo of wanting to learn. You can with confidence say that you have taken the first step. From now on, you just need to continue doing what you have started.

The next biggest secret to learning a language is to continue doing something every day. As long as you show up, you win. The day you stop, you lose. Don’t lose your language.