Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why be bilingual? (Part 3)

This will be the last thing I write about bilingualism.  For now.  But here are a few ways it can enrich your life.

Now... I know this is nerdy... but...

Different alphabets, letters and sounds
Obviously we know about the Latin alphabet, because that's what we use in English.
This is one of my favorite alphabets:
It's the Russian Cyrillic alphabet
Yes, that's my chest.

I think it's beautiful that there are so many different characters that can represent sounds and there are so many sounds that some languages have, but others don't have.  My tattoo, is pronounced something like (sloo-gah).  Not only are there different letters, but letters we know in English, have different pronunciation.

It's also crazy that even within languages, there is extreme diversity.
In Spanish, in Central and South America, whenever a "c" is before an "e" or an "i" it makes it an "s" sound.  For example, cena (dinner) is pronounced "say-nah."  In Spain, you would pronounce that "c" and also a "z" like a "th" sound.  So in Spain, cena would be "thay-nah."

You can totally see the differences in English between: American, British, Canadian and many more. Each country's version of English can be broken up even more: Southern, Liverpool, Boston, Texan, London, etc...

Music in other cultures can be a very different experience too.  I've grown to love many bands that play music only in Spanish.  Even if you can't understand it, the different sounds are beautiful.  If you can understand it, it can give you a view into the culture.

Let's be honest, how likely are we to listen to accordions in American music?  You'll experience new things and love them.

(this is Portuguese and a little English)

Language doesn't help you enjoy food more, not literally anyway.  However, good food is always surrounded by good company.  To fully enjoy the eating experience in another culture, it really helps to be able to converse with someone.

Pad Thai


Exciting new experiences throughout the world really are at your fingertips when you learn new languages.  My world has really gotten so much bigger because of what I've learned so far.  I've experienced a lot of different people, ideas, food, situations, music and really just grew to love and appreciate diversity so much more because of all of that.

The world truly is a beautiful place.  I honestly believe if you were to expand your lingual palate, you'll be able to enjoy it more fully. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Of Want and Misery

I've listened to this band a long time now.  Unfortunately, they broke up a few years back.  Even though this album is pretty old, it's one of my favorites.

As Cities Burn- Of Want and Misery
I watched you float away on a wave of want and misery
now I've got to find you
I watched you float away on whatever caught your eye
now I've got to find you
'cause I've got to keep your head above the water
while the current pulls me under

I will hang my life in the space between the noose and your neck
I won't let you die just yet

I will love you even when you won't let me
and you will kill me by doing nothing
but I know it's not you, my dear,
I know it's not you
I know it's not you, my dear,
it's the nothing that kills

I can't save you
control is something out of mine
no, I can't save you
control is something out of my control

I will love you even when you won't let me
and you will kill me by doing nothing
but I know it's not you, my dear,
I know it's not you
I know it's not you, my dear,
it's the nothing that kills

I can't save you but I will love you
no, I can't save you but I will love you
I'd like to think that this is love
lost in second chances without end
this is romance

I have always kind of viewed this as a letter from God to us.  This song is passionate, gentle, heartfelt and intense.

        "I will hang my life in the space between the noose and your neck
I won't let you die just yet."
The song talks about how God stands by you and waits for you even when you don't want Him.  This line says that you're never out of God's reach.  You're always safe in the palm of God's hands, even if things seem grim.

"I will love you even when you won't let me
and you will kill me by doing nothing"
God is right beside us, loving us... even when we don't love Him.

This last stanza really sums things up.
 "I'd like to think that this is love
lost in second chances without end.
This is romance"
That's exactly what it is.  God's love is full of abounding second chances.

Unconditional love.
That is true romance.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why be bilingual? (Part 2)

I took Spanish in high school for a total of three years.  I wasn't very good at it back then, probably because school didn't interest me that much.  Going into college I was planning on studying English and being an English teacher.  You know how you have to take a bunch of boring general education classes for two years until you get to studying only your major?  Yeah, that made all the difference.  I had to take a language, so I took Spanish.  Halfway through the first semester I knew what I was going to be studying.  My teacher just illuminated language learning.  She told stories, used music and just made learning fun and interesting.

I remember one turning point in my language learning.  My teacher played this song and we had to listen and try to understand.

You know how playing Sudoku or doing a crossword puzzle is frustrating, but fun?  That's what language is like most of the time for me.  Finding the best way to express a thought in another language is a game.  I love it.

Early on in my language-learning career, I was able to travel to another country


I went on a church mission trip to Perú.  My church was starting a church in the mountains in a town called San Jose de Quero.

13,000 feet up.  The Andes are tall.

That was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  My world got so much bigger.  Different hemisphere, different country, different language, different food, different animals...

I was not very good at Spanish at the time, but I gained a lot of confidence.  I also realized, with the little I knew, I was capable of experiencing a lot more than the others on my trip.  Like I said in my last blog, I am able to talk to almost 400 million more people than I was before.

I went back a second time about a year and a half ago.  Here are some pictures of both trips:


When I went back a second time, I was fully capable of conversing with people.  That was cool.  Obviously I still had a lot to learn and I still do, but I was way more capable of experiencing the culture.

The coolest experience so far that I've had is when I went to Costa Rica last summer.  I volunteered at an orphanage for 3 weeks with my friend Erin.  She had already been before so she knew a lot about how things worked, where to go and was very helpful.  The cool thing about this trip is that we had to fully rely on ourselves for the most part.  We had to travel around, communicate clearly and stay safe and out of the way in a culture we probably still don't know fully.

We got to stay with a family, which was super cool.  It's awesome, because we arrived and had nowhere to stay.  But someone just volunteered up their home to us.  That isn't something you typically will find in the United States.  What I've seen so far is that most hispanics are super nice and love you just because you're alive.  During our time there, we learned a lot about everything from talking to our new mamá.  She cooked for us, washed our laundry and made it feel like home.  That was an invaluable experience.

(Erin, Olga, Coquito, Me)

During my time I got to: play with a bunch of silly/hyper kids, go to a beach after a 4 hour bus ride on which I stood for 3 hours, go to a theme park, eat delicious food, meet amazing people, learn more about Costa Rica and a billion more things.

Karsten and us playing a homemade Trouble with the kids

Erin and Amber

Nikoline, Erin and I hanging clothes

 Cartago, Costa Rica

I guess the point of all of this is that these experiences were much more enriching because I was able to experience them a little more fully.

I have also been able to be very active in the community at Social Services.  I wrote a little about that here if you want to read it.  (The poor and broken)

I'm also trying to get involved with The Gray Haven Project.  Which is an organization that fights human trafficking.  I wrote about that recently too in 27 Million.

Learning another language has really involved me in what's going on in the world.  I have learned so many things that I wouldn't have learned otherwise.  I have heard music, eaten food and done things I wouldn't have experienced otherwise.  I have met so many people that I simply wouldn't have been able to talk to even if we stood face to face.

I just see so much value in expanding your world this way.

Language is beautiful, interesting and brings a whole lot to the table.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why be bilingual? (Part 1)

Before I start my long rant and push for bilingualism... let me explain some things...
      I know this isn't the most academic argument, because honestly, it's a very dense subject and most people don't want to hear about it.  Second of all, I know this might be slightly offensive to people who don't know more than one language or may not have time, but want to, but I really don't mean for it to be.  I want it to be informative, logical and hopefully interesting.  I'm a huge nerd and love language learning.

America is fighting so hard to not be bilingual.  I know a lot of it has to do with Americans fighting against immigration.

Why do they fight immigration?  I think a lot of the reason is people are scared.  They are scared because people speaking another language and living different culturally makes them uncomfortable

I agree with that feeling.  I too feel unease when someone is speaking a different language that I don't know.  I also feel uncomfortable with the way some people of other cultures live.

However, we live in a very connected world.  One of the best ways to fight that fear and uncomfortableness is to learn another language and another culture (learning the two goes hand in hand).

Just think about it, because I know Spanish, I can converse with millions more people in the world than someone who just knows English.  My world has become so much bigger from this.

There are about 6,500 languages in the world.  About 2,000 have fewer than 1,000 speakers.  That still leaves 4,500 widely spoken languages.

Here is a list of the most widely spoken languages:
       1. Mandarin Chinese 845 Million
       2. Spanish 329 Million
       3. English 328 Million
       4. Hindi 240 Million
       5. Arabic 232 Million

Those are just the native speakers, the graph on that website also lists the second language speakers

"But doesn't everyone speak English?"  No.

The brain naturally learns language.  When you're very young, your brain soaks up your first language and learns all the grammar rules, social cues and idioms.  Your brain is fully capable of learning other languages.  However, as you get older, your brain slowly loses that ability.  Learning a second or third language earlier in life makes it easier to keep that function strong.

Learning a second language when you're young also improves cognitive ability immensely.  Studies have been done and kids that know more than one language simply test better than kids who know one.

One thing I find interesting is that Americans think they're smarter in general than people from other countries.  Well check this out...
      Germany- German, Russian, Turkish, Kurdish, Polish and many other languages are spoken there... most Germans claim to know German and a foreign langauge and 27 percent know at least 2 languages.
      Spain- Basque, Spanish, Catalan, Asturian, Aragonese and many more
      China- Mandarin, Wu, Yue, Min, Xiang, Gan, Hakka and several more

To keep up, we must be multilingual.  Those three countries I listed are important in the world and soooo many languages are spoken widely there.  The people in those countries have kept up and opened up to the other languages and cultures.  Many people in Europe are at least bilingual.  We have it easy here.  Yeah we have a lot of other people speaking other languages, but for the most part it's just English and Spanish.  I think if it at some point you took the time to learn another language, any other language (I'm pushing for Spanish :P), I think you will understand the world better and you might actually enjoy the process!

I'll explain more about what else bilingualism opens up and what it has done in my life in my next post.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our God

Every now and then, there is a song that I just can't seem to get out of my head.  Ever since I went to Passion Conference I just can't forget this one song.  Just listen, read and please be encouraged by the song.

Chris Tomlin- Our God
Water, you turned into wine
Opened the eyes of the blind
There's no one like you
None like you

Into the darkness, you shine
Out of the ashes, we rise
There's no one like you
None like you

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God, you are higher than any other
Our God is healer
Awesome in power
Our God, our God

And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us
Then what could stand against

It's just this huge, building anthem that expresses our faith in the awesome, powerful God.

I love the chorus that talks about our God being greater, stronger, a healer and above everything.  The God we serve is SO BIG.

The last part is what really gets me.  God is on our side, the God of the universe, the God over everything and He gives us His favor.

Sin, sorrow, pain, everything bad in the world... is defeated.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The poor and broken

This week I began interning at the Richmond Department of Social Services again.  I go there twice a week for 3 hours at a time.

This is what I do:
- I help Spanish-speaking clients fill out applications for food stamps, housing aid and medicaid
- I interpret for interviews between clients and their case worker
- I help ensure Spanish-speaking clients understand the information, rules and anything else they're given
- I also simply help the Spanish-speaking clients feel more comfortable

In regards to the comfort of those who don't speak English.  Imagine walking into a government building where everyone is racist towards you, wants you deported because they assume you're illegal and where you understand nothing.  That's scary, so I try to make things more comfortable for them.  I make sure I smile, I'm patient, understanding, caring and that I give them all that I can.  I know it's a stressful thing for someone who speaks the language, but I can't imagine how hard it is for those who don't.

So in the field that I'm interning, EVERYONE that comes in for help is very poor and very in need.  The problem that the Spanish-speaking people have is that everyone assumes they're illegal even if they have a social security card (because sometimes those are stolen).  They're completely ignored a lot of times by their case workers.  The case workers let their cases expire so they don't get help, even if they did everything they needed to stay current.

Yes, most of the adults are here illegally.  Thing is, their kids are usually citizens.

Let me explain some things and show you how terrible life can be for these people...

First off, anyone that is coming here illegally weighs their options.  They don't leave their home country and come to ours because ours is worse.  They come here because their lives there are so terrible that they would rather risk coming here, being arrested and sent back than to live in their own country.  They risk everything to make their lives better.  They are escaping something so terrible that we can't understand.

They are seeking better lives for themselves and for their kids.

I see situations where a husband is deported, leaving a wife and kids.  The wife has no way of providing for her kids. at. all.  But it's still better than going back home.

I see other times where a wife is living with a drunk, abusive husband just so her kids can be provided for.  She would even go as far as NOT wanting him deported because she can't care for her kids.  She would rather be abused than not provide for her kids.  She would rather be miserable and here, because she knows her kids have a chance.

These people are choosing to deal with terrible situations here because they're better than the terrible situations back home.

I'm not law enforcement.  I'm no authority on anything.

The thing is, these people need help and we have so much... so much.

All I'm pleading for is for you all to understand that this shouldn't be about legality all the time.  This shouldn't be about "terrible people using the system."  I see so many Americans, Americans mind you, who drive up to social services in a Lexus, wearing Dolce and Gabanna glasses... They are clearly poor because of poor spending, yet the people who actually need help don't receive it?


I'm just making a plea for people to be loving.

I am NOT proposing the presence of illegal immigrants here.  I know as followers of Christ, we are called to reach out in love to EVERYONE... not just our own citizens.  These people come here and are so broken and hurt so much.  I'm just asking for you to respond to the call of the hurting and reach out in love.

Again, I'm not at all asking you all to forget about legality, but remember that if you have a chance to make someone's life better, don't throw it away for legalistic reasons.

As Christians... as humans... we are called to love each other.

Just love.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

27 Million

This past week I went to the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference is hosted by Passion City Church which includes: Louie Giglio (the senior pastor), the worship band (Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill and others) and church members directing the crowds and holding doors.

The turnout was ridiculous.  There were more than 45,000 people that were in attendance and about 40,000 watching online at any given time.  That on it's own was just super overwhelming.

This is the Georgia Dome and it's not even full yet.

What was the most overwhelming thing was the 27 million.  I didn't really know what this conference was about going into it but quickly found out that it was about Human Trafficking.

There are still 27 MILLION people in slavery.

That's an overwhelming number.

So here is something encouraging... as a group we were supposed to raise 1 million dollars to give to several anti-human trafficking organizations.  My generation stood UP and raised 3.6 million dollars.  Not to mention it brought so much attention to the cause.

Check out this article that CNN wrote on our event.

So here are my thoughts on everything:

I knew that slavery still existed and that this is a huge problem but it was an awesome opportunity to learn more and contribute what I could to the prevention and to help stop human trafficking.  I am also super encouraged that so many other people my age are willing to be part of the fight.

One thing that stuck with me personally was something that a speakers said.  She said that as Christians, we aren't meant to be working in corporate America.  I graduated college a few weeks ago and have been on the job search, so of course that is something I've been fighting with.

With so much greed, corruption, pain, poverty and hate out there, we as Christians shouldn't be wasting our time working in corporate America.  I know, I understand that the wealthy can definitely glorify God.  The only reason my group went on this trip is because someone paid for all of us.  I think what I'm really getting at is that we can't get caught up in corporate America and that if we are part of it, we still need to represent Christ.  You can't just horde money and stuff, you have to be giving and loving and help others too.  I DO think that we as Christians should be out loving and caring for the poor and sick.

I know now that I need to be picky with where I work.  I can't get caught up in wealth and greed and forget about people who are suffering.

I can't stand by and let injustice continue.