Categories for Blog

October 21, 2020

Book review: Gdziekolwiek mnie rzucisz by Dionisios Sturis

Dionisios Sturis was born in Greece, but grew up in Poland. He’s a documentary writer. After graduating from university, he moved to the Isle of Man to work in a shellfish factory, as many other Poles did back then. However, his story is different, because after a few years he left the island, returning to it regularly to work as a writer. This is when the book was born, a story about war, politics, Polish migration, ordinary everyday life, love, and death. It’s like reading about a big world being shrank into a tiny island. Fascinating. It somehow reminds me about Central Europe, where geopolitical, economic, and cultural ideas influence each other to create a pot of different flavours: important and trivial, grande and petit, global and local. It’s all so mixed up that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish what’s important. Does it feel the same or similar on the Isle of Man? I don’t know. It’s probably a good question to be answered by the author himself.

Do you read books in other languages? In which language(s)? Let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

October 7, 2020

Travelling corner: Baltic Sea in Poland

You know I love being by the sea and am even planning to move there one day (!). So when we planned our stay in Poland, we knew we wanted to go to the seaside, too. As the whole summer of 2020 was planned rather chaotically and last-minute, we chose the best location and summer chalet we could find! But, it turned out to be a beautiful spot which we explored intensively and greatly enjoyed. Where did we go to?

Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea in Poland is a long shore of sandy beaches, forests and dunes. Some of the beaches have beautifully looked after white sands, like in Karwia. You can also find islands, e.g. Wolin and peninsulas, like Hel. The sea has relatively cold waters, but it doesn’t stop swimmers from enjoying some wild swimming or children from splashing and jumping through the waves. You can go on a boat trip or have a longer cruise to Sweden, Finland or Denmark. There are 9 different countries that have access to the Baltic Sea: Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

Beaches of the Baltic Sea: Urban, Wide, Wild, White

What a choice! When visiting the Baltic Sea this summer, our base was just outside Ustka, a small town located in the middle of the Baltic shore. There was a long stretch of the urban, sandy beach going up to Orzechowo (a small picturesque wild beach). On one of our cycling trips, we discovered beautiful silver-blue waters and a wide beach in a village called Poddąbie. When visiting our friends in Jastrzębia Góra, we stopped for breakfast on a beautiful beach of white sands in Karwia. What are my favourite beach memories: swimming (of course!), walking (very relaxing!) and sitting and waiting for the sun to set (the explosion of colours!).

Cycling

Nearly the whole  Baltic seashore is surrounded by forests, lakes and rivers. Beautiful nature to be explored on foot, but also on bike. We rented bikes for a few days to explore local forests and beaches and found the whole experience wonderful! The cycling paths are occasionally a bit sandy (careful cycling important here!) and quite uneven (countryside roads). The paths are well marked, but occasionally, we had to ask somebody for directions. We cycled towards Orzechowo to visit inland dunes (on a very hot day!), explore a wild beach (beautiful colours of the sea), as well as go picking wild-blueberries (you sometimes need blue fingers!). We also cycled further away, to Poddąbie where the beach was wide with white sands and silver-blue waters. After a long cycle, it was a real treat! One happy observation: I think cycling in general and with kids is more and more popular in Poland (!!!).

As you can see the Baltic Sea has a rich offer for nature lovers, as well as for those after more active holidaying. We had a truly wonderful time exploring the seashore and have already made some plans for our future travel adventures by the Baltic. Have you been to the Baltic Sea? Which country did you visit? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

September 23, 2020

Book review: The Bilingual Brain by Albert Costa

“(…) bilingualism is the rule rather than the exception in the sense that the majority of the world’s population can communicate in more than one language.” Albert Costa

What a fascinating read! To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to be taken on a such an interesting journey learning about the science of language! While reading it, I was laughing, putting exclamation marks, taking side-notes, discussing it with my friends. I completely and entirely immersed myself into reading this wonderful publication.

Why is it so fascinating? I think mainly because, on one hand, we have a truly profound knowledge about bilingualism and, on the other, there are so many unanswered questions. So if there are any uni students or researchers reading my review: there is definitely some potential in the subject of bilingualism / multilingualism.

The book covers topics such as bilingual development in babies, bilingual brain vs monolingual brain, bilingualism and other cognitive skills, bilingualism in the social context, etc. What hides under those academic topics are some most interesting experiments, research and discussions about language and bilingualism.

Let me now share with you some of the most interesting findings (in my opinion!). Do you know that babies as young as six months of age, can have already developed a complex (!) knowledge of a language, including some words?! What is more, babies as young as 2 days (yes, days!) can differentiate between two different languages. Those findings only confirm that language development and the bilingual journey starts as early as in pregnancy.

Another fascinating topic is language attrition: the loss of the native language. What?! Can one forget their native language? Actually, yes. One can completely ‘forget’ their native language and swap it with the new one. I think learning a language is a truly complex phenomenon which as you can see from the above starts prenatally and requires our constant work (whether we’re aware of it or not). Hence, if you know more languages, the importance of maintaining the foreign / native language skills on a regular basis.

And finally decision-making and bilingualism: “(…) moral judgements do change according to language.” (p. 143), when facing a problem in a foreign language, we make better decisions (p. 137) and finally language can also influence how we’re seen by others (social marker, p. 144).  For example, we can be seen less trustworthy when speaking a language with a foreign language. This might be one of the reasons why people don’t want to have a foreign accent and are after accent reduction lessons. On the other hand, does trust increase, if there are more people speaking with foreign accents and this becomes a norm? Interesting, huh?!

One final point, the research brings as many questions as answers and it seems that there is a long way to verify and objectivise some of the findings and research. There is most certainly a huge potential in the subject of bilingualism and multilingualism, so am hopeful for more passionate and fascinating books to be published in the future!

What’s your current read on language or bilingualism? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

September 9, 2020

Travelling corner: My summer travels 2020

I think for many of us our plans for summer holidays / travels changed this year. We had planned to go to Portugal but, due to travel restrictions, we cancelled the trip. However, that wasn’t the only reason why we decided to cancel it. We also felt that we so wanted to see our family and friends in Poland this summer, so we booked our flight tickets to travel to Poland. Then those flights were cancelled, too, just two weeks before! Fortunately, a different airline had tickets still available, so we booked our flights with them. Phew! I think travelling became more challenging this year, but I’m grateful that we still could travel, even in this much limited capacity, don’t you agree?!

We loved our stay in Poland. The weather was beautiful. Most days: sunny, warm, cloudless. We went to see our family in Silesia, our friends in the mountains, then we travelled to the seaside to visit some other friends and spend some time splashing in the water and building sand castles. We went away for three whole weeks (omg how long?!) In the past, we would usually go away for maximum of 10 days, but this year we needed to be away longer, to properly re-charge our batteries after a very intensive and stressful spring. And to be honest with you, we really enjoyed this longer time away. We managed to use this time to the fullest, but also managed to get bored and look forward to coming back home.

In Poland, we spent most of our days in nature: by the lake, in the forest (picking up wild blueberries) and on the beach (oh, the pleasure of walking barefoot on the soft sand…). We also found a wild beach, searched for white sands and explored dunes in the forest. I’m preparing more travel stories for you, so do expect more posts on our summer travels in Poland.

Lazy and slow, this is how I’d describe our summer in Poland.

Let me know in the comments below how was your summer 2020?!

Kinga Macalla

August 26, 2020

Learn a language: Motivation, self-discipline or habit: which factor do you need to succeed in language learning?

“Motivation is what gets you started,

Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Rohn

When I was learning languages at university, I often came across articles about motivation and language learning; how to keep learners motivated, how to be motivated to keep learning a foreign language, etc. Then in adult life, when I started running a business, the self-discipline became an important factor, worth improving and knowing more about (in relation to language learning and beyond). A few years ago, when preparing an essay on adult language learning, I read a bestselling publication – Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habitswhich inspired me to explore the idea more and to implement some new habits into my daily life. So which factor plays the most important role when learning languages? Is it motivation, self-discipline or habit?

I think it all starts with motivation, we’re motivated to start doing something new, because we have a goal, a dream, a new job, a new girlfriend, a new holiday destination, an ambition. We need this initial kick to start looking for learning options and immersing ourselves in the new language. However, I don’t think we need continued motivation to succeed, what we need next is self-discipline.

If we have a specific goal in mind, we need to carefully craft a realistic plan which enables us to succeed and achieve the desired goal. How can we be persistent with executing the plan? Then comes self-discipline. It’s an important factor to be organised and successful with your language learning. One important point when talking about self-discipline is not to forget that having a plan doesn’t mean that you need to follow it regardless of the circumstances or outcomes. Let’s imagine that you plan to study one hour every day, but after 15 minutes you’re bored and unfocused. You’re disciplined to have an hourly language session every day, but somehow it doesn’t bring the results. What can you do? You can divide the learning time into smaller modules and learn e.g. 15 minutes in the morning (audio when driving to work), 30 minutes lunch time (listening and speaking) and again 15 minutes in the evening (reading). Now, you need a habit, to make this new plan work long-term.

What are your current habits? Drinking water, eating healthy snacks, brushing teeth, washing hands, exercising, meditating, reading before bed time? Why did you introduce those habits? To make your life better, to have more time, to feel better, to be healthier. It’s precisely the same with having a habit of learning a language daily. You do it every day without questioning it, without being specifically motivated, without any special circumstances and you’re persistent with your routine regardless of the favourable circumstances. You learn languages every day, because you made it your daily habit.

I think it would be interesting to see more research on self-discipline and habit in relation to language learning and, more broadly, to education in general.

What do you think? Which of those factors: motivation, self-discipline or habit, play the most important role when succeeding in language learning? Let me know in the comments below.

Bibliography

Books: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy, High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard and Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom by Zoltán Dörnyei and video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD65cL7gn0Y

Kinga Macalla

August 12, 2020

Learning a language: How to maintain your foreign language skills (3 steps)

You have some good foreign language skills and are thinking: how can I maintain these skills long-time? How can I maintain language learning on a daily/regular basis? I’ll share with you today some tips on how to include language learning into your daily routine and ways to maintain this habit long-term.

Follow your interests

I think we learn best if we’re interested / passionate about the learning subject. When we start learning a foreign language, we’re interested in the grammar (oh yes, some people are J) new vocabulary, unusual cultural habits, etc. After some time all of those aspects can become known and more ordinary. To keep the learning process going well, we may need to include our general interests in our language learning routine. For example, I enjoy watching stand-up comedy and cabaret. I usually watch it in Polish or English, but recently I’ve started doing so in Czech (as I want to maintain those language skills). In other words, you can follow your interests in the language you want to maintain.

Just do it

You may analyse, think about it, research about it, but never actually do it! So, one day, just start listening / reading / watching something in the language you want to maintain (one activity). It’s as easy as that. It may not be perfect, you may not be ready, you may not understand much. Don’t worry, just take that first step.

Keep going

Finally, every time you want to read the news, listen to a podcast, or watch a documentary, try to find it the language you want to maintain until it becomes habit and you naturally follow it every time in the language you want to maintain. Now I watch stand-up shows only in Czech & then torture my family by making them join me 😉

To inspire you further, I’ve written about getting back to language learning here and there’s another post by my colleague here I’ve also reviewed a book about maintaining language skills here.

How do you maintain your foreign language skills? What’s your secret method? Please let me know in the comments below.

BTW, Learn more, pay less this summer: What?! A new offer?! Yes!! Taking into account the current global situation, we’ve created a new fee offer: you can claim £5 off when enrolling on our September and Autumn courses and paying £135 or more. The promotional code is bls20. The offer is valid throughout July and August (till 31/08/20). Enrol now and pay less!

Kinga Macalla

July 29, 2020

Travelling corner: What are your travel plans for summer 2020?

What to do with travelling in the current global situation? My summer travel plans have already changed three times and there were many emotions involved with each of the changes. I felt frustrated, angry, disappointed. But one thing made me think that whatever we decide to do and are able to do (!!!), let’s enjoy this time, let’s be fully present in the moment, let’s make this time beautiful and unforgettable, shall we? 🙂

Below, I put together some inspiration for travelling in England, including Cornwall (of course!):

Isles of Scilly: it’s a dreamy place for a summer holiday

Jurassic peninsula: for the best beaches and quietness

South Cornwall: getting close to nature

South Devon: family-friendly beaches

Exmoor: wilderness & undiscovered walking paths

Where have you decided to travel to this summer? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

July 15, 2020

Book review: These Islands. A portrait of the British Isles

I’d most probably recommend that you read this book review in autumn so that your could get the book for those long wintery evenings. So why publish it now? I think that for many of us, the summer plans have changed (including mine!) and it might be a very good time to get inspired by some local routes and travel destinations—your ‘summer playground’. The book / album I want to write about today is so beautiful that I could easily photograph every page of it to inspire you to visit the British Isles. To explore this beautiful land of secret beaches, grey lakes, narrow walking paths and ancient woods.

The album creates an interesting portrait of the Isles, from the Jurassic Coast, Lake District, and the Isles of Scilly, through Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast to the Wild Atlantic Way and the Isle of Sky. The album contains photographs, short essays, paintings, and poetry, all to inspire you to reflect, to slow down, to travel. It tries to get underneath the known history, pictures and destinations, to bring the Isles closer to the reader and explorers.

Published by Cereal, edited by Rosa Park.

July 1, 2020

Travelling corner: Bristol by bike (part 3), with a secret beach (shhh!)

In my humble opinion, Bristol is not the easiest place to cycle, as it’s quite hilly. The bike trips I want to recommend today are not too challenging but some stamina will be needed to complete them 🙂 I usually cycle with my family at weekends and we use a bike attachment for my older daughter, 5.5 yo (when it’s not too demanding, she rides on her own), and a bike seat for the toddler, 18 mths. My previous blog posts on bike trips can be read here and here. Today is part 3. OK, off we go! 3 bike trips are coming:

Shirehampton-Pill-Leigh Woods (route no 26)

The cycling route is beautiful and it’s not very difficult, but it takes a bit of time to reach the destination. You will meet many cyclists, runners and walkers on the way, as it’s a popular recreational route. There are a few woods’ entries, so you can decide when you wish to have a break, enjoy some forest-bathing, walk by the stream or have a little picnic on a tree trunk.

Shirehampton-Clevedon

From Shirehampton, go towards Portishead (follow directions as here) and once you pass Portishead, continue cycling towards Clevedon. Head from Weston-in-Gordano to Walton-in-Gordano then turn right towards Clevedon Golf Club (B3124) and then continue cycling straight-ahead until you reach the pier and the sea-front (and Clevedon Marine Lake which is a bit further away).

Shirehampton-Ladye Bay

There’s a secret beach that was once recommended to me by a dear friend. Only the informed know where to go, so here are the directions: From Shirehampton go via Portishead towards Clevedon (as in the Shirehampton-Clevedon route above). Then, after turning right to Clevedon Golf Club (B3124), turn right again to Bay Road. Enjoy a splash in the waves!

These are the bike routes I enjoyed recently, do let me know which cycling routes are your favourite / recently discovered. Leave your comment down below.

Kinga Macalla

June 17, 2020

Travelling corner: Wild swimming in South Devon

Gentle waves, golden sands, beautiful sea views and some great walking routes. Yes, that’s the Devon we re-discovered recently! It was magically beautiful: we felt so enchanted that it was difficult to leave this experience behind and return to Bristol. Fortunately, it’s only a 2-hour drive-away, so we know where we’ll be frequent visitors 🙂

Some time ago I came across the book Wild Swimming Walks by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury. It’s a practical guidebook into wild swimming in Dartmoor and South Devon, with 28 lake, river and beach days out to choose from and, as I was looking through its pages, I came across Thurlestone Beach / South Milton Sands / Leas Foot Sand which captured my imagination and became an inspiration for my family’s next travel destination. We needed some sun, sea and sand (!!!).

The beach is a long stretch of sand which goes from Leas Foot Sand (there is public parking as part of a golf club car park), then there are some rocks dividing Leas Foot from the other beaches, and then there is Thurlestone Beach (with a free car park just above the beach) which leads to South Milton Sands (with a NT car park). Each of the beaches is slightly different: Leas Foot Sand is a smaller beach which might be a good choice for families as there is a small stream where children can play (the sea is quite cold though), Thurlestone Beach has some hidden parts behind the rocks which might be perfect for everybody to enjoy some quieter time and South Milton Sands has beautiful views and the warmest sea (perfect for paddling). Amazing, huh?!

I once visited South Devon in winter, but I think I only briefly came to Thurleston Beach back then. Now, we’ve explored this beautiful sand stretch extensively and I’m so glad we did so! As a family, we had such an idyllic time – summery and lazy.

Have you been to South Devon? Do you have a favourite beach there? Please leave your comments down below.

Kinga Macalla