December 9, 2020

Book review: 3 READING recommendations for Christmas 2020

I’m so thrilled to share the below book reviews with you today. They’re my ‘comfort’ reads, my inspiration and my intellectual treats 😉 Enjoy! 

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our selves (on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves. Anne Fadiman

It’s an intellectual treat; funny, thought-provoking & written so beautifully yet so effortlessly. For book lovers, book collectors, (common) readers or (university) researchers. It’s a wonderful read, I was bursting out with laughter so often that my children became a bit suspicious about this book (only text, no pics and I have so much fun?!). It’s about books (of course!): about marrying the books together, playing with words, compulsive proofreading (my absolute favourite typo: ‘Prince of Whales’), plagiarism aka ‘burglar[y] of others’ intellect’ (p. 86), having kids who read (a little spoiler: it helps when their parents read :), second-hand books (oh, the moment when we find a real reading gem!). I’d had this book on my bookshelf for a while and, this autumn, I suddenly had the urge to read it – and I’m so glad I finally did. Ex Libris is such an absolute pleasure to read and it’s pocket-sized, so good on the go / when travelling, too!

Afoot and light-hearted. A journal for mindful walking. by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse

You never come back from a walk feeling worse. Simon Armitage

This is my inspiration to walk more. To wander without any goals, to be fully present, to paint / draw / write a poem, to enjoy my own company, to have a forest-bathing moment, to exercise my body, my mind and my soul, to be inspired to create more. This is my walking journal: my space to take notes, to be creative, to comment on the views. There are quotations, little prompts, wisdom words: “(…) boredom, rest and idleness can be profound ways to stimulate the imagination and let our attention expand and unfurl.” (p. 84) I just cannot wait to fill the journal with some funny sketches 😉

Family adventures. Exploring the world with children.

(…) safe has plans, crazy has stories. TK McKamy

This is an album of family travels: it’s a collection of stories about exploring the world with children. The publication is edited by Austin Sailsbury, an American writer who lives with his family in Copenhagen. The travel stories are beautiful, I know how cliché it sounds, but this is precisely how I see them. From sustainable surfing adventures in Europe, exploring the romantic Amalfi Coast, sailing and (jumping) in the Ionian Sea, finding the perfect wild swimming spots in Texas to beginning family and discovering community in Uganda. From finding peacefulness and quietness in the woods and escaping everyday business in the Canadian wilderness, to finding your ‘smultronställe’ (a Swedish word meaning ‘wild strawberry patch’ aka a place of comfort, worth returning to experience personal idyll). From experiencing the magic of stargazing in New Zealand to finding a new home. It’s also about feeling alive and adventurous, about discovering real family bonding and creating life-long travel memories. And the photographs: what a treat! BUT, there is one drawback: it’s so inspirational that you immediately want to pack your bags and explore the world! Even now, or more correctly: especially now 😉

What reading inspirations have you discovered recently? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

November 25, 2020

Book review: Multilingual is normal. An anthology of voices. Talking about talking.

#multilingualisnormal

What an amazing idea to collect voices about multilingualism. It’s so ordinary, yet so extraordinary. 60 stories about the pleasure, the fun, the enthusiasm of learning, knowing and using foreign languages. The book shows different life scenarios, career possibilities and language journeys. It’s a perfect read for those learning languages, as well as translators, polyglots, multilingual families, teachers and professionals working with languages or with multilingual students and families.

The idea to collect stories about multilingualism was born in the summer of 2020 and belongs to the wonderful Cate Hamilton. Cate Hamilton is so multi-talented: she’s a co-founder of Babel Babies and a leader of the Language Revolution Podcast. She has also started a postgrad degree at Oxford University (!!!). The book was actually created in just one month: from 10th July to 10th August 2020 (amazing, huh?).

And which story is my favourite? All of them! Just read below:

“It was during a parents’ evening, the first one I had been brave enough to conduct in Catalan, that I discovered the filler word I had picked up in the backstreet bars in town meant: ‘I shit on the Eucharist.’

The raised eyebrows from the first two parents didn’t alert me. Neither did the look of alarm on the pair I saw next. It was during the third meeting that I began to get the sense that something was going wrong. ” (Peter Munford, p. 45)

“I think the little monolingual boy who first opened Fun to Learn French would be proud of how far he’s come, and really pleased that he’s teaching children to love language like he does.

But I also think he’d be scowling at me and saying: ‘You’re not stopping at nine languages, are you?’

So I should probably crack on with Basque.” (Darren Lester, p. 75)

“Raising a multilingual family does not mean to choose a language strategy that everyone says will work but to choose one that allows you to go at your own pace. Find a way where you could teach your languages to your children that follows their interests.” (Adrienne, p. 173)

And finally, a little hint, you’ll find a story about my language journey there, too 😉

Enjoy reading!

You can get your e-book here and a paper version here.

Kinga Macalla

November 4, 2020

Travelling corner: I fell in love with Exmoor

Why? Because, it has so much to offer! I re-discovered this beautiful region last winter and want to share with you why I find it so special. Below you’ll find my favourites of Exmoor:

Green

Exmoor is green. Even in winter, lower parts of the forests still remain green. It’s (almost) covered in trees and consequently, the air is very fresh (yes, you can feel the difference immediately). What I found really fascinating is that we weren’t so weather-dependant, even if it’s cloudy/rainy, it doesn’t impact our desire to go for a forest walk. Perfect solution!

Quietness

I love the business of everyday life, but I also like to be away, in nature, somewhere quiet. And I definitely slowed down in Exmoor. This region is not so commercial, so not too many tourists. It feels remote, yet local; a good combination.

Landscape

Beautiful. I found it so diverse, from stony beaches and paved walking paths to wild & muddy forests and windy sea shores. Its diversity makes it so unique and it gives you an appetite to explore further.

There is so much more to discover and I plan to return to Exmoor at different seasons to have a fuller picture of this beautiful region. Do let me know if you recommend any books on Exmoor or authors who explore this region. Let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

October 21, 2020

Travelling corner: I fell in love with Exmoor

Why? Because, it has so much to offer! I re-discovered this beautiful region recently and want to share with you why I find it so special. Below you’ll find my favourites of Exmoor:

Green

Exmoor is green. Even in winter, lower parts of the forests still remain green. It’s (almost) covered in trees and consequently, the air is very fresh (yes, you can feel the difference immediately). What I found really fascinating is that we weren’t so weather-dependant, even if it’s cloudy/rainy, it doesn’t impact our desire to go for a forest walk. Perfect solution!

Quietness

I love the business of everyday life, but I also like to be away, in nature, somewhere quiet. And I definitely slowed down in Exmoor. This region is not so commercial, so not too many tourists. It feels remote, yet local; a good combination.

Landscape

Beautiful. I found it so diverse, from stony beaches and paved walking paths to wild & muddy forests and windy sea shores. Its diversity makes it so unique and it gives you an appetite to explore further.

There is so much more to discover and I plan to return to Exmoor at different seasons to have a fuller picture of this beautiful region. Do let me know if you recommend any books on Exmoor or authors who explore this region. Let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

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