How to Become Fluent in Any Language

A lot of my students are seeking to become fluent in English and so they ask me. Although there is no right answer, if you follow these steps, it surely will get you closer to that fluency level you are aiming for. 

Find the method you enjoy the most
As I’ve said, over and over again, learning a language is not an easy task. It is extremely difficult and requires lots of patience. So if you are picking up a language or if you’ve been learning a language for many years, try picking a method that you enjoy the most. If you love interacting with others, looking at a grammar book will not help you in the long-term. So the best option would be taking online classes that require you to speak (englishchitchat.com). 

If you tend to be on the shy side and enjoy doing things on your own, then buy a few books and start chatting with strangers online. I’m going to repeat myself, but find a method that you enjoy. The method doesn’t have to conventional. There are people that have learned a language by looking at books and translating them. Chatting with strangers online. Listening to audio books for children. The sky is the limit! 

Repeat, repeat and repeat
I know this is going to sound crazy, but you have to repeat the material you learn everyday, otherwise, you will not learn it. Try to do your repetitions while you are doing something everyday. For example: while you are seating in the toilet, go over vocabulary words you want to learn :D 

Or set a timer for 10 minutes everyday meant for your repetition of words, expressions, etc. That way whatever you are trying to learn will remain in your long-term memory. 

Create a system
This is another crazy idea - create a system or a routine. That can be waking up 10 minutes earlier to practice whatever you want to learn. Or listening to a podcast while you’re commuting to work/school. During your lunch break watch YouTube videos on learning English. Anything you have available use and make it into a habit. 

Be patient
Of course, this is a given, right? Be patient! Learning any language takes lots of time (except if you’re a 3 year old). I know it’s specially frustrating when you’re first starting a language and you’re making great leaps in your learning, when suddenly you hit a wall. And it seems as if you’re not making any progress at all. It’s normal. You just need to find new ways to challenge yourself. But if you keep doing all the things listed above, you will become fluent. 

Any other tips you think I should’ve included? 


5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving Abroad (Poland)

Like most millennials, I was itching to move abroad as soon as I finished the university. And probably like most young people, I thought moving abroad was going to be easy - fly there and live there. And of course, it wasn’t that simple. You have to get accustomed to a different culture, a different system, and even different food. 

Although, I acknowledge everyone has a different experience when they move abroad, but nonetheless, I wish I had known these 5 things before moving to Sopot, Poland. 

Making Friends 

Believe it or not, making friends while you’re abroad is a challenge. You have to constantly put yourself out there. And that may not be something easy for most. I’ve never really had a problem “putting myself out there” but when you constantly do it, it does get tiring and, at times, frustrating. That is why I’d strongly recommend finding a roommate, then that person can introduce you to some of his/her friends. Also, don’t feel defeated when you aren’t making friends immediately. It takes time and lots of luck to find great friends. 

I met my best two best friends in Poland completely differently and it took a few months. My best girl friend, Gosia - I met her because we worked at the same language school. She would often bring two sets of containers containing food, one for me and one of her. I was amazingly lucky to have met her. She was/is like an older sister to me (one who is forever 18 years old). 

And Jarek - I met him completely randomly. I was lost and I was trying to find a place where I could get my passport pictures taken. I had asked serval strangers to help me, but none spoke English. As soon as I asked Jarek and responded, I was surprisingly shocked with his English level (it was perfect!). From then on, we have been friends and were even roommates.
My point is, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with strangers. One of those can become your best friend who will help you out in all sorts of situations. But don’t hold your breath, it can take a while to meet someone like that. Always be positive :) 

Joining FB Pages

The one thing, I really wish I had known before moving to Poland is all the FB expat pages. They are so unexpectedly useful! In many of them you can find: housing, friends, events, advice, etc. If I had known these sort of pages existed, I could’ve saved myself so many headaches. What’s more, you can also find people that are in the same boat as you - whether that is trying to find a roommate or simply trying to get a residence permit. The people who are members of these pages are there to help you and guide you if you have any sort of problem(s). So find those groups and ask if you can belong to them. They are extremely valuable! 

Learning the Language As Soon As Possible

The one thing I’m still kicking myself for is not learning Polish as soon as I arrived. Sure, you may never become fluent in the language or you may even be atrocious at it. However, if you start as soon as you arrive, the better your language skill will be when you decide to go back to your home country. 

I was in Poland for 4 years teaching English. I started learning Polish on my last year. I am ashamed to this day that I don’t know as much Polish as I should know. So do yourself the favor and start learning the language. 

Side note - learning a new language (if you have a great teacher) is incredibly fun! I remember going to my Polish teacher’s home (Ania) and not only learning Polish but also enjoying a nice cup of coffee with cookies. All I can say is that it was one of the best decisions I made while I was living there. 

Bureaucracy

Numerous times I heard people complaining about different countries and how much bureaucracy there is. But I’ve never actually experienced until I moved to Poland. Now, it is not only Poland, it is everywhere. However, I don’t think people in their early to mid 20’s know about this. When you move to any country be aware that there will be a lot (from opening a bank account to getting your residence permit). Make sure to take with you multiple copies of everything, from your birth certificate to your passport. 

There is honestly nothing more frustrating that missing one paper or having to submit multiple copies of one document and not having it. I would also recommend finding someone that can help you through any legal process or even hiring someone. 

While I was in Poland I had to do my residence permit (karta pobytu) multiple times. At first friends helped me but after a few times, you start feeling guilty. Since it’s never fun to visit or make several phone calls to governmental offices. Later, I hired a company that helped me. Although, I must say it was always a hit or miss. Sometimes they would be great and other times, they were pretty incompetent. 

The moral of the story is: be prepared to deal with a lot of bureaucracy. There will be times you won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but eventually you will. So don’t give up. 

Your Decisions Have Consequences 

Moving abroad is one of the best things you can do when you’re young. While living abroad you are constantly learning, you are constantly becoming more tolerant, and you are constantly enriching your life for the better (I hope!). However, keep in mind that everything you do does have consequences. 

From not keeping up with friends and family and losing those relationships/friendships to doing something that you never expected yourself to do. As for me, my sole purpose to move to Europe was to do an MBA. Instead, I started teaching English and have loved it ever since. Sure, I now own my own company and still absolutely love what I do. However, if I ever wanted to make a career change I am not sure how easy that would be. 

Be cognizant of your decisions, they will affect you in the future. Have expectations for your own life and remind yourself of those and you’ll be okay. 


What do you wish you had known before moving across the world? 

5 Things I Learned While Living in Poland

To this day, I find it hard to believe that I lived in Poland for 4 years. The initial plan was to stay in Poland for 6 months and then reapply to an MBA program in Germany. Little did I know that I was going to find my passion - teaching English. 

After living in Poland for 4 years, I learned a whole lot of things about myself and I’m thankfully to come out of this experience as a more empathetic and patient woman, among other positive adjectives :) 

  1. Asking for help
    I believe many women can resonate with this - their parents telling them not to rely on anyone. So of course, when I moved to Poland I had the mentality that I could do anything on my own. Boy was I wrong! Asking for help when needed is not a flaw in your character. We should all be comfortable when asking for help, especially if it’s really needed. Of course, like every foreigner living in Poland, I struggled with my Karta Pobytu (aka: residence card). I asked my friends numerous times, especially Jarek, my ex-roommate. Although I always thanked those who helped me, I don’t think they know how grateful I am to this day that they were gracious enough to lend me a hand when I needed it. 

  2. Not speaking loudly
    Okay, this one I learned in Poland but I have long forgotten! But I wanted to write about it because it’s something that every non-American will laugh and understand. Americans, we are loud and sometimes even obnoxious. I do apologize for all of us who tend to behave like this. I was one of them. In Europe it is easy to notice that people speak quietly when they are in public, specially if they’re on a bus, train, etc (except if you’re Italian). I remember when I was fresh off the plane, I was the typical American, speaking on the phone loudly and immediately realizing that I’m the only person yelling. So that lesson was quickly learned. Although, like I mentioned earlier, it has been quickly forgotten. I guess old habits die hard! 

  3. Dressing WAY better
    I always believed that I dressed more or less well, until I landed in Poland and traveled around Europe. Being well-dressed is the norm in all of Europe. In Florida it isn’t. A person in Florida dresses on the weekends like this: flip flops, jeans, t-shirt. That’s on a good day! Now, when they’re grocery shopping it looks something like this: flip flops with pajamas. Do you get my point? We don’t know how to dress! We don’t even own proper shoes! I have to admit, I wasn’t as bad as what I described, however, I do remember the first time I got invited to a bar. I wanted to put on jeans, a nice top and sneakers. My roommate looked at me and said “you’re wearing that?!” And I then looked at myself and said in a timid voice “yes?” I also got Jarek to tell me at one point that I had no fashion sense. After those two instances, I learned that wearing jeans and a nice top wasn’t/isn’t enough. If you’re a woman, you must not only have a nice dress with according shoes, but also gotta accessorize! Thankfully, I did learn this well and I’m still implanting it while living in Denver. 

  4. Taking More Chances 
    I know you’re probably surprised with this one, but I really did learn to take more chances while living in Poland. Although taking chances may sound risky, I always did a cost-benefit analysis. Before moving to Poland, I would have never gone out by myself to restaurants, parties, etc. Living abroad without knowing anyone teaches you to get out of your conform zone, which was the best lesson I learned thus far. I was able to become comfortable in my own skin. Going out by myself, striking conversations with strangers, and even traveling alone. It also teaches you to be wary of others when you get a negative vibe from them and relying on complete strangers who show you kindness. I was always very lucky to have met people that showed kindness to me and, again, I feel so fortunate to this day to have met them! (Gosia, Jarek, Ted, etc). 

  5. Using the Public Transportation 
    This one was one that I was really excited to learn. If you haven’t been to Florida you’re about to be surprised. In Florida we don’t really have public transportation. Sometimes there’s not even sidewalks on the streets! And the buses pass every hour, if you’re lucky. What I mean is, in Florida, it seems that the only people who use the public transportation are: people that are mentally ill, people with suspended licenses, or just crazy people. And if you know me, you know that I hate driving. So naturally, I was ecstatic by the thought of using public transportation. And surprise, surprise, I had no idea how to use it! I asked for help here and there, and got the hang of it. Although, it was great not to drive places, I must say it was not always peachy - there were a couple of times when drunk men entered the bus/train, which was an absolutely gruesome experience (the smell, the chaos, and again, the smell). 

That is all! What have you learned while living abroad? Do you think I missed anything? :)

Are You Ready To Learn English With A Native Speaker?

Believe it or not, learning with a native speaker is not for everyone, especially if you are a beginner. 

When I moved to Poland in the summer of 2013 I was shocked by the number of people who wanted to learn English with me. Of course, there was a mix of people, from beginners to advanced students. The shocking part was that even beginners wanted to learn with me. Although, I was flattered, I never thought it was a good idea. 

Learning a language is tough. It takes not only a lot of time, but also an endless amount of patience. And who has both those things? Not many of us, however, we are pushed by society to learn another language, especially English. 

I am a believer that if you are an adult (ages 14 or older) you need to have an English teacher who speaks your native language. Why? Well, because at some point we start thinking like adults when learning a language. What does that even mean, you may ask. That means we try to translate everything in our minds into English and that simply doesn’t work. Your native language doesn’t make 100% sense in English and vice versa. 

A teacher that speaks your same language can explain eloquently grammar, expressions, idioms and the list goes on! Once you reach a B1/B2 level that’s the moment when you should start looking for a native English teacher. And finally, you can start the journey of learning slang, training your ear, and getting to know how natives speak. 

But remember, not everyone who you’ll speak to is going to be a native. So don’t neglect people who have accents, you will stumble upon them more often than not. English is a universal language and you have to be able to understand and be understood by the masses. 

If you are interested in learning with a native, contact us at info@englishchitchat.com.

Are You Ready To Learn A Language?

Learning a new language is no joke. You need to invest not only your precious time, but also money, lots of it. 

I’m fortunate enough to be able to speak with individuals who have been learning English for decades. And you know what? I’m always impressed. Some may think that maybe they’re slow because they should’ve learned English already. But to their defense, not only are they great at English, but they also understand the fact that learning any language is a life-long journey. And as the saying goes: if you don’t use it, you lose it. 

Unfortunately, learning a new language is difficult. You have to put many hours. And if you stop using it, even for a year, you will quickly notice how much you’ll forget.  Having said that, if you understand this and you’re still motivated, then these are the tips I can give to anyone who would like to start this life-long voyage. 

      • Patience - you need lots of it. You won’t see immediately results after a week. It takes years! Learning a language, like I have said earlier, is a never-ending journey. 

      • Motivation - it’s easy to be motivated at the very beginning, but as time passes you need to make sure to keep that motivation going for long periods of time.

      • Money - perhaps when you first embark in this journey, you will buy a couple of books here and there, but eventually you are going to need to buy more advance books, which are more expensive, hire an actual language teacher, which can be expensive, and study for a language exam, which again, is expensive. Think of learning a new language as an investment. Investments are expensive, but at the end, it will pay off.

      • Good sense of humor - there will be plenty of times when you’ll make a mistake or sound “stupid” but you know what, laugh it off! More likely than not, the mistake you make will be funny, sometimes awkward, but people around you will laugh and will understand that you are not a native. So keep it light, don’t stress, and have fun.

      • Seeing the light - if you are not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you will probably not achieve your goal in learning or improving the language. So remind yourself to always keep your eye on the ball! 

If all these points resonate with you, then you’re ready to plunge into this world of learning a new language! Make the jump and just do it. Don’t look back. At the end, you will not only gain confidence but you will also know that you can accomplish difficult goals. So what language are you going to pick up for 2019?! 


Why Is Sticking To Plans So Difficult? 

As you have noticed, I haven’t written on my blog for a while. I can, of course, name a number of excuses from getting a puppy, to traveling, to the holidays. All of which are partially true. But the bottom line is that it’s so difficult for me to stick to writing blog posts each week. Finding the motivation and topics to write about is a difficult task. I sometimes wonder how professional bloggers do it. Do they have a team that simply comes up with topics? Or do they find these topics alone? I assume it’s a combination of the two. 

So after struggling to find a topic to write about, I figured why not write about “sticking to plans”. It goes well with the start of the new year too, since many of us like to have some kind of new year resolutions. Personally speaking, I don’t make resolutions because I believe that you can make changes whenever you’d like. However, I do like to create goals for myself. Some of which I’ve succeeded in but others, I certainly have turned a blind eye and have “forgotten” about - running a half-marathon. This failure to stick to goals/plans made start researching methods to stick to them. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Visualize Yourself Accomplishing It - This is an interesting one because I do this but when I go bouldering. If I can’t finish a route, before going to sleep I go over the route in my mind and that usually helps me tremendously into finishing it. So, when I read this, I was surprised because it’s something that I do but for smaller things. It seems that this kind of visualization would be ideal for someone wanting to accomplish weight loss or some kind of marathon-related sport. Perhaps I should start doing that for my half-marathon that I never accomplished. 

    2. Keep an Eye on Your Goals Regularly - This one I came up with on my own. This is one of my failures and I believe if I were to regularly remind myself of my goals, I would have accomplished all of them. Often, we tend to forget certain goals that we want to accomplish because they are challenging, which is perfectly normal for our brains. Think of it this way: to do lists. Many of us like the scratching out items from our to-do lists, so we usually do the easiest ones first and then move on to the harder ones. It works exactly the same with your yearly goals (at least for me!). 

    3. Hold Yourself Accountable - Another reason many of us don’t accomplish all of our goals is because we don’t hold ourselves accountable. We write our goals on our laptops and never tell anyone about them or look at them again. This makes a perfect scenario for us to not accomplish those goals. So a great way to make sure you complete those goals is by talking to a friend about your goals and asking that person to check on your regularly. This can certainly work if you’re trying to lose weight, become healthier, invest money, etc. So start telling friends about your goals and hopefully they will bug you so much that you won’t have any other choice but to accomplish them! 

    4. Cut Goals Into Smaller Pieces - Get your calendar out and start writing down your goals but in small pieces. If that is to invest $5,000 dollars at the end of the year, then start writing on your calendar your investment goals (for example: save $415 every month). That seems attainable, right?! Rather than at the end of the year scrambling through all your bank accounts, pockets, wallets, etc in order to find those $5,000. 

And most importantly, imagine how accomplished you’ll feel if you do cross off all those goals you established at the end of the year! What are some of your goals? 

The Importance of Traveling

Most of you who know me, know two things about me: my love for traveling and my love of animals, mainly dogs. As I was watching a new Netflix TV series named Dogs at the end of the day, I felt compelled to write about a sensitive topic that it is affecting many people around the world: tolerance and understanding. 

The second episode of Dogs is about a Syrian refugee that is living in Berlin. His mission is to bring his dog from Syria to Berlin. But that’s not what I’m going to discuss today, I’m going to discuss something that this Syrian refugee mentioned. He said that living in Berlin is great, however, everyone around him looks at him as a “poor” refugee. And that he is starting to feel sorry for himself and even has started “hating” himself for being considered that. 

I know all of you know that there are certain tendencies in the US and in Europe: electing right-winged parties, xenophobia becoming somewhat normal, and not knowing whether what you read is true or false.  All things considered, one must ask himself/herself what do I need to do to stop these tendencies? A year or so ago, I listened to a podcast that discussed this strange term, “social capital”.  As I listened to it, the more it resonated with me and what I’ve always believed in. This so-called social capital is in layman's terms trust within a country, city, town, etc. The podcast explores the importance of trust within a society and it explains how it can help the economy, health, education, crime-rate, and the list goes on and on. However, the main route for people to trust one another is by traveling. 

For most of us, traveling is no longer a luxury. It is simply something we do at least once a year. Of course, Europeans are pros at this, you guys travel ALL THE TIME! The funny thing about traveling is that for some reason you always choose to trust the stranger from that country you’re visiting. If you’re lost, if you’re looking for recommendations, who do you ask? Some person from the street - a complete stranger. We also get to interact with individuals that perhaps, we would never interact otherwise. Traveling pushes our boundaries and we are sometimes forced to trust strangers, which hopefully at the end, makes us more tolerant, have more empathy, and be more knowledgeable of different cultures/traditions/etc. 

I consider myself to be very tolerant and this is due to the school I went to and the people I’ve met in my travels. When I was about to enter high school, my parents, without knowing put my brother and I, in a school the majority of its students were considered a “minority”. The majority of students were African Americans or Hispanics. Most of my life I was surrounded by “white” people. My first day of school at Dunbar High School was extremely scary. I had this idea of African Americans  and Hispanics that was absolutely inaccurate. On my last day of high school, I was so proud that I had graduated from this high school. Not only were the teachers great, but I learned the most valuable lesson: don’t judge people before meeting them, give them a chance and most people are nice. 

Having that said, I hope you enjoyed the post and hopefully you’ve had a similar experience as I did or maybe even a better one. 


Top 3 Languages Employers Want You To Know

It’s not a surprise that a major way to increase the likelihood of you landing your dream job is by speaking more than one language. Globalization has been our reality for more than 10 years and what’s the best way to give yourself a competitive advantage that the business world seeks? Well, for starters, speak more than one language.

Being able to communicate with foreign partners, clients, etc in their own native language is one of the most important aspects of creating trust in those relationships. So which languages are most in demand? 

  1. Mandarin
    I remember my 10th grade teacher, Mr. Griffin telling us to start learning Mandarin then because China was going to become the biggest influencer in the world of economy. Well, he was right and, of course, I didn’t listen to his advice. 

    Fast-forward almost 15 years and China is considered 2nd in the world’s biggest economies this year. Its economy has increased by $2 trillion from 2017 to $14 trillion this year. And it is predicted to continue to grow. For sure, it will surpass United State’s powerful economy. So my fellow readers, let’s all start searching for a mandarin teacher! 

  2. English

    Although China is kicking-butt, the US is still the leading force in Europe and basically everywhere in the world. I’m sure it’s not difficult to see that. In fact, the US has become the national business language and is so powerful that is even taking over words in different languages

    So if your English is still not up to par, then you better start lessons with us! 

  3. Spanish

    A crazy fact that many don’t know about, but Spanish has the second highest number of native speakers, right behind Mandarin. However, for some reason, in English speaking countries, Spanish is not learned. You can find Spanish native speakers in South America, Central America and Spain. So if you’re looking to do business in any of those places, then learning Spanish is probably a great investment worth considering. Not only that, but knowing Spanish in the US is pretty vital, especially if you need to have an edge in order to attain your dream job. 

Of course, picking a language is not as easy as following my advice. You should do your homework and check which languages are beneficial or useful in the sector you’re planning to work in. Nonetheless, speaking more than one language will open many doors in your private or public life. What’s the language you’re learning?! 

Is Getting Rid of Your Accent Really Important?

A lot of my students want to get rid of their accent and my question is always “why?” I mean, I understand that perhaps getting rid of their accent is beneficial for them because their confidence immediately boosts up. But is it really worth it? If you think about it, everyone HAS an accent. Even in the US, there is northern and southern accent and a few more in-between. Another great example is the UK. Just type up on YouTube “accents in UK” and you’ll get a list of different people speaking in different accents. Again, what’s the point? 

For me, the most important part of learning a language is speaking the language well - meaning no grammatical mistakes and speaking clearly (with your unique accent). Of course, you will meet people that absolutely hate accents. However, I’d like to say to those people, “go out and explore!” Those who have that mentality are usually the people that have never gone out of their city, let alone their country. The more educated and well-traveled you are, the more tolerant and appreciative you are about accents. 

I am definitely not saying that trying to improve your accent is pointless. It is not! If you would feel more confident about your language skills, then I say, “good for you and go for it!” However, remember that you’re not really getting rid of your accent, you are simply changing to a different accent. 

As for me, I love accents! I think it makes people interesting and it’s definitely a conversation starter. I am one of those people that appreciates them dearly. Although, there are some accents that are difficult to understand. In such cases, I do believe trying to change your accent would probably be beneficial, since it would decrease misunderstandings, which is always good, right?! 

What’s your opinion on accents?

Why Are We Still Multi-Tasking?

As many of you know, my boyfriend and I recently got a puppy named Homer. And of course, both of us having been multi-multi-tasking more than ever. What’s more, I have been lagging behind with my blog post, fb page, etc. So today, I wanted to make sure that I would not only brainstorming a topic to write about, but actually write it. The best topic I came up with was multi-tasking. 

In today’s society multi-tasking is seen as an essential skill in any profession. It is often seen in job requirements, in resumes, and it’s something that some even brag about. It somehow shows how much a person is “worth”.

However, there is an abundant number of studies, articles, etc that specifically say that multi-tasking divides our attention and interrupts our brains, which essentially hurts us physically and mentally. So why the heck are we still valuing multi-tasking so much? 

Personally speaking, I’ve always performed badly when I have had to multitask. And I honestly have felt ashamed about my lack of skill. The people that know me well, know that I am easily distracted. For example, when Sean needs to inform me of something important, he literally tells me, “stop what you’re doing and just listen”. That’s how bad I am. 

I am aware of my “weakness”, so when I have a significant job that I need to get done, I need to really put everything down and focus on that thing. Otherwise, my work will be mediocre at best. So, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped stay focused. 

  • When someone is talking to you, listen to them carefully. Stop thinking about your to-do list or what you want to do later.

  • Check your emails twice a day. This one is extremely hard for me to follow, because I am the kind of person that wants to reply to emails immediately and I expect the same from others. 

  • When eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever, put your phone on silent. Even if you’re eating alone, enjoy your meal. Don’t check instagram, FB, or emails.

  • Create a to-do list but do it strategically. Don’t move to the next item on the list until you actually finish that task. Apparently, most of us, find it rewarding crossing out items on our to-do list, so we tend to do the easiest tasks first and then move to the harder tasks. That’s why to-do lists need to be strategically made. 

I have found that multi-tasking often appears when technology is involved (my phone is the main culprit). And I am going to be presumptuous, but I believe this is most of us nowadays. It is ironic that technology was meant to make our lives more productive, but somehow it has done the complete opposite, thanks to social media. 


So let’s put our phones down and start focusing on one thing at a time! What are some methods you use in order to single-task? 

Halloween - The American Tradition

On the last day of October it is normal to see children walking around in funny or scary costumes, knocking their neighbor’s doors and shouting “Trick of Treat!” Ghosts, witches, princesses and superheroes walk all among us and they all carry a bag full of candy that has been given to them by their neighbors. I know this all sounds fairly familiar to you because of movies, tv shows, etc. But this American tradition is not so American! 


The history of Halloween
Believe it or not, this American tradition known as Halloween originated as a pagan festival in parts of the United Kingdom. For many at that time, the end of October was believed to be a magical day and night, where spirits had the highest chance to make contact with the physical world (how creepy does that sound?!). 

How was it brought to the US
Just like anything else, it’s all about the money! In the 1900’s Irish and Scottish immigrants brought this tradition to the United States and started commercializing it. So it all started: costumes, postcards, decorations, you name it! 

How is it celebrated now - Kids and Adults 
Halloween is still going strong. Families and young adults start preparing for this tradition as soon as October starts. Stores stock up on candy, pumpkins, decorations and anything else you can associate with Halloween. 

Of course, families like to purchase decorations to decor their front and back yards. The parents start brainstorming cute/scary costumes for their children. And moms start searching for those perfect Halloween decorations. Once October 31st hits the calendar, it’s game time! As soon as it’s dark, the little monsters, princesses, ghosts go out, knock on their neighbor’s doors and shout “Trick or Treat!” As they collect as much candy as possible, time goes by and finally retreat back to their homes. Once they reach their home, these little monsters, princesses and ghosts hit the sack and sleep the night away.

Now for those young, single men and women, it’s a whole different story. No more knocking on neighbor’s doors and shouting “Trick or Treat”. It is time for good parties and plenty of drinking. 

As bars and restaurants have also commercialized on this tradition. They have introduced parties, halloween-inspired food and drinks and plenty of young adults love to check them out. For those who decide to “stay at home,” it’s not for the sake of staying at home but rather to throw epic costumes parties! Naturally, all the invitees must be dressed up. The more innovative the costumer, the better! 

In your country, do you celebrate Halloween? 

Maternity Leave - A Comparison Among The US, Poland and Denmark

As I’m getting older, the more I see friends, family members, and acquaintances getting pregnant. This of course, raises an extraordinary number of questions, from what to name the baby to who’s going to take care of him/her while the parents are working. 

As  many of you know, I moved back to the US early 2017.  And so, whenever I see pregnant women here, I often pity them. Why? Well, our maternity leave is a joke compared to a number of European countries. 

Here’s a comparison among the US, Poland, and Denmark. 


The United States
Although the US is one of the richest countries in the world, it is the only country that doesn’t mandate employers to give women a paid maternity leave, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Of course, some employees do get a paid maternity leave, mainly depending on the company and if you’re considered a full-time employee (I’ll talk about it further).

Although women are protected from their job up to 12 weeks (3 months) after childbirth or adoption under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it does not require for new-moms to get paid for that time off. To make it simple, your employer has to wait for you to return to your job and you will not be penalized during that time period. 

In order to determine whether you are eligible for a paid maternity leave, there are a few requirements you must fulfill. You must be in your job for a year. You must work full-time. And your employer must have more than 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work. However, it also heavily depends on the company you work for. That’s why it is essential to ask these questions if you’re planning to get pregnant relatively soon and if you’re thinking about moving to the US. 

Poland 
Most of my students are from Poland and of course, probably around half of them are women. From that half, two-thirds are mothers. So it would be an understatement to say that I am familiar with maternity leave in Poland. And honestly, every time I talk about it with my women students, I am always shocked about their great maternity leave.

This is what I’ve learned: Employees in Poland are entitled to 12 months of parental leave (yes, a whole year!!!). 

The first 6 months (20 weeks) are absolutely mandatory, no matter whether a new-mom has requested it or not. 

Now, for the next part, I may get it wrong, so if I am, please correct me. But from my understanding, if a new-mom decides to take the whole year off, then she is entitled to 80% of her salary throughout that year. Furthermore, after the first 14 weeks, the parental leave can be shared between the parents (how awesome is that?!). And of course, like the US, their employer cannot terminate her during her maternity leave.  

Denmark
Even though I don’t have any students from Denmark, I decided to talk about their maternity leave because of a podcast I listened to. While listening to the podcast and learning about Denmark’s maternity leave, it made me realize, truly, how far behind the US is, in terms of maternity leave. 

Here are the highlights: You get a paid maternity leave no matter what. It means that either your employer pays you for it or the Udbetaling Denmark, according to Øresund Direkt. Just like Poland, in Denmark women are eligible for a 52 week paid parental leave. 

Furthermore, parents can share the parental leave after the 14 week mark. How cool is that? 

And now, for the icing on the cake, parents can extend their parental leave! So according to the website that was linked earlier, you are able to extend the joint parental leave by either 8 or 14 weeks. However, this does affect your parental allowance each month. Nonetheless, parents can have 40 to 46 weeks of joint parents leave. And in the future, you can take a whole year off so that you can spend with your child however you want to spend it - be discovering new places or going on a grand adventure. 

What does maternity leave look like in your country? Are you happy with it, why or why not? I’d love to hear about it. 


3 Steps You Can Make Learning Another Language Easier


As many of you know, I lived in Sopot, Poland for nearly 4 years. Although, I am terribly ashamed to even write this, I started learning Polish on my last year of being there. To this day, I am remorseful about that decision. Thankfully, I did learn something valuable that I am able to share with those who want to learn another language or are in the process of learning a new language.  Here is my 3-step plan on learning a language easier. 

Immerse Yourself 
You hear it all the time, but how many of you actually do it? I know, it can be difficult if you are living in your home-country and trying to learn, for example, Japanese. However, that’s no excuse! You can still somewhat immerse yourself in the language you want to learn. How? By really immersing yourself through books, tv shows, music, etc. You will be absorbing the language you’re trying to learn all day long and you also get to know the language’s little quirks. 

Have No Shame
This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I can give to anyone. Literally, have no shame! If you meet someone that speaks the language you are learning, strike up a conversation with that person. Yes, you will mess up. Yes, you will probably, most likely, look like a fool. But at the end of the day, who cares?! You will have the chance to practice phrases, vocabulary, your pronunciation, and it will boost your confidence level (hopefully!). The more you do this, the more confidence you’ll attain and the more you’ll learn (from knowing where you need to improve, to where you’re kicking butt). 

Set attainable Goals
Just like anything you want to achieve, you should always set attainable goals. Learning a language is no different than trying to lose 10 kilos by the beginning of summer. You need to be committed, but you also need to make your studying into bite-sized lessons. Don’t make it a marathon because, believe or not, you’ll get burnt-out. And perhaps by the end of your goal, you can reward yourself with a trip to that country (just saying!)

Remember that learning a language is not a 1 or 5 year plan, it is a lifetime plan. Think about your own native language, you are still constantly learning. Don’t feel defeated if you are not “fluent” by year 5. Learning is all about the journey, not the destination. And don’t forget to make learning a language an everyday activity. Little by little you will see your achievements shine through all your hard-work! 

Why Should Managers Encourage Employees To Try New Things and How.

Although there are millions of topics one can write in a blog, some are more worthy than others to actually put it into words, right? 

Today, in the blog I wanted to talk about something a bit different than just English. I wanted to talk about something that is related to business - should managers encourage employees to try new things and how can managers implement this. 

Benefits
Most people, after working for a few years in the same position or company, feel stuck and what’s the best way to get out of that funk? By trying something new! Routines are very easy to fall into and although it makes our lives predictable, it can also makes us unhappy and even depressed at times.

By trying something new, people tend to tackle their fears and ultimately overcome them. By doing that, we become more courageous and confident. Not only that, but we also tend to have a better grasp of who we are. We are able to truly face our shortcomings and strengths. We learn how to address the big, fat, pink elephant in the room. May that be at a workplace or in our private lives. 

Moreover, this concept of someone pushing us into doing something we are not comfortable with, actually helps our brain get a little bit more stimulated which results in an increase in our creativity. Of course, this can be extremely beneficial in any aspect of our lives. This extra push can make one have a different perspective on problems/situations, help us become better communicators, and have more empathy towards one another. The benefits are truly endless. 

How to Implement it
Although most corporations try to somewhat implement this idea by creating “team-outings”, this is not enough. Yes, there are some benefits in team-outings. They are able to show the importance of team work, boost confidence and trust within the team, and helps managers determine where his/her team lacks, such as communication, leadership, etc. However, how many of you know people that absolutely hate team-outings and skip out on them? I already have a hand-full of people in my mind. 

My question is, instead of focusing on the team, should managers encourage individuals to try things on their own? And my answer is YES! 

But how can a managers actually implement this? Certainly they can’t force anyone to do something. The best way to deliver such an idea is by explaining to their team the reasons why this is beneficial for them. As a manager, you have to explain things in a way that helps your team understand the importance of it. Don’t make it into an order, but rather as a life lesson. 

And this is exactly where companies got it wrong. Most companies and even schools try to force these ideas to employees/students. No one likes to be told what to do. And most of us are willing to listen to reason, especially if it comes from someone we look up to and/or respect. 

Managers have various ways to encourage his/her team to try something new. And most would agree that adults love games or challenges. You, as a manager, should know what your team is most susceptible to. Make it fun or challenging and continue to stimulate your team in new ways. At the end of the day, you’ll see results from happier employees to a more healthy atmosphere. Not to mention, a boost in creativity. 


3 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

I’m often surprised at my students who have been learning English for long-periods of time, sometimes even decades. But it’s not because their English skills are low, it’s because they want to maintain a certain level of proficiency and they enjoy the benefits. And as many of you know, it’s very easy to forget a language when you’re no longer using it. 

Of course, improving your language skills helps you to expand your horizons in different aspects, from traveling to job opportunities. And it isn’t a surprise that the English language is flooding so many different countries. Once you are able to communicate in English well, you are virtually able to travel anywhere with no difficulties. Moreover, it makes you a more valuable professional, while unlocking different aspects of your brain and strengthening your cognitive abilities

Now, for those thinking of learning a new language, like English or Spanish, here are the top 3 surprising benefits. 


It helps you improve your memory
I have to admit, this first point is probably not really a surprise, but nonetheless it’s a good reminder why everyone should strive to learn another language, like English. There is an abundant amount of evidence that learning another language helps you boost your memory by learning new vocabulary, improving your concentration skills and actually teaching you a thing or two about body language. One of my favorite examples was when I was living in Poland. In that beautiful country with an awfully difficult language, I had to heavily rely on body language. In Poland “no” means yes. So when I heard people say “no oczywiście”, I realized that it wasn’t something negative but rather positive. Finally, once I started taking Polish classes, I learned that it actually means “of course!”


Makes you a better communicator
It comes to no surprise that people who speak several languages are also great communicators. And it’s not because they were born that way! It’s actually because they learned so many different languages, which makes their vocabulary extremely rich, which then trickles down to their communication skills. Not only that, but when you learn another language you become more aware of the idiosyncrasies of those different languages, for example, English. You learn different grammar by which you also learn your own native language, which in result, makes you understand and communicate International English better. 


It decreases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia
This should be the sole reason why people should learn another language alone. Several studies have been consistent with the conclusion that knowing more than one language decreases the chances of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to studies, monolingual adults start seeing symptoms of dementia at the age of 71, whereas adults who speak two or more languages start seeing those first signs at the age of 75.5. 

Although you may be getting older and you may think, “I’m too old”, it’s actually never too late to start seeing these benefits! Learning a new language keeps your brain active while also helping you appreciate different cultures too. So if you’re looking to learn English or Spanish, contact us! 

My Top 3 Favorite Shows for English Learners

For those of you that know me or have had lessons with me, you know I love watching TV series and I often recommend to my students to check them out in order to learn new vocabulary words (mostly slang) and to train their listening skills. Not only that, but it’s also WAY better than picking up a grammar book. If I haven’t convinced you, then read this: learn while you sit down and relax! 

Initially I was going to pick the “best” TV shows and write about them, but then I realized that it would be better to write about shows that I am currently or recently finished watching and absolutely loved. So here’s my list:

Seinfeld

Difficulty level: easy / intermediate 
Genre: Comedy
Why you should watch it: Seinfeld is considered by many the best sitcom. Although a couple of months back I wouldn’t have been able to confirm this, I now can. It truly is! Let me tell you why: This might be the only show that depicts the life of four friends living in New York (sound familiar?) who are in their early to late 30’s and are experiencing something that many of us have during that time in our lives: breakups, friends having children, being single in your 30’s, etc. Although, you may be thinking, “this is like Friends,” let me tell you, it’s not. Friends is always go-happy versus Seinfeld they talk about things that are realistic and mundane. Things that happen to every single one of us at some point in our lives (losing socks in a communal laundry room, anyone?) 

Like Friends, you will be able to hear different accents, the dialogue is relatively easy, although they can speak fast from time to time. You will also be exposed to English expressions, phrasal verbs, puns and American culture way more than Friends. So give it a try! 

Curb Your Enthusiasm 

Difficulty level: intermediate / hard
Genre: Cringe comedy / dark humor 
Why you should watch it: If you tried watching Seinfeld and enjoyed it, I guarantee that you will love this show! Curb Your Enthusiasm is based on the life of Larry Davis who is the creator of Seinfeld. In the show, he never hides the fact that he has made millions making Seinfeld. And like Seinfeld, every episode is about nothing. Now, what do you mean by that, you may ask. Well, what I mean is that it’s about the unrelated everyday annoyances (watch the first episode and you’ll understand). Oh, I almost forgot, you will see Larry’s dark humor constantly come on the show and make a fool of himself. 

I’ll stop praising the show now and tell you why English learners should watch it: you will learn great vocabulary words (advanced level) and you will really get to know current American culture. Oh and you may learn lots of things about Judaism from race to gender to being disabled. Trust me, it’s an amazing show. One of my favorites! 

Game of Thrones 

Difficulty level: hard
Genre: Fantasy 
Why you should watch it: If you haven’t heard of Game of Thrones (GoT) then you are living under a rock, seriously. I have to warn you, it’s addictive! So if you’re up for a challenge, enjoy watching fantasy TV series and have lots of time, then check it out. 

The language used is quasi-medieval so for sure you won’t understand lots of words. You are also bombarded with a variety of accents, from English to Scottish. It is not a surprise that even native speakers like to watch this show with subtitles. So if you’re struggling, then don’t feel defeated if you start using them. 

I wish I could write a great synopsis for this show, however there are so many characters, and too many wars to give you a good summary. Nevertheless, here goes: there are five kings and they are all fighting for the throne. If you’re not convinced, watch a trailer on YouTube. There are even dragons in the show!!

There you have it! Those are my top 3 shows I’ve recently watched and loved. Check them out and let me know what you think.



Back to Britain – Reverse Culture Shock is Real! by Yasmin Benn

Moving country is never an easy decision. Uprooting your life to anchor down elsewhere brings a lot of stress and uncertainty. But what if you’re leaving your life as an expat to return back home?

Surely that’s easier than moving to a foreign country, right? Returning to familiarity should be an easy transition, rightttt? Well, that’s not always the case.

I left Budapest 4 weeks ago and I feel like I’ve lost a limb. Although I’ve loved catching up with friends and being able to see them more regularly is fantastic, I just can’t shake this feeling that something is missing. It’s a difficult feeling to describe. But, I’ve come to realise that living abroad became a part of my identity and now I don’t have that, I’m left wondering ‘who am I at home’? I guess what I’m feeling is a loss.

Maybe that sounds a bit … dramatic? I’ve only moved back home. But it’s one of many things that have shocked me since returning. Here’s a list of other things I’ve noticed since arriving back in the UK. These are more light-hearted.

Strangers smile at you

Throughout my 3 years in Budapest, I can’t recall one time when a stranger smiled at me in the street. Oh, and don’t expect a welcoming ‘Hallo’ or a friendly smile from a cashier in Hungary as you’ll be bitterly disappointed. Living there, I forgot that small talk and chit-chat actually existed. So it was surprising when the cashier in my local Asda chatted my head off as I bought my weekly shop and randomers greeted me ‘good morning’ in the street. At first, I became paranoid that I must know these people but have forgotten who they were. But in reality, I just forgot how polite British people are.

Sandwiches are STRICTLY for lunch

While in Budapest I became partial to a sarnie (British slang for a sandwich) for breakfast. It was a popular choice of breakfast for Hungarians (although most Hungarians seemed to skip it all together) as well as my Spanish boyfriend. I mean, toast is common for us Brits, so a sandwich isn’t a world away. But no, no. Having a sandwich at 8am is too much for Brits to comprehend because … what will you then have for lunch?!!

Let’s drive there  

It seems that Brits are unable to walk anywhere that is more than 10 minutes away. Trying to get a Brit to walk to the shops when they have the option to drive, is impossible. When my friends and family came to visit me in Budapest, they would all have the same complaint “my feet are hurting, we’ve walked so much. Shall we get a taxi?”

 

Best Fiction Books For English Learners

Reading English books is a great way to get a grasp of the language. But where do you start? You don’t want to delve into Shakespeare’s collection; most English natives struggle to understand what Shakespeare is on about half of the time. Likewise, you don’t want to read children’s books. You need a middle ground, books that are accessible yet still challenge you.

I’ve listed my top 3 fictions books I recommend to my student’s if they want a gateway to English literature.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
This is a great book for English learners. The story takes place in the present which means the grammar is simple and the book is a quick read. Also, the vocab is easily digestible because the story's told through a teenager’s voice.

But, if you’re looking for a light-hearted read; this book isn’t for you. The book deals with some very heavy issues right from the start. Suicide, bullying and sexual assault are common themes throughout the book. Although it’s a Young Adult novel I think people of all ages can relate. If you have a young person close to you, this book will provide added value as it enacts as a terrifying but realistic glimpse into some of the realities our young people are facing today.  P.S Netflix adapted the book into a series. Currently series one and two are available on Netflix.

Animal Farm, George Orwell
This is a book I read relatively recently which is surprising because it’s one of the greats. Orwell was a journalist, therefore his writing style is very clean, clear and direct. Although he uses a lot of extended metaphors, he doesn’t use complex sentences and overly complicated vocab which makes it pretty accessible for English learners.

On the surface, this is a story about farm life from the animals’ point of view. However, that's just a smoke screen. In truth, Animal Farm is a satirical political allegory that retells the story of the Russian Revolution but within the context of a farm, replacing humans with animals.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
I bet you’ve already read the Harry Potter series in your native language … TWICE. Who doesn’t love HP, right? Reading it in English would be a great first step into the world of English literature. Also, it’s British; so if you want to learn British English this book will introduce you to some UK-specific words and phrases.  

Let us know which books you've recently read!

 

What You Need to Know About British Summer Weddings

Who doesn't love a good summer wedding? There's only one thing Brits love more than a summer wedding ... and that's a ROYAL summer wedding. Yes, the whole country rallied together for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May and collectively held their breaths as the to-be-American-princess stepped out of her car to reveal her gown.

People were having parties up and down the country to celebrate this union of two souls. My Mum even shed a tear watching the couple exchange their vows. Two people she's never met, nor ever will.

There's something powerful about a wedding. And for me, there's nothing better than a summer wedding: sunshine, love and a free bar. What more do you want?

But with a wedding comes certain expectations and traditions. Here are a few things you can expect if you attend a British wedding this summer.

  1. The bride and groom cannot see each other the morning of the wedding as this is seen to be bad luck!
  2. The bride should wear "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". This is a tradition that dates back to the Victorians, they did this to bring good luck. Women usually wear a piece of jewellery to represent the 'old and borrowed' and a blue garter (a stocking underneath her dress) to represent the 'new and blue'. 
  3. "The cutting of the cake" - after the ceremony the bride and groom will cut the cake together to symbolise the beginning of them working together as a couple in their marriage.  

Along with traditions, weddings have a whole set of vocab and phrases that are associated with the event. I've listed some of my favourite words and phrases below. 

  • Stag do - a party held for the groom before the wedding (organised by the best man).
  • Hen do - a party held for the bride before the wedding (organised by the bridesmaids). 
  • Getting hitched/tying the knot - a more casual phrase meaning to get married.  
  • Cold feet/ jitters - loss of nerve or confidence often associated with having doubts before the wedding day.
  • Bridezilla - a bride who's behaviour is obsessive or unreasonable when it comes to planning her wedding. 
  • Shotgun wedding - a rushed or quick wedding, often associated with the bride being pregnant.
  • Mr Right/ Mrs Right - the perfect man/woman for you.
  • White wedding - a traditional wedding at a church with the bride wearing a white dress.
  • Always the bridesmaid, never the bride - said about someone who is never the most important person in a situation.

What do weddings look like in your own country? Tell us in the comments!

 

The Lexicon of Love Island: the Hottest New Words Taking Over Britain

Last week I wrote a blog on my favourite British idioms. All of them are well-established and have a secure place in British lexicon. However, Idioms aren’t always age-old expressions. Actually, people are coining new idioms every day.

Right now, Britain is transfixed by something on the TV. No … I don’t mean the World Cup. I mean, the British dating show called Love island that managed to gain a record 3 million viewers (on its peak episode). Haven’t heard of it? In that case, you’re missing out on the biggest thing to hit the UK since sliced bread. *

Love Island is a reality gameshow where contestants compete to find love (with £50,000 up for grabs for the winning couple). People either love it, hate it or love to hate it. But something that everyone can agree on is how the contestants’ lexicon has caught the attention of the nation.

The show gained nation-wide popularity last year and since then the islanders have been introducing us to unique vocabulary and a bewildering array of slang that had us bamboozled, yet intrigued. So much so, you’ll find the average Joe** using these phrases with his friends and on social media.

Check out the most popular Love Island lingo:

  • Putting all your eggs in one basket – to concentrate all your resources on one thing, in this case, to focus on one love interest instead of many.

“I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket just yet.”

  • Do bits /or/ The Do Bits Society /or/ DBS – a members-only club for people have taken part in sexual contact.

“I want to do bits with her tonight.”

  • Where’s your head at? – a way to ask or speak about how someone feels about a love interest.

“I don’t know where my head’s at. Do I like Wes or do I prefer Alex?”

  • Diggin’ someone out – to confront someone or call attention to questionable behaviour.

“Are you digging me out for flirting with Wes?”

  • Melt – someone who is acting soft and pathetic over a love interest.

“I’m acting like a total melt over this girl.”

  • A sort /or/ Peng sort – an attractive person.

“He’s a sort”

  • Mugged off – to be deceived of disrespected.

“You’ve been mugged off mate.”

  • Grafting – to put in effort and work hard to get a love interest to like you.

“I’ve been grafting Dani for weeks now.”

  • Crack on – to try to develop a romantic relationship with someone.

“I want to crack on with Laura.”


Want to hear these phrases in action? Catch up on the episode highlights on Love Island’s youtube channel. Enjoy! Let us know if you love it or hate it in the comments.

 

*since sliced bread is an idiom meaning the best and most useful invention in a long time

 

**average Joe is a phrase meaning the average person