A Hundred Days Around Glossika Swedish

swedish-flag-366131_1280This post will serve more as a journal and eventual post that I will publicize with my results. My main purpose is to have a place in the world to keep track of my progress and to comment on my progress of using Glossika’s Swedish GSR for at least 100 straight days.

What is Glossika GSR?

Glossika is the name for language learning products and a method created by Mike Campbell. GSR stands for Glossika Spaced Repetition. Spaced Repetition, or SRS, is a type of learning technique where, information is shown to the learner, then repeated at a later time. The intervals gets shorter while knew new information is introduced, meaning that one is in a constant state of learning.

Why Swedish?

Well, the language I am currently studying and working to refine is French. Glossika is coming out with a French product here soon, and I wanted to get a “head start” on the system. So I figured why not try a language that I want to learn and play with that instead. Truth be told, I wanted to learn Norwegian first, but the resources for Swedish are so many that I went with Swedish instead.

What Will This Entail?

So, what am I going to do, and what is this post about. With Glossika’s GSR method, he has created 100 tracks for Swedish Fluency 1, named Days 1 through 100. It actually goes to 104. There is also Swedish Fluency 2 and 3 which brings it up to nearly a year’s worth of content, or about 312 days worth. What I will try to do is to stick with the first 100 days of the program with at least one day’s worth of material, meaning one track.

The tracks average about ten minutes a day, so it’s not too bad at all. Hence my skepticism and this experiment..

I’ve done five days of this, and so far so good. I pause between tracks (something not suggested) and if I feel I need to do extra, I’ll do the previous days lesson. Since there are 99 of the 104 left, I should be done on February 3rd, 2015.

Problems

The only possible problems I see are that, one, I am in intermediate studies of French right now, so I’m not sure how that will jive with studying more than one language. My hope is, that since they are so different and, more importably, I am on different levels with the languages, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The second thing that I fear I might encounter is that I may not do the system exactly as prescribed. You see, Mike wants folks to do these without pauses. And I just can’t. When a phrase is spoken in English and then translated to Swedish, I need to repeat it, and it’s hard to do that when the track is already saying something else in English. Also, GSR is not the main system to learn with Glossika, it’s GMS or, Glossika Mass Sentences. I may incorporate that as well, as it seems to be a more intensive way of learning a language. So I am willing to concede that if I fail at Swedish through GSR, it’s my fault since I did not follow the system to a T. Having said that, I think the most important thing is starting, and sticking to, a program and that’s what I plan to do.

Here is my daily journal. I will hopefully update this post once a week, if not monthly.

10/21/14 – Day 1

10/22/14 – Day 2 and listened again to Day 1

10/23/14 – Day 3 and listened again to Day 2

10/24/14 – Day 4

10/25/14 – Missed my day

10/26/14 – Day 5

10/27/14 – Missed my day

10/28/14 –

10/29/14 –

10/30/14 –

10/31/14 –

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Speaking Four Languages… Poorly

Okay, so this is my first attempt at speaking several languages. There are several reasons why I’m doing this.

Feedback
I have Mexican, Brazilian, and French friends. They can let me know how bad I’m doing.

Self Awareness
Seeing and hearing what I’m doing wrong so I can better myself.

Accountability and Goals
Putting this out there to the world makes me held accountable to keep up my studies and better my speaking. It is also a measuring point as I travel along this path of language learning.

Ego
The most pathetic of all reasons but it is a motivator. Showing others the fruit of countless hours of work is braggadocios, but a reason nonetheless.

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How I’m Learning French Now

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Windsor Castle – The Long Walk

One of the cool things about learning a new language is also one of the more frustrating things. Trial and error. Most people don’t like trying new things (trial) and everyone hates making mistakes (error). But like all uncomfortable things, they should be done with a change of perspective. Trying new things and experiences can actually be a fun, good thing. Failing and making mistakes just means you’re one step closer to your objective. There really are no failures, just lessons in what not to do.

So now, here’s what I’m doing.

As you may have read in the earlier post, I now go for a walk to learn French. What I do is listen to the main Unit for the first half hour, then listen to an older one for the last half hour.

This is like using Pimsleur on Pimsleur. Pimsleur uses, what we call SRS, Spaced Repetition Software. Except it’s not software. Obviously. That’s a bunch of fancy talk for flash card system. Get it right, put it in a pile for tomorrow. Get it wrong, do it again. Simple bet very effective. You can learn to remember anything with this. And that’s what Pimsleur does. It teaches you some words or phrases and repeats them a lot the first few times. Then it gradually goes down. And after a few Units, bam!, it asks you again. So even though I’m on Unit 15 of French II, I am also on Unit 6 of French I. These “second wave” Units are of course way easier but they provide a wonderful refresher course.

The second wave idea I got is from Assimil. I have found it hard to sit and do Assimil but I am trying again. Some people are better learners at desks, some are better at listening. I’m the latter. But fortunately, I have been trying to do my Assimil with varied success.

Another thing I’m working is Colloquial. So far I’ve only done one lesson but i am very impressed. will review as the time goes on.

And finally, while I drive or to change things up, I do Michel Thomas. I of course enjoy this audio option immensely too.

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Halfway Through Pimsleur!

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So yesterday marked me hitting Unit 15 of Pimsleur’s French II. That’s 45 Units into 90. Or that halfway point. So I thought. I just realized that with the plus program, there are a total of 100 Units. So I guess I’m celebrating a bit short. But nevertheless! This is a great milestone. Let me tell you why.

Like I’ve said previously, I went from struggling with Portuguese all the way to becoming conversational in two months. To this day I’m still not sure what spurned me to do it. I’d do my Pimsleur twice a day, literally pacing my house in circles. I would do it in the morning and then refresh the same one that evening. Imagine how hard it is to make yourself workout now times that by two! Some nights, I’d hit the pillow then force myself back up. Gotta do your Pimsleur.

There was one glaring mistake that I did then that I am no longer doing now. See, when I did my Brazilian Portuguese, as long as I did a Unit twice, I let myself move on to the next. Basically, I allowed time to have greater importance than quality. Not no more.

What I do now is go for a walk everyday. Sometimes a half hour, sometimes it’s for an hour. When I go for a walk, I do my Pimsleur. It’s great because it has me doing something that won’t let me get distracted (see internet) while focusing on the program. This time, however, I’m doing things a little different. Now when, I do a Unit, I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself with time restrictions. Now, my life is about taking walks and doing some language learning. So every week I do anywhere from two to three Units. When you take into account that I do it twice a day, that’s quite a step back from my Portuguese days.

Instead of pushing myself forward reluctantly, I now take my time. Some Units I can finish after only two days. Others can take an entire week. But that’s okay. By going slower, I’m actually going faster. Really. Sure I pushed myself like a madman for two months of Portuguese. So what? I’m still not fluent in it although I can speak and understand much. But if you look at the whole of how long it took me to get to just conversational? About six years. Because the same thing would happen to me that happens to all language learners. You get excited, so you go in with too much energy. Then you start struggling. A lot. Days go by where you make absolutely zero head way. You decide to take a break. Next thing you know, it’s been a year since you tried to learn language X and people ask you how the language learning is going.

So now , I just take my time. Slow and steady really does win the race. Or at least get you halfway through it.

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No Rush

I had a realization earlier this week. It had to do with the amount of time I wanted to learn French. See, I went from knowing a few things in Portuguese for about four years to being conversational in two months. That has spurned me into thinking crazy things (like learning two languages in a month) but it has also reinforced that I can learn a language in a limited amount of time.

Let me breifly touch on something here. Ego. Something that motivates me and other language learners is that we love that other people are impressed that we can speak more than one language. Think about it. Even if you’re monolingual the thought of speaking other languages intrigues you, partly, because of what others will think of you. And that’s okay. Ego is a wonderful motivator. It can also be an enemy.

Besides the obvious reasons why ego is bad (selfish, arrogant, prideful, etc.) it also causes bad learning habits. Yes, there are people out there who claim they can get to conversational fluency in three months. So to me, my mind starts getting wild ideas. Wow! Maybe I should do that too! Maybe I can learn four languages this year! Won’t that impress everyone!

And therein lies the problem. Instead of having a goal of learning a language the best I can, I’d be learning languages not so well. I’d have an okay understanding of more, instead of being intimate with a few.

So, I told myself, why not learn French in six months instead of four? I felt a wonderful sense of relief. Then I thought, why not learn French for an entire year? That really blew my mind. Because, I am pretty confident that I am on my way to conversational French in four months. Imagine how much better I could be if I did it for six months? Even better, a year. It may become like Spanish is to me now. Who knows.

But the only flaw I see with that is that the goal is too big. That is why people don’t keep New Year’s resolutions. When you have a year, you put things off.

So for now, I am learning French for the next six months! I just finished my second month and am doing okay.

Will I continue French this year, take a break, or move onto another language? Who knows. But I will be getting good at French, and that’s a for sure.

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My First Major Accomplishment in French!

Okay, so before I get to the big milestone I reached today, let me explain what I’ve been doing for the past two months regarding learning French.

It started, oddly enough, on January 1st. I know, I know, New Year’s resolutions are silly. But when I really started to learn Portuguese, it was a real motivator to have the Units fall on the days. Silly? Maybe. But it motivated me then and it motivated me now. I awoke on January 1st and had that self conversation, should I learn a new language? Should it be French? You already have the program for it… screw it! I’m learning French!

That’s how it basically went down. Seriously, December 31st, I hadn’t a clue I’d be learning a new language, let alone French! Spur of the moment things are cool.

So that’s how I got started on this. Now let me tell you what I’ve been doing.

Pimsleur suggests that after you get 80% of the lesson down, head on over to the next one. I am a slow learner. Really. I’ve come to grips with that fact. Everyone knows I’m not dumb but I am slow at learning new ideas and concepts. I’m just stubborn. So what I did for Portuguese is what I am doing now for French, studying twice a day. Yeah, I know. Now Pimsleur suggests you do one Unit a day. Since I am a slow learner (and a perfectionist) and I know I need, almost always, to do a Unit twice. That means if I want to complete French I (30 Units) it would take me 60 days. Because of my needing to review, that is too slow. Since days are long, I do one in the morning/day and one in the evening.

There is also a flip side. If I have the day off and have the energy, I can do three Units in one day. That means I can do one twice, and get started on the second one. Although I did this only twice.

Then there is a flip side to the flip side. Setting the bar this ambitiously high will lead to failure. No doubt. But that’s good. You see, when you fall short, you’re miles ahead of everyone. So when I can “only” do one session of Pimlseur a day, for four days straight, meaning I “only” finished two units; how is that a failure? I am still doing more than most people out there. Doing five Units is a major accomplishment. Ten? Crazy good. I just did all 30 Units. Twice. In under two months. Not bad.

Now if you’re wondering why it didn’t take me 30 days to finish 30 Units, that’s easy. First, I was on vacation for 9-days in San Francisco. After that, I broke my leg and was bed bound. That’s nearly 3-weeks without study. On average, it takes me 45 days to finish 30 Units. So all in all, very good considering.

Also, one little thing. It’s okay to take a break. Burnout can and will happen. And learning a language (doing anything for that matter) should be fun. If it stops being fun, stop doing it. So there were a least two days I studied zero French. That’s good. It gives you distance and it makes you miss it and want it back.

During the day, sometimes, a Pimsleur Unit can seem like work. Here’s what I do.

I have a MacBook Air. It allows me to make iTunes full screen. That way, I cannot see how much time is left, what the time is, sneak over to check e-mail, etc. Also, I do give myself a real quick timeout. I emphasize those words because they need it. Stop after 10, 15-minutes. Go ahead and check facebook and your e-mail. But make sure it is for two to four minutes, tops! Then go back to Pimsleur. Also, don’t multitask. Okay. I’m gonna check facebook while I do this here Pimsleur. No! Pause it, do your thing, and then come back. But please, comeback.

Two Pronged Assault

I am also doing something along with my Pimsleur. I’m also doing Assimil.

Assimil is a French company and one of thee premier ways for someone to learn a new language. Wonder why so many in France and Germany speak English? Assimil. So when I found that this French company taught English, I had to give it a go. For many advanced language learners, Assimil is the only way to go. So that was another mitigating factor for me to learn French, I had to try Assimil out!

An upcoming post will be about Assimil and how great it is. As for now, just wanted to share that I finished all 30 Units of Pimsleur’s French I! I can’t get too excited though. Tonight I start Unit 1 of French II

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Where I Was and Where I’m Going

So here’s an update on what has happened and what I’m doing.

I didn’t learn two languages in one month. Shocker, I know. But there are some positives I took away.

I’m an audio learner

When trying to learn Macedonian I was using a fantastic resource. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying audio. Could I have learned without audio? Sure but that’s not how I’m personally wired to learn a new language. I just find hearing to be more fun and easier. This sucks because it limits what I can (enjoyably) learn. But nevertheless, I still believe that I can learn without the audio help. I just don’t see myself doing that in the near future.

I want to learn what I want to learn

This may sound obvious but learning something you want to learn versus something you need or should or whatever, is key.

Let me be clear, I love Slavic languages. I’d like to learn one one day. And Macedonian is a beautiful and amazing language. I just didn’t really want to learn it. No offense to my Macedonian brothers and sisters. Again, I may learn this language but only when I’m ready and really want to.

I can read the Cyrillic alphabet

When I do decide to comeback to a Slavic language, I will have around 95% of the alphabet down. That’s going to be really helpful. It already came into use when I was in Macedonia and I’m sure it’ll be of use in other Eastern Bloc countries.

I need resources

This lends itself back to the first point but it really should be stressed. I’ve used Pimsleur, teach yourself, Michel Thomas, and others. Those previous three, I really like. It is better to have too much choice than nearly none at all. Which leads me into the next language I am learning…

French!

Yeah, yeah, I know. Mr. Freedom Fries over here is going to learn a language of a country that he may have said a bad thing or two about. Let me explain.

First, I will admit, yes, it was easier to learn Portuguese because I spoke Spanish. There! Happy? Russian and Macedonian were crazy to understand. I also lost a friend when these didn’t work out; learning a language. I had so much fun learning Portuguese. I wanted to emulate that with Russian but no dice.  French is a Romance language, sure, but it is more relatable to English than anything. Anywhere from 85% of the words used in English are of French origin. So speaking English and two other Romance languages will help. And you know what? So what! If it helps it helps.

The Whys

-I ain’t gonna lie, French culture is cool. The clothes in particular but everything else with them is an art. Literally.

-It’s steeped deep in Catholic history.

-The girls are super hot. My favorite trait in a girl is one who screams with her femininity. I love girly girls. You won’t see every girl in France with jeans, a sweater, and a beer. I take care of my fashion and the French are some of the most fashionable people on earth. Me likey.

-If I do aspire to become a polyglot, this is also a language I think everyone who is multilingual should be able to speak. So why not get it out of the way now?

-It is also a point of pride. When someone in the Anglophone world says they speak another language, it’s usually Spanish. After that in a far second is French. Well, I want to show all these people that took four years of French that can’t remember a word that I can get to conversational fluency in four months. Boo yeah.

-I will be able to speak in nearly every corner of both Americas. With English, Spanish, Portuguese, and now French, I’ll be speaking all four major languages of the Americas. Pretty cool.

So that’s it.

Unlike everything else, I’m not sharing this with people until April/May. I want it to be a surprise. In that time I will be updating this blog however. This will be the first of many I hope.

Already two months in and I’m doing really well at it. I understand the basics and can say a few things. I am very confident that I will be at near conversational fluency in a few months.

Until next time…

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Learning Two Languages In One Month

I’m making the bold claim, that starting today, I will start to learn not one but two languages… in one month’s time.

Yup. I’m serious.

Compound that with the fact that my study of Russian this year has been poor at best, my ambitious claim sounds loco even to me. So let me explain.

This year, I wanted to learn Russian, a departure from the two other Romance languages I’ve learned, Spanish and Portuguese. Although not part of the “big four” as I call it (the four most popular languages for Westerners are, in no particular order, Spanish, French, Italian, and German) it never the less is a very popular language, like Brazilian Portuguese, to learn.

What I’m trying to say is different languages have different amount of resources. If you have in interest in learning one of the big four, the world is your oyster. Nearly every language learning software, system, etc., starts from there. There is a huge chasm of resources between learning French and learning Swahili. Some, more than others. After the big four, some other popular languages are Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, and now Arabic. From there you have Hebrew, Korean, etc. You get the drift. That past list was in no way official, just off the top of my head.

My Russian started off good. But then the enemies of study compounded; laziness, boredom, burn-out, and finally as this sentence proves, excuse making. I fell of my studies and never got back on. In fact, it’s been months since I’ve done any real language studies of any kind. Which is quite the departure from the last two years where it’s all I did. Maybe I needed the break. Who knows.

But some good has come from it. For one, I have basic Russian down. Out of a one-to-ten scale my Russian is a two. Not great, sure, but that’s a hundred fold better than most of you reading. And more importantly, I can read the Cyrillic alphabet. Still not great but pretty good. I’d give myself a nine on that front which is a huge advantage going into my next languages.

So what are these two languages I’m going to learn in one month? Bulgarian and Macedonian. Really.

Last October I attended NACCHO (more information can be found here https://www.hemophiliaz.org/naccho.php) an annual meeting for summer camps across the world whose sole focus is hemophilia.

I went to a break out meeting facilitated by my good friend Michael Rosenthal. He’s a man of many hats. One of them is working for the World Federation of Hemophilia. He presented one of many WFA’s amazing programs; twinning.

Since the United States has the greatest healthcare in the world, we have an unspoken obligation to help our friends around the world. In fact, there is no country more generous than the USA.

Twinning was started in that spirit. It started with the folks in London helping Russia. It soon spread afterword. For years it was treatment centers only. Later, it has come to include foundations, like our own Hemophilia Association. After seeing a video like the one below, I knew I had to become involved.

I won’t bore you with the long details and process, but after many correspondences Arizona was twinned with Macedonia.

This September I along with the Executive Director of the Hemophilia Foundation of Arizona, Cindy Komar, embark to the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

Long story short; I need to learn me some Macedonian.

Per my previous posts, my preferred way of learning a language is Pimsleur. Second is Teach Yourself. Third, Michel Thomas. Of course, there is nearly nothing in Macedonian. The best I could find was the book pictured above, Macedonian: A Course for Beginning and Intermediate Students. Don’t get it twisted; it’s good. Just not what I’m used to.

With nearly a month to go to my trip I did some more background study and was shocked to find something out. Macedonian is very similar to Bulgarian. Bulgarian, although not rich in resources, has a lot more than Macedonian! Late last night (technically early this morning) I ordered Teach Yourself Bulgarian with same day delivery. I did very well with it with my Portuguese, so I am so excited to start!

Learning Bulgarian to learn Macedonian is a little like learning Italian to learn Spanish. I may be wrong but I am very confident that I will be able to learn Bulgarian and transpose that to Macedonian. Call me crazy but I’ll do it.

So for the next month, please understand if I’m busy. Not studying but having fun learning two languages!

Will I be fluent? No. Somewhat conversational is my goal. I’m sure I can learn more in one month than most do in four years in their language studies.

Let’s see if I’m right.

UPDATE: 8/17/2011
So after failing to learn multiple languages at the same time before and knowing that good language learners advice against it, I still tried it. And, are you ready for a shocker?, I couldn’t do it!

But it’s not bad news. To the contrary, my Macedonian studies are great! Trying the Bulgarian angle was just confusing things. I figured that out in less than 5-minutes. Really.

Nonetheless, I gave that Macedonian book another shot an I’m learning at a pretty good tick. The 3-things I’m using are that, google translate, and Anki flashcards. With mnemonics to remember of course.

The two most important things in learning a language are mnemonics and, most importantly, a great, positive attitude!

And just to hammer my previous point home, I am not looking for fluency or conversational skills (yet). I’m looking to be able to say a few key words and phrases. So far, so good.

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Fate

Fado singer

Obviously, one of the primary reasons anyone tries to learn a new language is to learn about some of the customs and beliefs of those that speak your target language. Learning about Brazilian culture has been amazing. Everything from the governmental corruption, to their near infectious positive attitude towards everything, Brazilians are constantly persevering over their sometimes dreadful situations.

Portuguese, historically, is like the other two languages I know, English and Spanish, in that it is more widely spoken by the former colonies of their European founders. Personally, I love all the American versions of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I have listened to Portuguese Portuguese (that’s how you call it, right?) and find that I love the Brazilian version a lot more. In fact, in Brazil the regions have different accents, and I find myself drawn to flavor of Rio, carioca. They say that Cariocas sound as if they talk through water with their s‘s sounding like our ch‘s. I love it. Sounds beautiful.

Having said all that, you can still find little treasures you had no idea you would come across. Like the mesmerizing music from Portugal called Fado.

Fado, is a hauntingly beautiful type of music that first came around in the mid 1800’s. The name itself is romantic in nature, meaning fate. A beautiful voice is accompanied by an aptly named instrument, the Portuguese guitar.

The music is both beautiful and tragic at the same time. Some people cry tears of happiness. Some people cry tears of joy. With fado, you cry both at the same time.

I was drawn to Portuguese for a myriad of reasons. I also believe that God has a plan and nothing is by accident. Regardless, I am grateful that I am now able to speak this beautiful language. If it wasn’t for that, I would’ve never met such beautiful people. I would’ve never heard such beautiful music.

Speaking Portuguese. It is my fado.

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Who The Heck Do I Think I Am?

Who Am I?

Self doubt. We all have it. In case you don’t know about my educational background, I received my Good Enough Diploma (GED) when I was 16-years-old and I was born with a degree in Hard Knocks. So by liberal, white people standards, I’m nothing since I don’t have a formal education. I counter that everything I am I owe to my lack of education. But regardless, I can say I don’t care what others think all day, but at the end of the day, there still is that little voice… who the heck do you think you are?

True, I grew up so poor the roaches would bring me food. I grew up in the barrios of West Side Phoenix, a place between Compton and East LA on The Travel Channel’s “Best Places” list. So seriously, who the heck am I to think I can learn all these languages?

When I started to really get into language acquisition, I came across all these wonderful internet personalities, Benny the Irish polyglot, Professor Arguelles, Khatzumoto, and Moses McCormick, to name a few. (If you’re into language learning, these names are first hand knowledge to you and the community.) So a lot of these guys let their work and words do the speaking for them. That’s cool, the only problem is, you don’t learn anything about these guys. The last two, Khatz and Moses, are two fascinating individuals.

Khatz has a great site, All Japanese All The Time. He taught himself Japanese by doing an insane amount of immersion. You have to just applaud and be in awe of someone that dedicated who enjoyed what he was doing. And oh yeah, he was fluent in just 18 months.

The other guy, Moses, he can speak over 40 languages fluently! Yes. You read right. Not conversational, nor is he able to touch on a few things here-and-there, he speaks over 40… languages.

So needless to say I was, and am, very impressed with their accomplishments and many people (including myself) use what they have offered and continue to utilize their teachings, methods, and techniques. Ask anyone in the world who is interested in polyglottery, and the first two names that pop-up are usually Khatz and Moses. These two are arguably the stars of language acquisition in the world.

Then something crazy happened. I found out Moses is black. I just assumed he was a hermit of a white dude. Then I find out that so is Khatz! Both these guys have similar backgrounds as me and are around my age.

Now, I live in Arizona and at a very young age you are taught that you are different and less than everyone else because the color of your skin and the language you speak. Even now, I still can’t shake what’s been drilled into me by my community, even if they are wrong. Sure I say and know that they were and are wrong, but again, that little voice is still there. A lifetime of teachers, police, elected officials, our local media… all driving home that message constantly. Even though I may claim I shook all the hate off, some of it sticks.

So when I see other successful guys in my position who are reaching their goals, and excelling at them more than others, it gives me a hope and motivation to continue learning. It lets me know that the real perpetrator of the hate, was not the ones that told me, but it was me, for believing it, even if just for a second. It does not matter what language you speak, what color you are, or where your parents come from. This is not a disadvantage that needs to be purged, but opportunities that need to be embraced, celebrated, supported, and spread.

By December 31st, I will reach fluency in Portuguese. By the end of next year, I will be speaking Russian.

Who the heck am I to think I can? Who the heck am I to think I can’t.

The above videos are of Moses speaking Chinese and Khatz speaking Japanese respectively.

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