So you’re planning an extended trip to Europe, great! You most likely have already mapped out the cities you’d like to visit, sought out friends for advice and possibly went ahead and downloaded the best apps for travel… but have you thought about a visa?
It is always a good idea to research a country’s specific entry requirements before planning a trip abroad. For non-EU citizens planning to backpack or travel throughout Europe for more than 3 months, in addition to having a valid passport, you will need to familiarize yourself with the Schengen Area Agreement.
What is the Schengen Area Agreement? It is a border agreement between 26 European countries to allow EU citizens to travel and settle freely within the area. Non-EU citizens, with the proper documentation, are also permitted to travel freely within the Schengen area, but are limited to 90 days out of an 180 day period.
Schengen countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Liechtenstein.
You may be asking yourself, but what if I want to travel throughout Europe for longer than 90 days?
Traveling for more than 90 days throughout Europe is possible, if you plan accordingly. You can split up time between the Schengen area and non-Schengen countries. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom are all part of the EU, but are non-Schengen countries.
For example, you can spend 45 days in the Schengen area, then fly to say, the United Kingdom, and spend however many days the UK tourist visa will allow, then re-enter the Schengen area for your remaining 45 days.
Again, it is best to research country specific entry requirements before considering travel to the United Kingdom, or another non-Schengen country, as you may be asked for additional documentation.
For more information about the Schengen area visit:
Over the last few years I have steadily developed a dislike for the word yummy. Just reading the word or hearing it uttered causes a mild distress. This may be similar to prudes or boring old farts who balk at the use of the ‘F’ word or are horrified at the ‘C’ word. How is it possible to dislike a word? What has caused this apparently irrational phobia? Over the last few days I have done some research into the word “yummy” in an attempt understand my condition.
The first line of enquiry centers around my dislike of infantile regression. That is, adults speaking like children, for example “the likkle doggie did a whoopsie in the housy”. There are other examples of child speak that I shy away from for example I have never liked the word pooh I have always preferred to say “shit” although for some reason the American word “poop” is OK. I have a “cock” not a “willy” a stomach not a “tummy” and a mom not a mommy. However, who says that the word yummy is a child’s word? Some online dictionaries say that the word “yummy” is onomatopoeic ie, a word that is an imitation of an actual sound, for example cuckoo, meow, honk, ping or boom. But who makes the sound of “yum” when they are eating? Unless you hadn’t eaten in three weeks and then fell into a vat of melted chocolate nobody would make a sound anywhere near the “yum” sound. Apart from the fact that “yummy” sounds a bit childish, the only strong link between the word yummy and children is the rhyme “yum-yum pigs bum apple pie and chewing gum”.
So, what is the etymology of the word yummy? The word has existed in dictionaries since 1899 and yum-yum as an exclamation of pleasure is recorded since 1878. This is the explanation given in several etymology dictionaries. In Senegal the word for food is “nyami” but that is just a coincidence. The best explanation of the origin of the word yummy is the following. Yummy comes from the ‘Yum’. This word comes from the Sanskrit mantra ‘Yum’ which is said during meditation. It helps to focus concentration on love and good things. The meditator would repeat Yum, Yum, Yum. Those traveling to India in the 1800s picked up on this. So now, if we think something is tasty and good, we think of joy, and say ‘Yum’. There is a you tube video of someone doing the “yum yum” meditation here. That explanation gives a very pleasant slant on the yummy word and it makes me feel bad about not liking it. By the way the opposite of “yum” is “yuck” maybe this is the Sanskrit version of yin and yang.
Maybe a reason why I don’t like “yummy” is because we grow a lot of produce on our land and I am often scouring internet for recipes. Many food blogs are written by “popcorn assed muthafukas” ie (A person who is lame; in actions, speech, or overall demeanor). By the way, I found this expression on spotify in the lyrics of a song sung by a band called “yummy”. This may seem a little harsh and maybe I am just showing off by swearing but it is very annoying when I am trying to find a recipe and the author is just a middle class basterd who insists on telling everyone about the most trivial aspects of their lives interspersed with lashings of “yummies”, “yum-yums” and “yums”. Don’t they realise that the allotted praise phrases for this type of blog are “simply divine” or “utterly heavenly”. There may be a slight bit of English style class intolerance here, something akin to Arthur Scargill’s hatred of the filofax in the 1980’s.
There is another reason I don’t like “yummy”. The pedantic schoolteacher in me wishes that everyone were not so lazy and would have more imagination when using adjectives. Everything is not just “nice” or “cool”. Get off your mental arse and think of some more descriptive adjectives to describe things. Here are 160 to start with.
One of the first modern examples of a computer was used in 1938 when the United States Navy developed an electromechanical analog computer called the “Torpedo Data Computer”. This machine was small enough to fit on a submarine and helped the Navy with guiding its torpedoes to their destination.
The world’s first programmable, electronic, digital computer was developed by a British man named Tommy Flowers and his team. First seen working in 1943, this machine was called the “Colossus” and was used in the Second World War to decipher complex messages used in Nazi communications. Ten of these machines were being used by the end of the war but unfortunately all were destroyed to maintain secrecy of the project. After the war, Tommy Flowers went to the Bank of England to ask for a loan to build a similar machine to the Colossus; it was denied as the bank did not believe the machine could work.
The first desktop personal computer, called the Programma 101, was developed by Pier Giorgio Perotto and his team of only four people for the Italian manufacturer “Olivetti”. It was launched at the 1964 New York World’s Fair with a price of $3,200, in modern day terms that would be around $20,000; 44,000 units were sold. NASA used some of these machines the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.
The highest selling computer of all time is the Commodore 64 with most sources saying that around 17 million were sold. At the height of its power more than 400,000 Commodore 64s were being built every month for a couple of years, according to Commodore’s former president. The machine was popular due to its relatively low price and performance which was easily superior to competitors at the time. The “64” in the name is in reference to the 64kb of RAM that is used in the machine.
Apple computers was founded in 1976 by three people: Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Ronald Gerald Wayne. Wayne, who drew the first Apple logo, sold his 10% stake in the company for just $800 which today would be worth approximately $60 billion dollars; Wayne says he does not regret the decision. To raise the necessary funds to start the company, Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen van and Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator.
The name “Microsoft” is a combination of the words “microcomputer” and “software” and was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. The company has around 35 cafeterias which serves approximately 37,000 people each day, the most popular item being pizza. Microsoft owns 10,000 patents and files around 3,000 every year making it one of the top 5 patent owners in the USA. Microsoft are known for asking difficult interview questions, one of the most common examples is “Why is a manhole cover round?”
In May 2011, Google received over one billion visitors with users in total spending 200 billion minutes. The most searched terms in Google are “Facebook”, “Youtube” and then “sex/video”. The company is known for treating its employees well and offer them gourmet food three times a day. Unfortunately, this has caused a risk of all the employees gaining considerable weight but Google uses some subtle psychological techniques in order to dissuade people from choosing unhealthy options.
Questions and Answers
What was the first electromechanical analog computer used for? (Guiding torpedoes)
Who invented the first digital computer? (Tommy Flowers)
What was the first digital computer used for? (Deciphering Nazi communications)
How many of the Colossus computers still exist today? (0, all were destroyed after the war)
When was the Colossus first seen working? (1943)
How big was the entire team that developed the Programma 101? (Pier Giorgio Perotto and his team of 4 people: 5 people)
How much did the world’s first desktop personal computer cost? ($3,200, $20,000 in today’s money)
What does the “64” mean in “Commodore 64”? (It refers to the 64kb of RAM the machine used)
How many Commodore 64s were built per month? (At the height of its power, 400,000 units a month)
Who drew the first Apple logo? (Ronald Gerald Wayne)
How many people founded Apple? (three)
How much would a 10% stake in Apple be worth today? (Approx $60 billion)
What did Steve Jobs sell to raise funds to start Apple? (Volkswagen Van)
What does “Microsoft” mean? (combination of the words “microcomputer” and “software”)
What is the most eaten food in Microsoft cafeterias? (pizza)
The nearest galaxy to our own (the Milky Way) is Andromeda, approximately 2.5 million light years away. It is also the most distant object you can see with your naked eye; you can see it on very clear nights with no light pollution. The Andromeda galaxy is approaching our own at the rate of 140 kilometers per second and will one day collide and merge to create a singular giant galaxy. Scientists estimate this will happen in around 4 billion years time.
The Soviet Union’s Space program achieved many of the initial milestones in space exploration. The first man-made structure to orbit the Earth was the USSR’s Sputnik 1 in 1957, the first human in Space was the Soviet “Yuri Gagarin” in 1961 and the first space station (Salyut 1) in 1971 was launched by the USSR. However, it was the USA and NASA who put the first men on the moon with the Apollo 11 spacecraft; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being the first men to step on the moon and Michael Collins the spacecraft’s pilot. Armstrong spent roughly two and a half hours outside of the spacecraft. After landing, all three crew members had to spend 21 days in quarantine where they were visited by Richard Nixon, the president of the USA at the time.
Approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water and the land is mainly composed of iron, oxygen, silicon and magnesium with the majority of the iron being contained in the Earth’s core. The Earth tilts at around 66 degrees, bulges at the center around the equator and its rotation is slowing at a rate of 17 milliseconds every 100 years. The Earth is the only planet in the solar system not to be named after a Greek or Roman god.
With the launch of Sputnik 2 was Laika, the Siberian Husky, who was the first animal to orbit the Earth. However, it was fruit flies, not Laika, that were the very first animals ever in space. In February 1947 the United States put fruit flies in V-2 rockets in order to study the effects of radiation. The very first mammal being a monkey named “Albert II” that was used by the United States to measure vital signs.
In the 1950s the United States government were considering detonating a nuclear bomb on the Moon in order to intimidate the USSR during the “Space Race”. Some theories suggest that the Moon was formed after a giant collision between Earth and another planet called Theia. The tides on the Earth are created by the Moon’s gravitational pull. The Moon has no atmosphere and is completely unprotected against cosmic rays and, due to the Earth’s gravitational pull, the Moon suffers from seismic tremors about 7km under the surface.
Where can you find the majority of the Earth’s iron? (in the core)
How much of the Earth’s surface is covered in water? (70%)
What is the name of our galaxy? (The Milky Way)
When will the Andromeda galaxy collide with our own? (in 4 billion years)
Who was the first human in Space? (Yuri Gagarin)
When was Sputnik launched? (1957)
How long did Neil Armstrong spend outside of the spacecraft? (two and a half hours)
Which member of Apollo 11 did not step on the moon? (Michael Collins)
What was the name of the first space station? (Salyut 1)
How long did the crew members of Apollo 11 spend in quarantine? (21 days)
What were the first animals in space? (fruit flies)
What was the name of the first animal to orbit the Earth? (Laika)
Why did the USA send Albert II into space? (To measure vital signs)
What is the composition of the Moon’s atmosphere? (It doesn’t have one)
What happens 7km under the surface of the moon?
What did the US government want to do on the moon to intimidate the USSR? (detonate a nuclear bomb)
How was the Moon formed? (Theories say the Earth and a planet called “Theia” collided and shattered)
What protection does the Moon have from cosmic rays? (none)
1. Bob Marley was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945 in Jamaica. His father was a 50 year old white naval captain, his mother a 19 year old village girl. His mixed background earned him the nickname `white boy´and the ridicule of his peers. His bullying contributed to his spiritual growth, bringing him to declare `I am not on the white man’s side or the black man’s side, I am on God’s side´.
2. As a child, Marley read palms and told fortunes with spooky accuracy. Once he became a singer, he quit palm reading cold turkey.
3. His first band, the Wailing Wailers, was so named because they were ghetto sufferers in Kingston´s Trench Town slum.
4. Bob Marley and his entourage were attacked by an unknown gunman in 1976 during a time of political turmoil. He and his wife were grazed by bullets but defiantly appeared on stage for a `Smile Jamaica´concert two days later, delighting the crowds.
5. Although Marley stayed married to his wife Rita from the age of 21 until his death, he also had at least
8 other children with eight other women. The unconfirmed believed number is closer to 20.
6. When he was in school, Bob Marley’s best subject was mathematics. He left school to become an apprentice welder, and he left that because a piece of metal flew into his eye. After this he became a singer.
7. Marley once went to jail for a month after being arrested for the possession of marijuana. The friends he met there inspired much of his political advocacy.
8. In 1973, Bob toured opening for Bruce Springsteen as well as Sly and the Family Stone. He was fired by Sylvester Stone after the fourth show for being too good and hogging the attention and love of the crowd.
9. Bob Marley was buried with a guitar, a soccer ball, and a bud of herb. His last words to his son Ziggy were `money can’t buy life´.
10. The royalties from `No Woman No Cry´are sent directly to a soup kitchen in Jamaica. Bob Marley grew up very poor but once he earned money he bought homes for his friends and family and supported many poor people in Jamaica.
1. What was Bob Marley’s given first name? (Robert)
2. Why was his nickname `White Boy´? (he had a white dad)
3. What was Marley’s spooky talent? (palm reading)
4. What was the name of his first band? (the Wailing Wailers)
5. Why were they called this? (they were ghetto sufferers)
6. When was Bob Marley shot? (1976)
7. What was the name of the concert he played two days later? (Smile Jamaica)
8. What was Marley’s wife named? (Rita)
9. How many children is he suspected to have fathered out of wedlock? (20)
10. What was his best subject in school? (mathematics)
11. What kind of apprenticeship did he do? (welding)
12. Why did Bob Marley go to jail? (possession of marijuana)
13. How long was he there? (one month)
14. When did Bob open for Bruce Springsteen? (1973)
15. Who else did he tour with? (Sly and the Family Stone)
16. What was Bob Marley buried with? (guitar, bud of herb, soccer ball)
17. What is the name of one of Marley’s sons? (Ziggy)
18. What happens to the royalties from `No Woman No Cry´? (soup kitchen)
1. Timing is everything. An individual is more likely to fall in love when they are in an adventurous mindset, restless, lonely, or financially prepared. Similarly, people who meet in a dangerous situation are more likely to fall in love than had they met in a boring situation.
2. The time taken to judge your feelings on a person is estimated to be four minutes. The feelings formed in a first impression are believed to be more related to tone, body language, and the speed of speaking than to what is being said. Happiness is contagious, studies have found. This makes is hard not to fall in love with someone who is happy.
3. Women are generally drawn to men with a strong sense of humour because humor is associated with honesty and intelligence.In long term relationships, people usually favour an attractive face over and attractive body. The reverse is true for short term relationships. There is a thing called `frustration attraction´ which means that a person will become even more attracted to someone who rejects them, or only want what they can’t have.
4. Falling in love can increase nerve growth in the body for about a year, because of the calming effect it has on the body and mind. Cocaine use and falling in love have the same neurological effects on the body, causing a sense of euphoria and stimulating 12 areas of the brain.Holding hands with a loved one has been found to alleviate both stress and fear, and physical pain.
5. The most likely time to break up is 3-5 months in to a relationship.
6. During cuddling, the brain releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is a natural pain killer which can reduce headaches and stress for 4 hours.
7. In the early stages of love, a person’s physiological symptoms are comparable to those of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In both, the brain shows decreased levels of serotonin-associated with peace- and increased levels of cortisol-associated with stress.
8. When you fall for someone, your body produces adrenaline-the fight or flight hormone. This is what is responsible for the feeling of butterflies in your stomach.
9. Feelings of lust activate the hypothalamus (hunger and thirst) and amygdala (arousal) areas of the brain, while feelings of love activate areas of the brain with high concentrations of dopamine receptors (associated with euphoria, addiction, and craving). Chemicals associated with attachment love, oxytocin and vasopressin, are suppressed by testosterone. Testosterone levels decrease when a man holds a baby.
10. Men tend to feel loved when they work, talk, or play side by side with their partner. Alternately, women tend to feel more close when talking face to face. When two people in love look into each other’s eyes, their heart rates will actually fall into synchronization. This takes about three minutes.
1. Is it true that the situation in which two people meet affects their likelihood of falling love? (yes)
2. Name a factor that affects someone’s likelihood of finding love. (feelings of adventurousness, restlessness, loneliness, financial capability)
3. How long does it take to make a first impression? (4 minutes)
4. What quality makes someone almost irresistible? (happiness)
5. Humour is associated with what qualities? (honesty and intelligence)
6. What is it called when you want what you can’t have? (frustration attraction)
7. New love is similar to what drug? (cocaine)
8. Stress and pain alleviation can be helped by what? (holding hands)
9. When is the most likely time to break up? (3-5 months in)
10. Oxytocin is released when? (cuddling)
11. What does oxytocin do? (pain relief)
12. How is new love similar to OCD? (increased cortisol, decreased serotonin)
13. What is cortisol linked to? (stress)
14. Butterflies in your stomach are caused by what chemical? (adrenaline)
15. Testosterone suppresses what chemicals? (oxytocin, vasopressin)
16. What decreases testosterone? (holding a baby)
17. Men feel more feelings of love and closeness when? (side by side)
18. The time taken for lovers heart beats to synchronize through eye contact is what? (3 minutes)
1. The human body is comprised entirely of cells, the adult body has approximately 37.2 trillion cells. The major systems of the body include: integumentary system (skin, hair, nails, etc.), skeletal system (bones), nervous system (brain and nerves), cardiovascular system (heart, blood, and blood vessels), endocrine system (hormones), muscular system (muscles), respiratory system (lungs), digestive system (mouth, esophagus, stomach, etc.), reproductive system (sex organs).
2. The integumentary system involves the hair, skin, nails, and sweat glands. Hair grows approximately 1 cm a month, and the average number of hairs on the head is 120 000. Each month the body replaces the skin with entirely new cells, in a lifetime about 40 pounds of old skin cells will be shed. Your nails grow about 0.5 mm each week.
3. The skeletal system consists of 206 bones and 32 teeth. As you age, certain bones fuse together, so babies have more bones than adults, for example in the skull. Most people have 12 pairs of ribs, but some people have one rib extra, giving them 25 ribs. Your bones aren’t actually the hardest thing in your body, your tooth enamel is.
4. If you lined up all the nerve cells in the body they would stretch 965 km long. In a baby’s first year, their brain will grow three times in size. There are more neurons in the brain than stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
5. The cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting blood, nutrients, and gasses to and from the cells of the body. Sadness or emotional stress really can `break your heart´, because they cause a condition called cardiomyopathy where the heart muscle suddenly weakens and causes symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and arm aches.
6. The endocrine system is responsible for hormone secretion. Adrenaline is a powerful hormone that prepares your body for the fight or flight response, raising your heart rate and energy levels and decreasing your ability to feel pain.
7. Muscles are responsible for moving your body by contracting. One step uses 200 muscles. The strongest muscle in your body is the tongue. It takes half as long to lose muscle as it does to gain it.
8. The lungs are used for gas exchange during breathing. The average person can hold their breath for 30 to 60 seconds, but a free diver may hold their breath for 20 minutes.
9. The first step of digestion is chewing. A person produces 1-3 pints of saliva each day. An adult stomach can hold approximately 1.5 litres of material. Food stays in the stomach for 2-3 hours before moving to the small intestine. THe small intestine is about 22 feet long. To sustain a weight of 150 pounds, a person would eat 50 tonnes of food in their lifetime.
10. The male and female reproductive systems are very different. A female will ovulate 300-400 eggs in her lifetime while men produce about 500 billion sperm cells in their lives. Ancient Greeks used the same terminology for male and female reproductive parts, for example the vagina was simply an inverted, and ovaries were testes.
1. How many cells are there in the body? (37.2 trillion)
2. The endocrine system refers to which functional parts? (hormones)
3. How many hairs on the head? (120 000)
4. How long does it take to replace the body’s skin cells? (one month)
5. What is the normal number of ribs? (24 or 12 pairs)
6. Who has more bones: babies or adults? (babies)
7. The distance 965 km refers to what? (the length of all the neurons of the body lined up)
8. At what rate does the brain grow during the first year of life? (3x)
9. What three parts compose the cardiovascular system? (heart, blood, blood vessels)
10. What is cardiomyopathy? (`broken heart´ or chest pain, shortness of breath, arm aches)
11. Which system is responsible for hormone secretion? (endocrine)
12. Which hormone can reduce your ability to feel pain? (adrenaline)
13. What is the strongest muscle? (tongue)
14. How many muscles does it take to make one step? (200)
15. What is the name of the breathing system? (respiratory)
16. What is the average time a person is able to hold their breath? (30-60 seconds)
17. What is the capacity of the adult stomach? (1.5 litres)
18. How long does food stay in the stomach? (2-3 hours)
19. What is one difference between the male and female reproductive systems? (300 or 400 vs 500 billion gametes)
20. Who referred to male and female reproductive systems as the same? (Ancient Greeks)
1. The tomato is a fruit originally from what is now Peru, they were first used as food by the Aztecs in Southern Mexico. The aztec name for a tomato meant `plump thing with a navel´. Even though tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit because they have seeds and grow from a flowering plant, the United States Supreme Court classified tomatoes as a vegetable based on the fact that they are usually eaten with dinner and not a dessert so they could be taxed.
2. China is the world’s largest producer of tomatoes, producing a quarter of the global total in 2009. The second largest producer is USA and the third India.
3. There are around 7500 tomato varieties around the world. Most varieties are red although tomatoes can also be green, yellow, orange, pink, black, brown, white or purple.
4. Tomatoes are a good source of antioxidants which benefit heart health and help protect against types of cancer. Surprisingly, cooked tomatoes are in fact more healthy than raw ones, as the cooking process releases more beneficial chemicals. Additionally, tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
5. La Tomatina in Spain is the largest tomato fight in the world. Approximately 40 00 people gather and approximately 150 000 tomatoes are thrown. The first tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 1500’s.
6. Holding the Guinness World Record for heaviest tomato is a tomato weighing 3.51 kg, or 7 lb 12 oz. It was grown in 1986 in Oklahoma, USA. Tomatoes increase in weight as the ripen, even after picking.
7. Eating tomatoes can help to block UV rays, making it a sort of natural internal sunscreen.
8. Tomatoes are related to potatoes, ground cherries, red pepper, eggplant, and nightshade. Because of their relation to nightshade, people used to be afraid to eat tomatoes, but they would still grow them for their looks.
9. Tomato seeds have actually been grown in space!
10. Tomatoes can be used for beauty! Because of their lycopene, vitamin A, and acid they can be used for acne treatment, facial toning, hair cleansing and moisturizing, reducing pore size and wrinkles, and treating oily skin! Lycopene is also important for the prostate health of men.
1. What was the meaning of the Aztec name for tomato? (plump thing with a navel)
2. According to the Supreme Court are tomatoes a fruit or vegetable? (vegetable)
3. Who produced a quarter of the world’s tomatoes in 2009? (China)
4. Who is the world’s third largest producer of tomatoes? (India)
5. The number 7500 refers to what? (number of tomato varieties worldwide)
6. Are there blue tomatoes? (no)
7. What are some benefits of the antioxidants in tomatoes? (heart health, cancer fighting)
8. Are raw or cooked tomatoes healthier? (cooked)
9. When were the first tomatoes brought to Europe? (1500’s)
10. How many tomatoes are thrown at La Tomatina? (150 000)
11. Where is Oklahoma? (USA)
12. When do tomatoes stop increasing in weight? (they don’t)
13. Eating tomatoes can block what rays? (UV)
14. Are apples a cousin of tomatoes? (no)
15. Why were people scared to eat tomatoes? (similar to nightshade)
16. Do tomatoes only grow on Earth? (no)
17. Why are tomatoes good for men? (lycopene for prostate health)
18. Name an alternative use for tomatoes. (skincare/beauty)
Note: The text below gives my opinion about how to learn a language. To see info about language learning platforms and systems click here.
A lot of nonsense is spoken about how to learn languages mostly by people with an ulterior motive such as selling some sort of language course or academic people who are too involved in abstract theories with little experience of the real world. It is almost impossible to do scientific experiments to find out how we learn languages, maybe in the future when we fully understand how the brain works it will be possible but until then all we can do is observe people learning languages to see if we can gain insights into the sort of conditions which lead to successful language learning. I believe that my own opinion is worth listening to mainly because of the amount of time I have spent both as as language learner and as a teacher. I have spent the last 26 years learning Spanish and I spent about 14 years teaching English to Spanish people. I was mostly a private one to one teacher so I have spent thousands of hours observing how people learn in close proximity.
It is interesting to consider how we learn our own native language. By the age of 5 most children have good communicative ability and have learned a very complex system of grammatical rules. This happens as if by magic. Nobody has made any grammatical explanations and nobody has consciously acted as a teacher. Nobody really understands how this happens. All we can say is that there is some sort of mysterious language acquisition device which enables us to learn languages. Many people refer to this as the LAD. It is widely believed that the LAD which helps us to learn our native language so easily becomes much less effective during the teenage years. In most cases to be completely bilingual you would have to have learned both languages before the age of 14. However, in my opinion the LAD never completely ceases to function and as long as we can expose the LAD to the correct input in the right circumstances, language acquisition is possible at any stage of life. In my opinion the best way of learning a language would be to expose your inner LAD to the right environment for about 80% of the time but also have some more formal training in grammar to help you understand how the structure of the language works.
Maybe the most rapid way of learning a language would be to fall in love with someone who is a native speaker of the foreign language, then go and live in their country and have no contact with your own language. After 6 months of such a total immersion most people would be very proficient. This is impossible for most people but if you try to find out why such a method is so successful and then replicate some of the factors it will lead to good ways of learning a language.
The most important key to success in language learning is motivation. If you have no real reason to learn a foreign language you will need incredible willpower and it is unlikely that you will ever succeed. If you consider that learning a language is a tedious chore then give up now, don’t waste any more time. Do something you like doing.
So, which is the best method of language learning? If ever you read some publicity for a language course that says their method will make you fluent in 3 weeks you can be certain that it is a lie. It is like trying to lose weight permanently by eating a diet of cabbage soup or getting fit by using a slendertone machine. It is best to use a mixture of methods which suit you personally and meets you own personal needs. Any method must be enjoyable or it will fail very quickly. In my opinion it is not a good idea to have too much faith in just one method of language learning you should do a whole range of activities which will help you learn.
One of the slowest most inefficient ways of learning a language is in a classroom full of people. School children often spend 10 years learning a foreign language with almost no result. This is probably because at school the teacher has to stick to teaching grammar because that is the only way to keep control over a classroom full of children. The results from adult education classes are a little better but only if the teacher is very good and if you also study outside of the classroom.
Here are some activities and ideas which can help you learn a language.
Attend language classes but don’t expect to learn very fast unless you do a lot of supplementary study.
Use vocabulary learning systems based on flashcards – for example duo lingua.
Watch films in the target language but with subtitles in your own language. (you can now do this with netflix)
I have recently had a go at making my own course for learning languages. It is just a personal project for me. I believe that flashcard learning is a really good way of learning vocabulary. There are currently 2 languages. Learn Spanish or aprender ingles
Use the immense amount of free online courses available on internet.
Sign up for the “word of the day” offered by many sites.
Do anything to make friends with people of the target language. Go to pen friend sites. Participate in online forums and interactive discussions on topics that you are interested in.
Become a couchsurfer host and have visitors in your own house from the target language. With couchsurfing you don’t actually have to put people up in your house you can just arrange to go out and show them around your city. couchsurfing.com
Use the target language version of websites which you use. eg in online banking, facebook and email accounts.
Volunteer in community programs where many people speak the target language. You can kill two birds with one stone, help people and learn their language.
Do a workaway or a helpx in a place that speak the language that you want to learn. More info
If you spend time commuting in your car, listen to one of the many language learning courses designed for the car. Better still do car pooling with someone from the target language.
Do online dating and have romantic liaisons with people from the target language.
Read books which have specially reduced vocabularies designed for language learners.
Don’t be too scared of making mistakes. The most important thing is communication.
Go to online chatrooms which use the target language. For example
Read parallel texts which have your native language on the left and the target language on the right. You can glance over if you don’t understand something. example
Wake up in the morning by setting your alarm clock or internet radio to listen to the news in the target language.
If you have enough money get a private native teacher to come to your house.
When you have a conversation with a native speaker constantly monitor what they say. For example if you learn Spanish there are 2 forms of the verb “to be”. Until you are familiar with how to use them you should continuously question why they are using one form or the other.
If you look on internet you can find linguistic interchanges for people who want to meet up in a bar and have cultural interchanges.
I have no experience of one to one skype classes with a native but this is probably worth investigating.
I don’t want to advocate heavy drinking but drinking a small amount of alcohol will make you feel less nervous and inhibited when you try to speak another language.
Note that Jehovas’s Witnesses will give you hours of free conversation classes if you invite them into your house to speak about religion.
Lithium-ion batteries are a type of rechargeable batteries commonly used in consumer electronics. They have a high power to weight ratio, no memory effect, and only a slow loss of charge when not in use. The lithium battery was first developed in 1912 by G.N. Lewis but the rechargeable lithium battery was not commercially available until the early 1970s.
A typical lithium-ion battery can store around 150 watt-hours of electricity in a 1 battery of 1 kilo. A lead-acid battery can store only 25 watt-hours per kilo. Using lead-acid technology, it takes 6 kilograms to store the same amount of energy that a 1 kilogram lithium-ion battery can handle.
In certain circumstances Lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous and can pose a safety hazard because they contain, unlike other rechargeable batteries, a flammable electrolyte and are also kept pressurized. Although the risk is very low there has been concern about allowing Lithium-ion batteries to be transported by aircraft which could result in tragedy, a fire involving lots of them could destroy a plane. At present (2015) there is no adequate solution to this problem, about 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured in 2013, and production is forecast to reach 8 billion a year by 2025.
It is likely that there will be important breakthroughs in battery technology involving lithium-ion battery’s which will enable a large reduction in the use of fossil fuels and nuclear generated power. A lot of the research and development has been encouraged by the electric car industry. Many improvements are starting to appear such as reducing the charge times and increasing the amount of charge cycles which affects the life of the battery.
A very interesting development in this field is the announcement by Tesla Motors in May 2015 of a new affordable battery capable of supplying power to homes or businesses. The price of solar panels has come down in the last few years so the price of actually generating electricity using solar power has come down to acceptable levels in comparison to electricity bought from the grid. The reason that solar power has not taken off in a big way is because of the price of electricity storage which until now had almost always using lead acid battery’s. The power generated during the day has to be stored for use during the night or at times of low sunlight.
The new Tesla includes the $3500 Powerwall, a home-based battery pack that can store 10 kilowatt-hours of power. That is like using a 1kw kettle for 10 hours. This would not be enough for heating but it could easily power a modern house fitted with led light bulbs and other efficient systems. The life of the battery is said to be 10 years. In a sunny country it would be possible to have free electricity for 10 years based on an initial investment of around $6000. For many people this would be cheaper than using an electric company.
The Powerwall batterys, – which are about 33 inches (0.8 meters) wide, 51 inches (1.4 m) tall and 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) deep — are designed to be easy to install, and will connect to the Internet so that users can monitor their power usage.
It seems that the change from centrally generated electricity to domestic and locally generated electricity is finally starting to become a reality. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few years.