peace corps

How to learn a language in 6 easy(ish) steps

I’m currently in the throes of my penultimate English Course and I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways we learn language. For the sake of this I’m talking mostly about spoken language—not written. For me, learning to speak a language was different than learning to write it. Messing up the grammar doesn’t matter as much in a conversation as it does in a paragraph. So, I wanted to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned with all of you.

  1. Listen to the language—Watch tv, listen to music, listen to podcasts. Anything that you enjoy listening to can be found in another language. Here’s the important part: you don’t need to understand it. This isn’t an exercise to practice knowing what they’re saying. It’s a way to accustom your ear to the way that language sounds and its incredibly helpful.
  2. Use subtitles—This is another way to help accustom your ear if the first method isn’t totally working for you. Watch a movie or tv show with the subtitles on in the language that you’re trying to learn. This can help you make connections between the words and how they sound that you might not make as easily by just listening.
  3. Talk to yourself—I know it sounds crazy but while you’re walking around your house by yourself just have a one-sided conversation in the language you’re learning. If that feels weird then talk to your cat, dog, or plants! This will get you accustomed to forming the language.
  4. Talk to people who speak the language—Maybe you have friends who know this language or maybe there’s a church group or community group that you can join. Speaking the language with a native speaker will help you improve by leaps and bounds. Bonus points if you ask the people you’re chatting with to correct you if you make major mistakes in what you’re saying!
  5. Use an app or an online service to help you—I’m personally a major fan of Duolingo because it’s free and makes you practice listening and speaking. Plus, it now has a bot program for some of the languages so you can practice having conversations!
  6. Travel—Obviously this isn’t feasible for everyone but, if you’re able to go to an area where the language you’re learning is the native language then do it! Being there will completely immerse you in the language and force you to learn more.

The biggest thing that you can do when learning a new language is to practice as much as possible. If you want a good resource for listening check out this site for slow news broadcasts in other languages.  An excellent choice for Spanish learners is Radio Ambulante, an NPR podcast in spanish that talks about under-reported stories in Latin America. I hope some of these tips are helpful to you! If you’re ever stressed while learning another language remember: ¡Si se puede!


Everything you thought you knew about Panama is wrong (sort of)

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week two: The Danger of a Single Story.

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” -Chimamanda Adiche


Photo Courtesy of out her Ted Talk on this topic here

Before moving to Panamá I knew next to nothing about it. I was aware that they had the Canal and that they spoke Spanish. This didn’t stop me from having stereotypes of course—I made a lot of assumptions about what Panamanian people would be like and what my life would be like. You may recall the last post for this challenge where I imagined my mud-hut and latrine? We’re working along those lines here. Because Panamá is a largely Catholic country I expected to encounter a lot of closed-mindedness. I also assumed that the women in Panamá were going to be mostly stay-at-home moms. I figured they would be having children early and would be generally quieter than their male counterparts. Not only that but I imagined the men being mostly labor workers that spent most of their time away from their house.

As the amazing Chimamanda Adiche points out—these stories are not necessarily wrong. I’ve met stay at home moms that are married with children at 22. There is a mine near my community where many men work for 15-20 days at a time before getting 5 days off to come home. But then there are people like my 16-year-old host sister Linda who both amazes and surprises me every day of my life. She was so open to my presence and to trying new things. For the three months, I lived with my host family she and I did yoga together. She also learned the lyrics to “Satisfied” from the “Hamilton: An American Musical” soundtrack(and still knows them!). Linda is so far from closed-minded—she’s extremely curious about the world and other cultures. Her favorite music is K-pop and she talks about how she has friends who identify within the LGBT community. Oh, and quiet? She gives me a run for my money in the loudness department. Anyone who has met me knows that that’s really saying something.Linda is a great sport and agreed to do an interview with me for the blog! You can read it below (in both English and Spanish!). The simplicity and profoundness of her statements really touched me—I hope they do the same for you.


Linda and I take a lot of selfies

What is your dream?

I have a lot of dreams but right now, because I’m young, my biggest dream is to go to a University and know the world.

Why do you want to do that?

Because I have wishes, I have desires, and I believe in myself, if I want it I can achieve it.

Are there any challenges that you believe are specific to Panamanian women?

Yes. The largest challenge for Panamanian women is discrimination. In second place, there’s the projection of how people view Panamanian women. In third place, one of the most important is the challenge to think for yourself that desire is power.

Have you encountered any of these challenges?

Yes. The biggest challenge that I’ve faced is discrimination against women; many people think that women don’t have the same abilities and the guts to do the things that other people do—to have strength in yourself.

What was one of the most influential events in your life?

The most important event in my life so far was when I first met the famous Panamanian artist Olga Sinclair. She inspired me to achieve my dreams and taught me that as women we are individuals, we are original, and if we fall we get back up because the sky isn’t the limit—the limit is what we place on ourselves.



A painting by Olga Sinclair courtesy of Check out her foundation here!

¿Qué es tu sueño?

Tengo muchos sueños, pero como joven que soy ahorita mi mayor sueño es entrar en Universidad y conocer el mundo.

¿Por qué quieres hacer esto?

Porque tengo anhelos, tengo deseos, y creo en mí, que si quiero y puedo lo puedo lograr.

¿Hay unos desafíos que tú crees son específica a mujeres panameña?

Si. Los desafíos más importantes para las mujeres panameñas en primer lugar está la discriminación. En Segundo lugar, está la proyección como ve las personas a las mujeres panameñas. En tercer lugar, uno de los más importantes desafíos es el reto al pensamiento de una misma de querer es poder

¿Ud. ha enfrentado a estos desafíos?

Si. El desafío más importante que yo he experimentado es la discriminación de una mujer, muchas personas piensan que como ser mujer no tengo la misma habilidad y las agallas para ser los que dé más hacen. Para poder manifestarse uno mismo

¿Que fue uno de los eventos más influyente en su vida?

El evento más importante hasta ahora en mi vida fue conocer a la pintura muy reconocida en Panamá llamada Olga Sinclair. Ella me inspire lograr mis sueños a poder que somos mujeres somos únicas, somos originales, y que, si nos caemos, nos levantamos porque el cielo no es el límite. El límite es que nosotros ponemos.


From “Pretty” to “Prity:” a Quick Look at American Influence in Panama

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week one: Global Citizenship

A Global Citizen is defined as “a way of living that recognizes our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies. One in which our choices and actions may have repercussions for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally.

When I first thought about joining Peace Corps I expected to experience a culture completely different from the one I grew up in. Obviously I would live in a mud hut with no running water or electricity and local kids would be running through my house all day long. That’s the dream, right? Well now that I’ve been a volunteer in Panama for 10 months I realize that my view was pretty small-minded. Sure enough that is how some volunteers live–even some in Panama! But my house has concrete walls, running water, electricity, and, thankfully, privacy. Living in Panama I reshape my worldview weekly and I’m often coming face-to-face with all the ways America has influenced Panamanian life and culture. For the sake of brevity though I’m going to focus on language. Here are 4 (Panamanian) Spanish words that come from American English:

  1. Prity: Derived from the English word “pretty” this word is often used to describe something cool or interesting. ie: “Que prity!”
  2. Cool: This one is just an English borrowing and it’s used in the same way here as it is in the US. ie: “Que cool!”
  3. Frailai: Pronounced “fry-lie” this word means flashlight. It comes from the days of the Canal.
  4. Wachiman: Pronounced “watch-e-man”this word means watchman. It also comes from the Canal days.

Lots of words come from Canal Days because of the mix of people working on the Canal