Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

After finishing up my last semester learning Chinese and starting a job, I’ve put Chinese to the side for the moment. Having become increasingly frustrated with how little I’ve learnt so far, I’ve decided to move onto Spanish for a while. Plus I have my own private Spanish tutor living with me which definitely helps!

I had a go at learning Spanish before, but I quickly realised that it was just too difficult to concentrate on two languages at the same time. But now I’ve really put more effort into learning the basics of Spanish, and so far I’m doing ok.

I’ve been using Duolingo, and overall it’s pretty good. There are some problems in how they teach it, but I’m getting the basics right and although I guess some answers, usually they are correct! So something is working!

In order to improve my pronunciation, I try and mimic the Spanish recordings until I get it right, this way I can sound more native like and also It’ll help me to practice speaking in Spanish.

What I need to do now is get my fiancé to speak Spanish to me all the time. The problem with that though is that because I’m only at a basic level, he really needs to dumb everything down. Maybe when my level is higher then he can do that with me. At the moment If I’ve any problems with grammar or what not, then I ask him and he tries to explain it to me.

But of course the Chinese grammar that I’ve learned creeps in sometimes.

For example, there was a sentence like ‘ I talk with my father’

So in my head I reverted back to my Chinese grammar and how I would say it in Chinese using the Chinese sentence structure: ‘I with my father talk’

So I start saying in Spanish “Yo con mi padre hablo”

My fiancé looks at me and says “No……Aisling that’s not right. Say it again.”

So I say again, wondering what’s wrong with my sentence.

“Aisling you are using the Chinese sentence structure. Just say it like you would in English!”

Ohhh….. I never even realised! I just naturally translated it into the way I would have said it in Chinese. Also, when he speaks to me in Spanish, I automatically think of the answer in Chinese, so it’ll take me a little while to get used to switching from Chinese mode to Spanish!

But anyway, I’m glad I started using Duolingo; it’s good for beginners and it gives a good foundation on the language.

Plus it’s free!

Aisling.

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Settling Into My New Home & Job

I’ve been back in China for just over a week, but we’ve been so busy packing our things, moving and starting our new jobs, that it really feels like I’ve been here for weeks already! I’m shocked when I think I’m back only 1 week!

From arriving back in Chengdu, both myself and my fiancé were busying packing the remainder of our things, moving them into two vans we booked, moving into our new place, meeting new teachers (all male by the way, so I’m really outnumbered) … and finally work on Monday! So we were quite busy when we arrived back!

With most of our things unpacked, we can finally relax in our new apartment and area where we are living. Our university that we work in has two campuses; one for the 1st and 2nd years, and another for the older students. We live in ‘villa’ sort houses in the campus for the older students. The building where we live only has 3 floors, and they are dedicated solely to the foreign teachers; each building houses 3 teachers… so it’s refreshing not to be surrounded by people below you, above you, and either side of you! We live on the ground floor, so we just have another teacher living above us.

Apartment wise, it’s a BIG improvement to our old apartment…. our new place is absolutely HUGE! I’m pretty sure the whole of our old apartment could fit into our new bedroom. Now if I lose something, I could be looking for 10 minutes for it! Theres actually too much space now! Another good is that we actually have a U shaped sofa!!!! No more do I have to put up with our tiny, crappy, uncomfortable sofa from the old place. Our shower is fantastic (the shower head didn’t work very well in the other place), we now have a big dining table and a proper bed (instead of just a mattress on the floor).

We also have big air conditioning units in both the living area and the bedroom. Our toilet is a huge improvement too! In the old apartment, their was literally no water pressure whatsoever in our toilet, so we always needed a big bucket of water to give everything a helping hand…

The only problem with this apartment is the lack of a cooking area. Now I don’t usually cook anyway, but it’s always nice to have the option. Here we just have a portable electric stove top … and it’s actually broken. Plus we have no electric fan to get rid of the food smell. So that’s one negative thing about the place.

But apartment wise, so far I really like it!

As for my job, I feel this has been a REALLY long week! Every foreign teacher here teaches 1st year students, and whatever lesson plan we do for our first class of the week, then we use that one for the remainder of the week….. so it does become very very monotonous! I have 10 classes, so I have to repeat the exact same lesson plan 10 times. Sure it’s easy, but when it comes to the 6/7th time of doing the exact same thing, it does grate on me a little. That’s why it feels like such a long week.

Most of my students are girls, with only 4/5 boys in each class, and generally they are ok. Some of their English is atrocious though, so I really don’t know how I’m going to teach these kids anything if they can’t even get the basics right. But thankfully the school doesn’t put pressure onto the foreign teachers, so we are free in doing whatever we want in class. It’s up to the students to try and learn!

Location wise, because we are outside the city, I really do feel a bit lonely and isolated here. As I said before, I loved my previous area where I lived. Now… it takes 1 hour by bus to even get to our nearest ATM! By taxi it would take 30 minutes to get to somewhere where there is a decent amount of people…. so yeah, I do feel very isolated from everything. I don’t think I could live here for longer than 1 year.

For food, we’ve only had one dish which we have really enjoyed. Because we are located where students live, the restaurants near us aren’t exactly good quality or flavoursome. Yeah it’s cheap, but the food is very basic and I don’t particularly enjoy some dishes. Also each restaurant basically serves the exact same thing, so it’s hard to find a good meal here!

So there are some positives and negatives of moving. One good thing is that we are guaranteed money each month so we can save for our wedding and what not. We are guaranteed the same holidays as the students, and with the amount of walking and cycling I do… I’m optimistic I’ll lose some weight!

I know I’m going to feel down some days and just wishing I could leave, but I’m glad I didn’t come here by myself… I don’t think I could last!

再见

爱玲

A Trip To The Capital; Dublin

Even though my hometown is about (1.5 hour by bus) to Dublin, you would think that I would go up and visit more often, but surprisingly I rarely go! Since I’ve arrived home, I’ve had to go up twice for work reasons, but it definitely wasn’t for a visit! I did what I needed to do, then got the bus back.

I’ve never really thought much about living in Dublin while I was living in Ireland. I just never thought of it like that. Since living in China and living in such a big city as Chengdu, I’ve become used to large cities. Before leaving Ireland, I always thought Dublin was a big city. I’ve never had anything to compare it with, so I naively thought it was big.

My perception now is quite different!

But my two times having to go up, I’ve realised that I wouldn’t mind living there; it’s compact, walkable, not too busy, a lot of places to eat, and it just seems like a nice city to live in.

But… of course there are downsides; it’s a ridiculously expensive city, and rent is very very high… too high for me to afford! So I don’t think I would be able to live there unfortunately!

I think the last time I was in Dublin was a few years ago, and this time I noticed that there are so many more little cafes open! The ones with tables and chairs outside. There are loads now in the city! I do like this, but Dublin isn’t exactly like some city in Spain or France… the weather isn’t ideal for sitting outside. But yeah, there are loads more of these places about!

I was also surprised by how many foreigners there were! Groups of Italians, groups of Spanish, Chinese…. it was crazy! I suppose that I’m so used to seeing mostly Chinese people in Chengdu, that it’s strange to see people of other nationalities! I’m sure many are studying English here.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how small the city actually is! Having to walk from one place to another, I was surprised about how much distance I covered while looking at google maps. In Chengdu, I wouldn’t get very far (distance wise) by walking. So I suppose this showed me how small it is!

So Dublin has changed a little since the last time I’ve been here, plus my perception of it has changed, for the better I think!

再见

爱玲

I Don’t Like Changes

I’m a person that really doesn’t like changes…. if there’s nothing wrong, then there’s no need to change it.

But then…. that’s the problem. You’re stuck in the same rut for years on end…..too comfortable to move, change and adapt.

At the moment we’re in the middle of changing our lifestyle and way of life here. As nothing is 100%, I won’t say much more about it until it’s definitely happening. But yeah…. this past week has been tough on the ‘change or not to change??’ dilemma.

I like to think that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it’s very hard to think of it like that! But I suppose it’s my way of comforting myself!

Some people itch for change, but me…. no no no!

Haha maybe this is why I’ve been stuck in Chengdu for the past 4 years!

再见

爱玲

Re-watching KungFu Panda 3 In Chinese: 1 Year On

Re-watching KungFu Panda 3 In Chinese: 1 Year On

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about our experience going to the cinema and watching Kung Fu Panda 3… all in Chinese. We didn’t realise it was the Chinese version of the film until it started! You can check out my blog about it here:A Cinematic Surprise

Anyway, I said in my post that I would try and watch it again in one year and see how much more I could understand of it. So we successfully found the film on a Chinese website and we decided to watch it. And low and behold, I could understand about 60% of it!!!

This time round, I understood the storyline, most of the conversations and pretty much all of the jokes! The first time, I really had no idea what the storyline was about, and why the antagonist was so obsessed with finding Po. I didn’t understand pretty much any jokes, and I could only understand the gist of a sentence by a word I knew, such as ‘food’.

During the second time I watched it, I realised there were quite a few words which came up in the film were words that I have just learned in this semester of class!

The film also had Chinese subtitles so we can read the Chinese characters as we listen. I think pretty much every TV programme, film or drama will have Chinese subtitles. I think it’s because some older people actually have never learned the common Chinese language Mandarin; they have just been brought up learning their local dialect. So it makes it easier for them to understand what’s going on in the show. (I think this is the reason why, but I’m not 100% of it!)

But anyway, it was great seeing how much Chinese I’ve picked up in a year, and how I can actually understand the story! Now my speaking is still atrocious, but at least this shows me I’m improving in some area at least!

So I have to say I’m very proud of myself that I can understand this film now. It’s not a very difficult film with regards to the conversations and the words in it, but it’s a stepping stone at least.

I’ll have to find something else to watch and then in another year I’ll re-watch it and see how much I’ve improved.

再见

爱玲

Are There Incentives To Move Back To Your Home Country?

Are There Incentives To Move Back To Your Home Country?

The longer I’ve been away from Ireland, the more I’ve become interested in it and whats going on with regards to the government, jobs and so forth. Lately all I’ve been hearing is how it’s  becoming more and more expensive, rent is sky high, car insurance costs are ridiculous…. and it’s really made me analysis where in the world I’d like to one day settle down in.

At the moment, I can’t see myself living in Ireland. As much as I love my country, it’s just too expensive. To be honest, the only incentive to move back home is my family.

I read a few days ago of a woman who returned home after living in Canada, and she was quoted €4,000 for car insurance!!!! That is absolutely ridiculous!

You can read about her story here: Quoted €4,000 on car insurance for expat

But unfortunately that’s something that I might need to pay if I move back home! That’s even if I can afford a car in the first place!

It’s things like this that make me reconsider moving back home.

Another thing I feel annoyed with is that any Irish people not living in Ireland cannot vote. We need to be living there, and even if I returned home…. I would need to have been living in Ireland for at least a year before the vote date. So any referendum that’s happening, even if I return home to vote. . . I’m not allowed.

You know I get why people feel expats shouldn’t get a vote; we’ve been out of Ireland so we shouldn’t be able to dictate how it’s run. But I would like to move back one day. Ireland is still my home.  Just because we don’t live there doesn’t mean we don’t care about it. It was the lack of jobs that made me leave in the first place!

Another thing is, when my fiancé and I get married, he can only stay at most 3 months in Ireland. So say we decide that we want to live in Ireland for 1 year, and then move to Mexico for a while… unfortunately theres no way my fiancé can stay in Ireland for that amount of time. Even though we will be married! The country wants to make sure he plans to stay and live in Ireland for the foreseeable future. Only then will the government give him a stamp to allow him to stay. So even that makes us not want to move there.

It feels like if I return home, the only good thing is that I’ll be near my family. At the moment, there is absolutely no incentive to return home. And it’s awful to say that….

I know I like to give out about China, but if feels more welcoming than Ireland at the moment. I feel even having a small child in China is better than in Ireland. I know a girl who is going home to Russia to have her baby, then she will come back to China. And I totally understand why.

  1. She can come back to her job and earn a good wage each month.
  2. She can hire a nanny to look after her child. So many foreigners here hire what we call an ‘ayi’, a lady who takes care of the children, cooks and cleans. And it’s not even very expensive. Then the parents can work full time and save money.
  3. You don’t need a car here. It’s very easy to travel around Chengdu, so you def don’t need a car. Theres €4,000 I wouldn’t need for insurance!

So there are good points of having a baby in China.

But anyway, I’m rambling a bit!

Does anyone else feel like this about their own country? Are there incentives to go back home, or is the country where you are living now a better option?

再见

爱玲

Our First Christmas On Our Own

Our First Christmas On Our Own

For the past two Christmas, I’ve been thankful to have had two great ones; one with my boyfriends family, and the other with my own family. This time however, it was only going to consist of myself and my boyfriend.

For my first Christmas away from my family, I arrived in China for my teaching internship. Unfortunately I had to work, so the day wasn’t very Christmassy at all! I remember talking to my family that evening and after I hung up I cried because I missed them so much and just felt disconnected from everything. My first Christmas away from home and I’m stuck working and being by myself. I think 2 of my students gave me presents which was so kind of them, but I made a promise to myself that I would definitely be home for the next Christmas.

However I didn’t keep my promise. After that I happened to meet my boyfriend  and we decided we would go to his country and be with his Mum and Dad. It was quite strange to celebrate Christmas in a hot country such as Mexico, whereas I’m so used to having it during the winter; it being freezing and having the roaring fire in the house.

I had a really great time there, but before long we were back in China!

Last Christmas, I unexpectedly had to go home, so we decided to go during December so that I could be with my family to celebrate. With the arrival of my new nephew, it was the first Christmas with him, so it was a new experience for the whole family!

I enjoyed my Mums dinner, ate pavlova, drank loads of Irish coffee and Baileys, and had a great time with my family and my boyfriend! I enjoyed my time (and food) so much that I also got a good deal fatter!!

So for this Christmas we didn’t travel anywhere to celebrate! It was our first Christmas in China on our own as a couple. There was no festive feeling in Chengdu as no one celebrates it here (although every supermarket sells Christmas stuff which I find weird), but we made the most of it ourselves!

My Mum sent a parcel to us the week before which had lots of presents for us… wrapped of course! Then as a surprise, my boyfriend bought a small tree and lights, and when I arrived home from work one night, he told me to close my eyes and he guided me to the tree. I opened my eyes and saw this cute tree with lights and the presents my family sent us!

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So when Christmas Day came, I turned the lights on, put on some Christmas music, and we opened our presents together.

At noon, and not particularly knowing how to cook a Christmas dinner, we decided to order some food from a restaurant and we watched the film ‘Elf’, as we had not seen that film in years! After our lunch, we treated ourselves to some hot chocolate and Ferrero Rochers that my boyfriend got me.

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Later in the afternoon, we decided to go to the shop and buy some coca cola and some cheap red wine. We mix them together and they are called Katembas. One of our South African friends told us about this drink! We both love it!

Knowing that my family would be waking up soon, I tried to give them a call, but the connection was terrible! I’m guessing it was because everyone else was trying to ring back home and talk. So I was resigned to wait until there was better connection.

After a while we tried again and thankfully we got through! It was great seeing my nephews playing with their new toys. I got a bit sad at this point; missing out on everything. I would have loved to have seen there faces seeing all their presents. Oh and eating Mums dinner!

But it was great to see them happy and having a good day.

After talking to the family, and for our dinner, we made some quick Quesadillas and we enjoyed eating them while drinking our Katembas. We decided to stick on a film called ‘Krampus’, a scary Christmas film, which we both thought was quite good! It was something different anyway!

At around 8:30, we watched our last film ‘Mean Girls’. I know it’s not a very Christmassy film, but my boyfriend never saw it before so I really wanted him to see it. My Mum surprised us by putting a Christmas pudding that she made into a tin for us. We opened the present and we put it aside, thinking there are chocolates inside. Later my Mum asked me ‘What did you think of the pudding?’

What pudding?? She never sent us a pudding…

She told us to open the tin, and there it was, wrapped up! We decided to have this for our dessert, and it was lovely!  Lastly, we had a little Tequila. My boyfriends Mum and Dad, when they were over, brought some good quality Tequila from Mexico over for us so we had a small drop of that to end our Christmas day.

And do you know what, we both had a great Christmas together. The day before I was thinking ‘Will I miss my family and be sad for the whole day?, What food will we eat? What will we do?’ but thankfully it turned out to be a lovely relaxing day with just the two of us.

Although there wasn’t a very festive feeling outside, but we made it festive in our apartment. We enjoyed each others company, ate loads of food, and had a great day!

So we are now both wondering where or what we will be doing for next Christmas…. Wherever it will be, I’m sure it will be wonderful like my past 3 Christmases!

再见

爱玲