Learning a foreign language (as an adult)

If you have ever tried learning a foreign language in your adult stage of life, then many of you, no doubt, have many stories (some funny and some not so) about learning it.  Any stories to share are welcome!

Learning a foreign language has its moments, doesn’t it?  The beginning part sucks…which I would classify as The Bad.  You don’t really understand anything, you can barely make a complete sentence and you stumble all over yourself sounding like your IQ has dropped about 10 points.  Humbling, isn’t?  But then, a small shift occurs…The Good…it seems to get better.  You make some milestones…however, small they are.  Being able to read the menu in a restaurant or simply reading a headline of the local newspaper.  However small and basic, it feels good…it’s progress.  And then, there is The Fun part…where you are able to amuse yourself when you make mistakes actually using the language outside of the safe haven (the classroom).

Just recently, my friends and I had a run in with attempting to practice our new foreign language skills.

The language: FRENCH

The place: PARIS, FRANCE

The event: LUNCH (french cuisine)

The victims: 4 WOMEN (2 American, 1 Irish, 1 British/Australian)

The four of us met at our language school in Paris.  We were in the same class and got to know each over the course of a couple weeks.  One of the girls was going back home and we decided to have lunch together to say goodbye.  We all were not beginners to the French language so for the most part we could get by in restaurant situations.

We decided on french cuisine with communal atmosphere (table d’hôte).  I researched a place via Trip Advisor and came across a place near our school.

We arrived at the restaurant (which was already bustling from the lunch crowd) and had a good impression.  Most places in Paris have some English…but this place did not.  No menu in English and all the customers were French.  And we were delighted with this fact.  We immediately looked at the chalkboard for the plat du jour.  I am vegetarian (but eat fish) and so had a limited selection (1 choice).  One of the girls said she would take the same.  The other 2 evaluated the menu and we all ordered our meals in French (a small but a pleasant milestone).

The 2 plates that came out first were the meat ones…The look on her face told us right away that that was not what she was expecting to get.  And the second one was totally not what she had expected.  We all looked at each other and said ‘Are those brains?’.  There was no mistaking the body part for anything else.  It was brain.  We asked her what she thought she had ordered and she said: lamb chops.  We all burst out laughing…they were the little brains of sheep.  She couldn’t eat it…but since the fear of sending it back overcame her…she managed a few bites.  It was NOT good.  If anyone has ever wondered what sheep brains tastes like…it tastes like tofu.  A picture of it is below.

The second questionable plate was drenched in sauce and the pieces of meat looked unidentifiable partly because of the amount of sauce and mostly because neither of us had ever seen meat like that before.  My other friend thought she had ordered liver.  But after the other 2 tasted it…it was most definitely NOT liver.  So we began guessing (eliminating the fact that it was brain)…testicles, intestines?  We looked it up in a french/english dictionary (after the fact) and viola…it was kidney.  Another body part that no one in the party had ever eaten.  It was not good.  And fyi, it does NOT taste like chicken.

We left the restaurant dying of laughter, without tipping and starving (the fish was not that good either).

I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.  It was good fun…at the expense of our stomachs.  The moments when you feel you have made progress in the language get wiped away with a single humbling event are FUN.  It is just a friendly reminder that you have a long way to go.  And that maybe next time, you should bring a dictionary with you ;).

How do you take the photo?

Every once in a while I would like to share with you my thoughts on Photography…especially since it inspired the name of this blog.  Photography is my hobby.  I enjoy it and my goal is to take better pictures…especially when traveling.

On my quest to get awesome travel photos I came across a few tips when photographing the ICONS: The Eiffel Tour, the Colosseum, Big Ben, White House, Empire State Building, Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Golden Gate Bridge etc.  I sum up some info I’ve learned and practiced when taking photos of the ICONS.  Any tips you may have, I welcome them!

Photographing the ICONS:

General rule: Because the icon is recognizable on its own, do something different when taking the photo.

Here are some things I have tried with some ICONS:

1. Take the photo at sunrise

There are a huge number of reasons to get up early when you are on vacation.  There are NO people!  That is unheard of at St Peter’s Square.  And almost every travel photo by professional photographers is taken at sunrise/sunset because of the light.  The basilica is orange during sunrise and disappears with the rising sun.  If you travel in winter (hotel rates are cheaper) sunrise is not that early!  Another reason, if you have a tripod you can take a photo of yourself…with NO people.

(St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy)

2.  Take only a part of it

Sometimes less is more.  Almost everyone can recognize this ICON of Paris…why not show it in a different way?  To get a different color of the tower…sunset would be a good option here.  Remove the abundance of people at the base by focusing upwards.

(The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France)

3.  Use the ICON as a backdrop

These sort of pictures can add interest if you plan on making a photo album / slide show / book after your trip.  The color, especially if it is mostly cloudy during your trip, can add a vibrancy to your photos.  I also think that if you want to get a picture of the whole tower you should have your group pose in front of it.  Personally, when I see just a picture of the whole tower and no one I care about is it front of it…it is a dull picture.  Not because the subject is dull but when you google images of the tower you are hit with a plethora of these sort of images.  Why repeat?  You as the subject creates interest in the photo, especially for your audience!

(The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France)

4.  Frame it

Look for natural frames in your environment.  It takes a few seconds to look around and a minute to change your position to get a different shot.  This shot was taken after sunrise so the light is intense but the darkness of the frame dims the brightness.  Also, if you are planning on adding text to the photo for a book / album / slide show, the frame offers a nice backdrop to place text.  I think this could have been improved with a vertical shot.

(St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy)

If anyone has any tips or insights or general comments they are welcome!