How To Survive An Anime Convention (Or Any Conference Really)

2018 marks my 10th year of attending anime conventions. My very first was ColossalCon 2008, which ironically fell on my 18th birthday weekend. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot over this past decade of shenanigans, mischief, and sometimes outright puzzling situations.

Before ColossalCon 2008, my then-boyfriend advised me that you do not sleep at cons. You do not eat much. You spend tons of money. You drink far more than you should. And you party hard. Most people shared that same sentiment, and that’s how I treated conventions until around 2013.

Five years of torture.

Good grief.

This outlook is not restricted to just anime and gaming conventions. I have heard similar statements from people of all ages at professional conferences as well. “You’re not going to sleep much this weekend!” I am always warned. Yet, somehow, I do.

The party-hard mentality might sound good on paper–looking at yourself from afar like you’re rewatching American Pie or some other frat party comedy–but it’s hard on your body. And it is unnecessary.

The harmful mentalities of not sleeping, not eating, not showering, and maxing out your credit cards for trips needs to stop. Most people who take a more mature approach to conventions and conferences find that they enjoy their time spent there far more, they are able to return home without feeling exhausted and sometimes ill, and they still have money to pay their bills in return.

We know how to have fun AND retain our sanity. Be like us 🙂

This weekend is OMGCon in Owensboro, Kentucky. OMGCon is my favourite convention to attend each year, and it is one of the ones that I am a Featured Guest at each year. I was recently asked by a first-time convention goer for some tips for the weekend, and these are tips that I would also like to share with all of you. Follow them, and achieve true bliss on each of your vacation weekends:

  1. Drink lots of water. I was going to label this “Stay hydrated”, but some of y’all think that means drink sodas, coffee, and alcohol all day. No. Water. WATER. That clear crap that fish swim around in for a living. That funny beverage that pours from your sink faucets. Yes, that stuff. It makes up 70% of your body, it keeps you alive, and it needs to be replenished. Drink cool or cold water throughout the day, especially in warmer environments. Remember: If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. If your pee is yellow, you are already dehydrated. If you take nothing else away from this post, DRINK WATER.
  2. Shower daily. This is non-negotiable. The smells of “con funk” permeate the hallways at any conference, but it is the worst at anime and gaming conventions. Personal hygiene is not a choice. It is a mandatory responsibility. Not only does it keep you healthy, but it allows you to be courteous to those around you. Honestly. Hop in the shower. Use some soap. Towel dry. Feel happy. I shower once each and every day in my daily life, and at a convention–where I am running around all day in cosplay and hugging strangers–a shower is a definite necessity. On the same vein: if your roommates smell funky, feel free to kindly advise them to go wash. Don’t suffer needlessly because of other people’s laziness.
  3. Eat ACTUAL MEALS (not just ramen). Include fruits and veggies in these meals. It’s really not hard. If you are getting a sandwich, place tomatoes and lettuce on the sandwich. Opt for a Greek yogurt instead of potato chips. Grilled over fried. Carrots over fries. Food is fuel, and you need lots of fuel to survive a convention. You wouldn’t fill your car with sludge. Don’t fill your body with it either. Eat a good (not expensive) meal twice daily for best results!
  4. Get a good night’s rest EVERY night. This means getting at least 6 hours of sleep each night (but aim for 8 hours each night). Determine your bedtime well before night hits. Let’s use Sunday checkouts for example. The checkout time at most hotels is 11am. This means that you need to be awake by 10am to wash your face, apply your makeup, put on clothes, and get your belongings out of the room. This means that you should go to bed at 2am the night before. If you are literally having the time of your life, then 4am is the absolute latest that you should be in bed. Basic math. No excuses. Sleep also helps to fight off “con crud”! Most on that later…
  5. Do a full lap around Artist Alley and the Dealer’s Hall BEFORE making any purchases. There are a lot of things to purchase at a convention. Many booths are selling the same items for differing prices. You want the lowest price, right? Do a full lap, and then decide which items you want that fit your budget. For any DVDs or Manga, I also recommend installing the Amazon app on your phone. Most DVDs that go for $50 at a convention are $25 on Amazon. I literally create an Amazon shopping cart while wandering the Dealer’s Hall, make my purchases for far cheaper than I’d spend in person, and my new items are waiting on my doorstep once I get home from the convention. Shop smarter, not harder 🙂
  6. Bring a portable phone battery charger. I highly recommend Anker-brand portable quick-charge batteries, which you can purchase by clicking this sentence. These little babies can charge your phone from zero to hero in less than an hour. My iPhone 7 gets a little more than two full charges from this battery. Charge your Anker battery at night before bed, and any chance you get. Then, while you are running around, you can recharge your phone when needed! These are also great at concerts, festivals, and theme parks. Warning: if people know you have these, they will want a charge as well! Keep your battery in your purse or pocket and charge discretely for best results!
  7. Respect others’ boundaries. Don’t leave your dirty clothes all over the hotel room that you are sharing with others. Don’t drink all of someone else’s alcohol or eat someone else’s leftovers from the fridge. And remember: cosplay IS NOT consent! Do not touch people without permission, and do not harass them for that permission!
  8. Drink responsibly. Nearly everyone drinks at conventions. I do. You do. He, she, it does. It is an ingrained part of the convention culture, to the point where many cons have 24/7 parties appearing all over the premises. Still, everyone has a limit, and everyone knows that limit. DO NOT pass your limit and force others to baby you. DO NOT pass your limit and make yourself sick. DO NOT pass your limit and get alcohol poisoning. This is extremely important if you choose to drink under 21, as your bad decisions will negatively impact both the convention’s staff members, the convention’s reputation, and the people that you traveled with. Also, make sure to eat before drinking. Soak up that booze.
  9. Quarantine yourself if ill. In reality, don’t even go to the convention if you are ill. But if you wake up with the sniffles, stay in your room. Let your roommates know this. Eat soup and drink tea. Get some sleep. Wash your hands. Spray Lysol into the air. Your goal at this point is to infect as few people as possible. Don’t be that dick who walks around knowingly sick and contributes to more people catching the “con crud” that impact every convention on Sundays. FUN FACT: Practicing steps #1-#4 helps to prevent con crud from coming to an immune system near you 😀
  10. Save the drama for yo’ mama. Conventions are for having fun. You are there with friends. Even if there are people present that you dislike, you can ignore them. If they are harassing you, let your group leader know about it. If you don’t know your harasser, tell a member of staff or a security officer. Conventions are a stress-reliever, and keeping yourself worked up all weekend does the complete opposite of that. So, take a chill pill, and have FUN!!!

Prom Night And The Toxicity Of Callout Culture

Prom night. An event that most teenagers look forward to for all of their lives. From the time we are toddlers, the media conditions us to perceive prom night as the pinnacle of your adolescent night. And in a way, it is. Whether a teenager makes a big deal about their prom or not, their friends and family certainly will.

“What did you do for prom?” remains a talking point for adults long after they’ve collected their diplomas and moved on to adulthood.

On April 22nd, 2018, 18-year-old Keziah Daum showed up to Woods Cross High School’s senior prom with her closest friends. Following the evening’s festivities, Daum posted an album with four photos on her Twitter account, consisting of two solo photos, a photo with her date, and a photo of her squad. Daum looked to be on cloud nine in the photographs, as did the rest of her friends.

But days later, the shit hit the fan.

“Racist”, read one comment.

“What’s the theme of prom night? Ignorant?” another comment said.

When I logged onto Twitter on Saturday, April 28th and saw controversy after teen wears racist dress to prom trending as the top story on Twitter, all sorts of thoughts raced through my head. I hurriedly clicked on the article and wondered what treat was in store. Another Confederate flag dress? A dress embroidered with Swastikas? Maybe someone had gotten the nerve to screenprint the burning Twin Towers on the sides of her dress and was twirling around the dance floor in a blaze of crumbling concrete?

But, instead, I found a photograph of a pretty girl wearing a qipao.

The twitter post in question.

A qipao (pronounced chee-pow, and sometimes referred to as a “cheongsam”), is a one-piece Chinese clothing item that became the national dress of the Republic Of China in 1929. The qipao started out as a woman’s traditional dress during Manchu rule, and it became a popular item amongst celebrities and the upper-class of China in the 1930s. By the 1950s, working women paired their qipao with a jacket.

Chinese women today wear a qipao during formal occasions such as weddings, parties, and beauty pageants. A good friend who got married a few years back wore a beautiful white wedding dress for her ceremony and then changed into a red qipao for her reception. Yes, she is Chinese. Some businesses—such as hotels and airlines—also make qipao dresses part of the required work uniform. The cost of qipaos range from $100-$1000, depending on the style and the material.

It is not uncommon to find qipaos in Chinese vintage stores, and Keziah Daum just happened to find one in the United States. Thinking “Oh! What a pretty dress!”, Daum bought the qipao and enlisted it as her senior prom dress. Something unique that would set her apart from the crowd. An innocent idea for a special night. Daum recognized that the dress was a garment from China, and she decided that this would be a great way to show her respect for Chinese culture.

Qipao come in all shapes and colours.

By the magic of the Internet, Daum’s post went viral, and conflicting comments began to appear. Confused by the hate comments posted on her photos, Daum tweeted that she didn’t understand why she was getting so much hate over “just a dress”. The phrasing—of course—unleashed an even greater firestorm.

“To anyone who says I’m ignorant,” Daum tweeted, “I fully understand everyone’s concerns and views on my dress. I mean no harm. I am in no way being discriminative or racist. I’m tired of all the backlash and hate when my only intent was to show love.”

Again, Daum is an 18-year-old girl. She may not know the significance of a qipao. I did not know the significance of one until I was in my early 20s and read a Wikia page about Chun-Li from Street Fighter, who wears a qipao as part of her attire. I gained a deeper understanding after seeing the photos from my friend’s wedding with the qipao donned for the reception, and the icing on the cake was when I accepted a position as an ESL teacher for VIPKID, a Chinese company.

So, here is my question to anyone who publically crucified this teenager over the past week: If you find wearing a qipao without knowing its significant so foul, why not educate her?

European renditions of the traditional qipao.

Many Twitter users complimented Daum on her support Chinese culture and for also looking great in the qipao. Both Chinese and non-Chinese users felt that Daum did nothing wrong and simply decided to represent a culture that interested her. Still, many others loudly vocalized their disapproval, calling her “trash”, “cracker”, and slurs that I don’t feel like posting right now.

None of the negative tweets offered an ounce of insight into what a qipao is. The vast majority that I saw did not even reference a “qipao” or a “cheongsam”. People ripped into Daum for calling a qipao “just a dress” and “being ignorant to Chinese culture”, but NOT A ONE offered her any insight to help her gain a further understanding on the misdeeds that she committed on prom night.

Callout culture has been on the rise for the past three years. It started with good intentions, and its rules are simple: If you see someone doing something disgusting and vile, call them out publicly. Keep others from being victims of the perpetrator and ensure that those around them know of their misdeeds. In the cases of rapists, burglars, animal abusers, and murderers, callout culture can be a good thing, and it has saved many lives.

However, the rise of sensitivities from both liberal and conservative audiences has led to callout culture being reduced to miniscule offenses, completely ignoring the mantra don’t sweat the small stuff as people across social media sweat and scream their little hearts out. What happened to being a teacher? What happened to being a compassionate human being to your fellow humans?

Don’t be this person. Never be this person.

I’m sure 2/3 of the people up in arms over Daum’s dress can’t even spell qipao. A good half of those people probably don’t even know what a qipao is either, and are just riding the bandwagon of bullying and hatred. How are we as adults supposed to set any sort of good examples for high school children when grown adults are bullying a high schooler over her clothing on prom night?

I think that it is important for Daum to know the history and significance of the qipao, and if Daum truly has a love of Chinese culture, then there is nothing wrong with her wearing that dress. It is no different than people adopting clothing styles based on rave, anime, or hip-hop fashion to show their respect and appreciation for a certain facet of culture. Still, it is important to fully understand the culture that you are representing. Did Daum already know about the history of a qipao? Maybe. But since people decided to label her a racist instead of asking her a simple question, I guess we’ll never know.

My rant of the topic of “cultural appropriation” is a lengthy one for another day, but let’s all keep in mind that Americans are the only ones trying to make “cultural appropriation” a thing. Chinese citizens have been overwhelmingly supportive of Daum and her dress since the Internet’s floodgates broke.

“Very elegant and beautiful!” one Chinese citizen commented. “Really don’t understand the people who are against her, they are wrong!”

“It is not cultural theft,” another wrote. “It is cultural appreciation and cultural respect.”

Many users on Weibo–China’s version of Twitter–have also chimed in: “Culture has no borders. There is no problem, as long as there is no malice or deliberate maligning. Chinese cultural treasures are worth spreading all over the world.”

Props to China for being the sane ones in this discussion.

So, if those in China love and respect Daum’s decision, why are the Americans calling her a racist?

I guess the short answer is that, once again, America has shown its ass to the rest of the world.

For the record, racists are people who discriminate against other races, often leading to bigotry, favouritism, hate-speech, and acts of violence. Keziah Daum is a thrift store shopper who stumbled across a qipao. The toxicity of callout culture lessons the impact of words like “racist”, “sexist”, and “abuser” by overusing them for trivial issues. It causes allies to overlook real issues because they have gotten burned out on all of the crying-wolf cases passing through their social media feeds. And that’s not good.

That’s how people get hurt.

We all know what a racist is, so stop using the term to describe people wearing qipaos, dreadlocks, false freckles, and dreamcatcher earrings. If someone says, “Keziah Daum is a racist”, I want to see her pointing guns at people, not wearing their clothing.

Say what again?

(Keziah, that was rhetorical; please do not point a gun at anyone.)

So how should this situation have been handled correctly?

If you come across someone that you feel is behaving ignorantly, approach them civilly and politely. Ask them—genuinely, not snarkily—what they are doing or wearing and what gave them the idea to do the infraction in question. Have an actual conversation with them, and then politely let them know why you disagree with their action(s). Hear them out, but explain your viewpoint as well. Share with them the knowledge that you wish they had, and keep the conversation lighthearted and friendly. Few people will ever object to such an encounter, and most will leave feeling more enlightened and educated and happy to spread their new knowledge with their friends and family.

I’m sure if anyone—in real life or online—approached Daum and said, “Cool dress! It looks awesome on you! Do you wanna know more about the qipao?”, Daum would have eagerly said yes and soaked in the knowledge. Then, on her next wearing of the dress, she could thank complimenters with, “Thanks! Did you know that the qipao…?”

Knowledge is power.

Hatred breeds contempt.

That qipao is forever ruined for Daum. She will either never wear it again, or she will wear it with a sense of pride, “Killing In The Name Of” style:

Can you blame her?

But long gone is the innocence of the pretty Chinese dress in the vintage store window. For the rest of her life, Daum’s memory of prom night will be a mix of confusion and anger…and of gratitude to her supporters.

“Thank you to EVERYONE who has been messaging me about the dress,” Daum tweeted last Sunday. “I’m trying to respond to as many as I can. Thank you for your kindness!”

Your Politics In My Peanut Butter (Stop It, Tumblr)

There is something that has been grinding my gears for the past several years. I’ve noticed it. My family has noticed it. My friends have noticed it. I feel like most people have noticed it.

There are memes dedicated to poking fun of this issue. South Park introduced a brand-new character to poke fun of this issue. Comedians and actors have gotten reamed on social media for not treading lightly around this issue.

What issue?

Why, Tumblr’s extreme SJW culture, of course! Otherwise known as the intense wave of political correctness that has taken over people’s lives since late-2015 and early-2016.

Love him or hate him, but there are at least a few PC Principals on your timeline everyday. And if there is not, then that PC Principal just may be you :’(

“What is Tumblr?” you might find yourself asking, gentle reader? Tumblr is the current generation’s own special version of 4Chan, where literally anything and everything can be posted for public consumption. (Side note: Is 4Chan even still a thing…?) Essentially, it is a place where the “oppressed” find way to oppress themselves even further.

Note that while these people are mainly found on Tumblr, you can also find them on any social media website and in any public arena.

“Look! An adorable picture of a dog!” the Tumblrites cry, rubbing their hands together with glee. “Let’s find a way to make it about animal abuse!”

“Wow. You are a shitty person for laughing at this. I’m glad to know that you support the genocide and slaughter of all animals! How DARE you call yourself an animal lover!” — An actual comment left on my Facebook profile when I nonchalantly shared this video a few months back.

The main issue is that the extreme SJW crowd tends to scream their views and opinions the loudest, so now many people entering their mid-thirties and above associate all Millennials as Tumblrites. Memes mocking millennials have been born from the older generations’ stereotypes of how all millennials act and think thanks to those who go around SJWing on the Internet.

“Do you see this fridge? Do you see this perfectly innocent fridge? It says ‘negro’ on the box! I never took Spanish, so I’m going to assume that this is a racist refrigerator. If I use this refrigerator, it will hide a noose in my almond milk and choke me from the inside out.”

Somewhere in the distance, Hitler whispers from the skies, “Praise Aryan Jesus!”

“Do you see this couple? Do you see this seemingly happy couple? Well, they’re not a happy couple because half of the couple is male! And since all men are evil, the woman in the picture is probably being abused.”

#NotAllMen

Here’s one that my friends who identify as bisexual get all of the time… “Do you see this girl? Do you see this girl who claims to be bisexual? Well, she’s dating a MAN and they are even using aphrodisiac products that increase libido in men, so she’s a hetero liar!”

Those who support bi-erasure need to take a children’s Latin course and learn the definition of the root word “bi”. They should then think logically about what “bisexual” means.

One year later… “Do you see this girl? Do you see this girl who still claims to be bisexual but is now with a woman? Oh, honey, cut out that ‘I’m bi’, crap! You know you’re a lesbian!”

No bisexuals allowed! Even though our acronym is “LGBT”!

So…what does the “B” stand for then?

How about, Tumblr Is Bullshit? 🙂

From 2009–2014, Tumblr is where I went for the latest memes and updates on my favourite bands. Apparently in 2018, all bands have a hidden agenda and/or are rapists, so the band tags are filled with hatred and bickering…or just people spamming photos of the band’s lead singer with the caption “DADDYYYYYYY!!”

I’m not going to lie and said that I’ve never referred to Brandon Boyd or Jared Leto as “Daddy” in a conversation amongst friends. But since Incubus’s lyrics are “hippie bullshit” and 30 Seconds To Mars uses religious imagery, I guess this means that I can’t listen to their music anymore 🙁

JARED: “Hold my fedora; those SJWs said what about me??” // BRANDON: “I’ll take my shirt off if that helps.”

I also greatly enjoy memes. I have recently learned that my love of memes means that I either don’t care about society or am secretly suicidal. Seriously. These things have both been said to me by people who are completely serious.

Please note again that this is not a political article. There are liberal Tumblrites. There are conservative Tumblrites. There are Democrat Tumblrites. There are Republican Tumblrites. The virus to become a Tumblrite is an equal-opportunity offender, boys and girls, so try not to breathe in the bullshit.

This is why I’m a Centrist and don’t subscribe to Tumblr politics. Because I’m sane.

The over-sensitivities on both sides need to stop, y’all. It’s time to retire the attacks and pure cattiness that have been spreading across social media since early 2016. If someone’s gender preference or hairstyle or religion or diet bothers you, then you need to find a hobby and find a way to calm your inner demons.

“But, Angie! You just said not to be catty! And here you are assuming that all SJWs aren’t calm people.”

“Something something Taylor Swift. Something something Kim Kardashian.”

No assumptions have been made here, gentle reader. All of the SJWs that I’ve come across are some of the most stressed and unhappy individuals that I have ever seen. Their days are spent arguing over trivial details with complete strangers. Their mission to “fix the world” is causing them inner turmoil and grief.

They aren’t happy! Most will admit that they aren’t happy. Quite frankly, it is impossible to be happy when constantly looking for the next opinion to belittle. It keeps your adrenaline flowing constantly and jars your body throughout the day.

Try spending a day meditating, rather than unleashing your inner Tanisha 24/7.

Trust me, a little namaste never hurt anyone. If you agree, be sure to leave a comment down below letting me know where the bad Tumblrite touched you 🙂

How To NOT Become Human Roadkill

“Look both ways before crossing the street.”

As someone who grew up with a love of Barney: The Dinosaur, this phrase was ingrained into my head from an early age. During preschool, kindergarten, and all of elementary school, we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street.

Growing up in a city where jaywalking is commonplace — if I’m being honest, I didn’t even know that jaywalking was a “crime” until I was in my early twenties and began traveling to other states — looking both ways when crossing the street is imperative for one’s survival. And, despite this, the local news app on my phone gives me notifications of “pedestrian struck” at least once per week.

Whoopsie-doopsies.

Taking a quick look at your surroundings before entering a roadway does not take much effort. Even the laziest of the lazy can swivel their head once to the left and then once to the right to check for oncoming traffic. If — through injury or disability — you are unable to swivel your head, then you probably should not be trying to cross a roadway without another person to assist you safely in your journey.

If — through pure laziness — you refuse to swivel your head before crossing the road, then a shiny new Darwin Award looms in your horizon, young grasshopper.

“Most victims are ages 41-to-64,” reports Rolf Eisinger, the Pedestrian and Bike Coordinator for the City of Louisville. “And the most common way that pedestrians cause the crash? Darting into the road.”

Growing up, when I would hear of accidents involving pedestrians, I was sad and horrified. How could such mean drivers mow down innocent pedestrians without a care? Surely, these pedestrians checked both ways before crossing the road!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Gimme that head swivel, you smart pedestrians!

Oh, how wrong and naïve young AngieChu was…

Whereas many of these accidents are simply that — accidents — , a high number are caused by pedestrians who just don’t care.

On a near-daily basis, I encounter numerous pedestrians who nearly meet their maker while crossing the road. I’ve learned to train myself to watch for them. Maybe that should be added to the Driver’s Test curriculum in Louisville. If anyone approaches a crosswalk, a roadway, or the end of the sidewalk, I anticipate that they are about to try to turn themselves into roadkill.

Rest in pepperoni, Johnny Appleseed. Better luck playing Frogger in your next incarnation.

Approximately eight out of ten times, my anticipations are correct.

Grown adults, whether in their early twenties, mid-fifties, or late seventies, are routinely crossing roads without checking for traffic. They don’t look in either direction. They just start walking. Middle-aged pedestrians seem to be the worst offenders, which goes right in hand with Eisinger’s report.

More maddening than having to skid to a stop to avoid running over someone is the fact that they then proceed to walk as slow as humanly possible across the road. Like, 0.5MPH slow. Sloth slow. In fact, I’m sure that sloths move faster than some of these pedestrians.

So, when all is said and done, let’s look at this scenario. Not only has this pedestrian in question nearly caused an accident and/or gotten themselves injured or killed, but they have then held up traffic in both directions as they cha-cha slide themselves across the road. This is not normal behaviour. These people would receive an F in Walking 101.

This is equally as bad. Do not do this either. This causes TRAFFIC.

Let’s take a look at how things should be done 🙂

When my friends and I need to cross the road, the first thing we do is WAIT. After oncoming traffic stops and allows us to cross, we hold up our hands and do that weird wave-peace thing that means “thank you”, and we swiftly walk across the road. If it is a busy intersection, then we run across the road. Either way, we are out of traffic’s hair swiftly and safely.

Let’s look back at the people failing their Walking Skills courses. How on earth an able-bodied individual could be so naïve and inconsiderate to those forced to allow them allowing them to cross is beyond me. I have seen squirrels with better crossing-the-road skills than grown adults, and that’s saying something for someone who has exited her vehicle to shoo confused squirrels out of the road more times than I can count on both hands.

According to the Department Of Transportation’s 2016 survey, Louisville is currently ranked 19th out of the Top 20 cities with pedestrian deaths in the United States. Call me cynical, but I’m not surprised. A study done by local news station WAVE 3 in 2013 validates my rambles as well as the Department Of Transportation’s findings:

“After just 30 minutes [parked] on Broadway, we quickly found out why we’re in the national spotlight,” reported WAVE 3’s Connie Leonard. “With four lanes of traffic flying by us, the sheer number of people ignoring traffic safety laws was eye-opening. We spotted around 20 people walking in the middle of the busy street. We found few people using the crosswalks, and they were not obeying traffic signs.”

Did your childhood teach you nothing about roadway safety? Frogger lead a poor life due to his crossing-the-road skills.

For best results when being the chicken that crossed the road, remember the following practices:

— Analyze whether you actually need to cross the road.

— Ask yourself if this location the safest place to cross the road.

— Check both ways before stepping onto the road.

 Hurry your way to the other side of the road.

— Wave courteously at the drivers that allowed you to cross the road.

— Go about your day without doing anything dumb and dying in the road.

“Listen here, you little twerp. Didn’t I teach you this already when you were still wetting your diapers? Clean up your act so I don’t have to clean up the road.”

Barney and his friends have not failed us completely. I have experienced numerous incidents where a parent is walking with one or two small children. The parent nearly steps out into oncoming traffic, but the kid(s) roots themselves into place and yanks their parent back onto the sidewalk, giving an apologetic gaze to me as I slam on my breaks.

You go, kids. Prevent those Darwin Awards.

The Art Of Learning New Languages

I have always been envious of people that have grown up bi-lingual and tri-lingual. Languages are such fascinating things, and it’s amazing to watch people go from speaking English, to effortlessly slipping into another language for someone who needs it, to slipping back into English without missing a beat.

Many other countries introduce students to a secondary language from the time they reach ages four or five, and as a result, these students enter the adult world with some form of fluency in at least one additional language than their native tongue.

Compared to most other Kentuckians I know, I’m one of the lucky ones. My college-prep high school provided me with 6 months of Latin and 2.5 years of basic French. In college, I took one year of Japanese. …that’s it. And it’s a lot more than many others got.

I primarily took Japanese in college because that was when I was at the peak of my “OMG KAWAII DESU NE I LOVE YAOIIIIII” days, and literally all of my friends decided to take Japanese with me so that we could understand anime subs better. I did well in the classes, but I have retained very little Japanese in the span of the past six years.

On the flip side, I have retained a lot of my French skills, despite it being twelve years since I’ve taken my last French class. I was always in love with French, and have created many characters in my prose that have French backgrounds. I even took a French placement test before entering college and earned 3 credit hours towards my degree from my score! That love of French (combined with the fact that it is far more similar to English than Japanese is to English) has likely helped me to retain my reading abilities, although my speaking abilities are almost non-existent.

Driven by a desire to relearn what I’ve lost and advance from there, I have been using the DuoLingo app for the past two months to study French once more. I was surprisingly cynical when I heard about the app. How could using a free app for ten minutes per day possibly help me to learn a language?

Well…it actually has been a great experience.

A lot of what I am doing with the app is centered around learning vocabulary, which I actually enjoy. If I am ever lost in France and can point to an object and form a basic sentence around it, I’ll (hopefully) survive my journey. A lot of the sentence structure comes from the speaking challenges in the app, which are helpful and fun! I have regained a lot of my old abilities in a relatively short period of time, and have started learning new terminology.

As an additional challenge, I have also downloaded the HelloChinese! app and have also started learning Chinese! This app works similarly to DuoLingo, since DuoLingo does not currently have a Chinese selection for their available languages. Why Chinese? I have no idea. It is probably a mix of my morning job (teaching ESL to Chinese students) and my insatiable love of Chinese art and food. But I genuinely love the language so far! Not as much as French. But enough to make me look forward to my nightly 10-minute lesson.

Chinese poses a completely different issue than French, however. They write in Chinese characters. Barring the accent marks (which are easy to pick up on during daily life anyway), the characters used in French are the same ones that I am accustomed to in English. If I don’t know a word in French, I can “sound it out” with French pronunciation and come pretty darn close to the correct term.

That is not possible with Chinese. Luckily, when learning words, the app shows you the English romanticization on the screen. But at least once a lesson, they will show you a Chinese character for a new term you have learned, and you then have to draw it on the screen.

I’m going to be honest. If the app didn’t eventually give up and show me the strokes to draw one-by-one and then let me move onto the next part of the lesson, I’d be screwed.

Right now, I’m more focused on learning to speak Chinese, and then I will begin learning to write it, but dear lord it’s going to be difficult! I’ve met many native Chinese people who speak fluent English but cannot write English. I now realize the likely reason why that is…the writing systems are starkly different!

For now, I look forward to my 20 minutes a day of learning French and Chinese! It’s exciting, and every day I am stronger at both languages!

What languages do you guys speak? Have you had any fun (or not-so-fun) experiences at learning new languages? 🙂