The following tips for learning a foreign language are aimed at people who wish to learn autodidactically, that is, through the art of self-teaching, and, more specifically, those who have not had much experience or success with learning languages in the past or have little idea where to begin.

How to get started learning a foreign language:

1. Choose the language you want to learn wisely.

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but before you jump into the language matrix, you should probably ask yourself a few things:

  • Why do I want/need to learn?
  • How much time do I have?
  • How intensely am I willing to study?
  • What is my end goal?

If you wanted to pick up some conversational Portuguese because you would be visiting your bud in Lisbon over the summer, you would probably go about language learning quite differently then you would if you were, say, fascinated with Tolstoy and interested in exploring the Russian urtext of Anna Karenina.

2. Listen to the language.

Music and animated cartoons have just become your new best friends. It doesn’t matter if you understand them at first. You’re ears are learning to recognize language-specific sounds, words and linguistic rhythm. Not only that, but you’re also exposing yourself to basic grammatical structures, verb endings, word gender, pronouns, prepositions and other syntactic features. You can start practicing your listening comprehension skills before you’ve even opened up a textbook.

3. Learn the basics.

The basics encompass everything from “Hi my name is,” to “Yes, I would like fries with that, sir.” If you’re looking to do more than help Yiayia whip up her mother’s paximathia recipe, the basics also include the rules of basic grammar: where the verb comes in the sentence, how to use pronouns and prepositions correctly, grammatical case rules, parts of speech, conjunctions and the like.

4. Increase your vocabulary.

If you’re a memorizer, memorize. If you’re not, don’t. There are many different ways to learn new words that do not involve hours of flashcard sorting. If you start reading texts or watching shows in a language, you will learn new things both 1. in context, and 2. by looking them up — but please, do not look up every single new word you come across: IT IS IMPRACTICAL.

5. Speak aloud.

Get used to interviewing yourself in the bathroom mirror. Or in the shower. Or the car. Just make sure you get used to talking in the language. If you know someone else that speaks the language, ask them if they’d be willing to help you practice your conversational skills. If not, you could always look for a local tutor, or an online tutor at a valid language learning website.

If you have any questions about any of the points above or have any specific questions about how you should learn a foreign language in your current situation, feel free to leave a response and I’ll be sure to get back to you.




Dr. Kelly D. Brownell at Yale Rudd Center

Mari Gallagher on Food Deserts

NCCDPHP via CDC on Food Deserts

USDA on Food Deserts


HBO: The Weight of the Nation

UCTVPrime Playlist – The Skinny on Obesity, 7 part series

Binge Eating Disorder:


Income Inequality:

Violence & Socioeconomic Status:

We’ve been discussing stereotypes and prejudice over the past few weeks. We asked ourselves why Americans might think a German is being rude and what kinds of stereotypes Germans have against Americans. Today we’ll continue by focusing upon the latter, specifically by informing ourselves about the obesity epidemic in America.

Why, you ask?

Because although reportedly two-thirds of the adult population in America is overweight, it are preconceived notions such as Americans are fat because they are lazy or because they eat McDonalds every day that both support American stereotypes and create stigma towards obese persons. The obesity epidemic in America, however, is a fairly complex situation. By making more information on the subject available to non-American audiences, we can help to reduce the spread of American stereotypes worldwide.   

The aim of this video is to provide a comprehensive, yet concise overview of the contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in the US. Due to the complexity of the subject matter and taking into account the intended audience (non-American, German-speakers), this Video does not explore the role that public schools, the fast food and farming industries, American food politics and other societal/economic factors play in the obesity epidemic.

So why are Americans so fat?

To quote Kelly D. Brownell, Phd., expert on obesity and Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “Bad food is cheap, heavily promoted, and engineered to taste good. Healthy food is hard to get, not promoted, and expensive.”

Bad food is cheap. Healthy food is hard to get?

One first has to come to terms with the idea that in America, the land of opportunity, food could be difficult to come by.

In America there’s what’s known as “Food Deserts” (“Esswüsten” in German).

“Food deserts,” according to information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website

Americans living in food deserts can still buy food; however, the food availably is high in calories and low in nutritional value, particularly prepackaged and fast food. In such areas the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese is elevated.

It is also important to not forget two important things when it comes to prepackaged and fast food: you get the most for your buck. Portion sizes have increased over time and people have incentive to buy such inexpensive, high-cal, nutrient-poor foods as chips and soda. Healthy food, fresh meat, and organic products can be quite expensive.

It’s no surprise that the prevalence of obesity is much higher in low-income households than  high-income ones. Remember, wealth gap in the US can be quite extreme, a topic that I cannot go into in this video for sake of time.

You may ask why Americans who cannot easily access healthy food due to food deserts or socioeconomic status simply don’t exercise more to prevent themselves from gaining weight. The thing is: not all areas are safe for children to simply go outside and play. With crime rates quite high in the US, the vandalized park down the street may not be a family-friendly place to take a walk, and gym isn’t always mandatory on school rosters.

There has also been a fight against the American glorification of thinness and it is encouraged that people always feel comfortable with their appearance. For more than 40 years there has also been a Fat Acceptance Movement, a movement that occasionally found controversial, the aim of which is to reduce the stereotypes and stigma surrounding obesity.

It should also not be forgotten that Bing Eating Disorder (BED) is the most prevalent eating disorder in the US, and the two-thirds of sufferers are obese, while not all obese persons suffer from the disorder. In addition, some obese individuals may suffer from an underlying condition that affects weight.

More detailed information is available here:

If you have a serious question about prejudice or stereotypes, be courageous and ask. I will gladly concern myself with controversial topics, act as mitigator, and lead an open, academically-minded discussion on the topic.

Quotation Sources:

Newman, Cathy. “Why Are We So Fat?” Republished from the pages of National Geogaphic magazine to under the subheading ‘Health and Human Body’.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). “A Look Inside Food Deserts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website under CDC Features.