Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 22nd, 2013

You can learn a new language at any age? And acquire this new soul, a rebirth…?

Beyond the soul, languages are good for the mind, too.

2011 article published on showed that learning a new language can protect our brains from developing Alzheimer’s disease, improve cognitive skills, and keep our minds sharp.


Busted! Five Myths About Learning New Languages Debunked

The good news: Thanks to the latest mobile technologies, language barriers are starting to fall.

Google Translate’s Phrasebook, for example—a highly-recommended application by Verizon—facilitates communication and helps people learn and remember useful foreign phrases.

The bad news: Despite the neural benefits of learning a foreign language and the many advances in language learning technologies, most people still struggle to learn languages, held back by the myths like “only children can learn a foreign language well”.

Photo courtesy of Ivana Vasilj via Flickr Creative Commons

In this article, we’ll bust the age myth, along with 4 other frequent offenders.

Myth 1: “I’m too old to learn a new language.”

People usually think that kids have more flexible brains, which can soak up more information than adults. This is a myth.

According to many studies, adults can actually learn new languages more efficiently than children. Thanks to the adult’s mature learning system, they can understand complex grammar structures and memorize new vocabulary far more quickly. It’s never too late to learn something that can help enhance your life. (I think that Kids are more efficient in soaking up verbal languages)

Myth 2: “Mistakes don’t matter.”

Committing mistakes is a natural, unavoidable part of the learning process.  You will usually still be understood even with grammatical mistakes if your pronunciation is good and there is a clear context. And even if they don’t understand you, they will appreciate your effort.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to correct your mistakes.

One of the best ways to decrease number of mistakes is to record yourself talking about a particular topic or event, and then have a native speaker transcribe what you said, highlighting mistakes in your grammar, vocabulary usage, and pronunciation.

Myth 3: “I’m not a fast learner.”

Everyone has their own set of learning curves, and it’s true: learning a new language can be “challenging”, though not necessarily “difficult” if done correctly.

In the past, teachers used older methodologies that made adult students more anxious and less motivated to learn new things. But thanks to modern teaching techniques, anybody can learn a significant amount of functional language in a few weeks or months.

One such technique is mastering a small set of basic phrases first. For example:

“I’m sorry.”

“Excuse me.”

“Do you speak English?”

“Where is the bathroom/toilet?”

“I understand. / I don’t understand.”

These examples represent many of the top 100 words, which are frequently used in everyday conversations.

Myth 4: “You will learn a language automatically by living abroad.”

While immersion is an essential part of learning a foreign language, the fact is that living in another country alone won’t automatically turn you into a fluent speaker.

Some immigrants to the Unites States, for example, have learned that just living in an English speaking country isn’t enough to transform them into fluent English speakers. Without concerted effort, living in a foreign country will likely only lead to mastery of very basic phrases you need to survive, broken sentences, and bad grammar.

On the other hand, with enough effort, you can immerse yourself in language right here in your home country. If you’re learning Japanese, for example, look for a native speaker in your own area who can really teach you.

Watch foreign movies or television programs to practice your listening skills. Practice speaking and writing until you reach conversational fluency, and then go abroad to polish your skills and aim for native-like fluency.

Myth 5: “English is the language of the world. Learning a new one isn’t important.”

Only 5% of the world population speaks English, while 95% speak another language.

Learning another foreign language, aside from English, is recommended and it can be a fulfilling experience. It helps you understand different cultures, keeps your mind engaged, and you become an asset to your workplace.

As the world becomes more digitally connected, we become more exposed to different languages. From the comfort of your own home, you can easily learn a new language through the Internet, television, and even books. In the end, you’ll gain more and be able to connect with other cultures.

Miriam. Soul mate buddy. Harvested too early…

October 22, 2013

I am calling her Miriam: Her real name starts with M.

I was kind of surprised that it was the son of Miriam who emailed me and asked me to write what I can recollect of his mother.

I didn’t insist to try to find out the reasons behind this request: After all, I did write my autobiography, and that’s a good enough reason to begin an investigation on the dear departed.

I wrote a short paragraph on Miriam in my autobiography and declined to develop any further on my close relationship with my cousin Miriam.

All that I mentioned is how I knew about her trespassing, so sudden and so untimely.

I was at the other end of the world, in Norman, Oklahoma when Miriam died in 1976. Nobody called me up or even sent me a letter to inform me of that tragedy: I guess they imagined that I will be too affected, living alone and far away, and resuming higher education….

My cousin Nassif, younger brother of Miriam, invited me to visit him at Columbus University (Ohio) at Christmas time and I did oblige.

Entering Nassif’s apartment, I saw Miriam picture in a frame at the entrance. I was kind of taken aback: Why only Miriam picture when they are six brothers and sisters in the family?

As far as I recall Miriam was the one taking care of the house, maintenance, cleaning, ironing, and even maybe cooking. And yet, I was under the impression no one really noticed her or appreciated her good work and dedication. They took her dedication for granted.

Nassif quickly filled me in: “She died 6 months ago. A complication in the renal or bladder system or something… Water flooded her lungs before the doctors realized the seriousness of her conditions…”

I didn’t cry at all. I kept my silence and refused to ask any questions. I left the matter to Nassif to develop and talk about Miriam, if he wished to. Nassif didn’t expound on the matter and we resumed the night as usual.

When I left to the USA, knowing no one, and not even knowing where Oklahoma is on the map, and it being my first trip out of my country… Miriam was married with two kid boys.

Miriam is a year younger than me. A guy from the town came from Africa wanting to marry. from his hometown.  Sessine paid frequent visits to my aunt’s house: Sessine is a relative of the family from the father side.

Rumors spread that Sessine intends on asking Miriam’s hand. This was normal, since Miriam was the elder female, since the eldest female became a nun.

Wrong! Sessine shifted his attention to the youngest sister, barely 14 and still playing basketball with the kids. People were shocked of this turn of events, but Sessine married the kid girl against her free will. I am not sure if Miriam felt sorry for herself or for Samira.

A couple of months later, Miriam was wed to the guy next door. Joseph was at least a decade older.

Miriam didn’t even move across the street: She just descended a few steps down her new home, facing her turbulent and insufferable grandmother, (the father side), “sit al ekhweh” (the lady of the brothers), living in the basement.

I was surprised at this sudden decision of the family to marry Miriam, this beautiful and full of energy girl, a girl who filled the room when she entered and started dancing and singing and participating with the merriment…

Miriam was not a happy girl by any standard, but she knew how to make people around feel cheerful and contended. And she was the hardest working in the house, and totally unappreciated for her hard work and dedication to the family.

Miriam was kind of taken for granted and neglected by the other members of the family who pursued their idiosyncratic purposes.

I wish I had any overwhelming daydream project. I was the clueless type of his surrounding relationships. I didn’t consciously observe, investigate, asked to know what was going on.

I wish I was the caring kind of person, with all the side effects attached to caring…

I doubt that Miriam received any allowances for maintaining the house.

I didn’t receive allowances too, though my parents were well off: I was too proud to asking for money. I made whatever money I got at Christmas time and Palm Sunday to spread the entire year.

I am coming to term that only kids who receive lavish stipends to entertain up-to-date lifestyles are the one who learn to stomp and demand more money.

I never heard Miriam complaining. Except once, when she was married and feeling tired and exhausted and exclaiming “Why my lot was to stay that close to home?”

Miriam would have done herself the best of services if she had stomped her feet  at least once before getting wed and made sure to the family that she is a woman of her own mind.

Miriam was my best female cousin buddy.

When on trips, I was very bashful and refused to invite any girl to dance. When Miriam was in the company, dancing was no longer a problem: She would whisk me to the dancing floor and we dance cha cha cha or whatever.

Miriam is the one who tried her best to teach me all kinds of dances, but I ended up dancing my own awkward ways.

I guess that I improved overseas, and danced cha cha cha on the rhythm of any music, even on slow music…

When I was 20, I used to pay Miriam frequent visits. Most of the time she was with her best girlfriend Elham, sitting in the living room, kind of dark at sundown.

Elham was a shy person and Miriam would whisper in her ears and they would laugh together, sort of complotting at my expense.

On second thought, I feel that Miriam might have tacitly used Elham to play the chaperon in my presence.

I remember that it was Miriam who lent me books to read, about sexual biology and romantic novels.

Miriam could have married anyone she wished: lack of opportunities and being stuck down there in the hole of this loftiest of towns.

Decades later, I got into thinking about this quick arranged marriage of Miriam.

I am under the strong suspicion that the family thought that Miriam had an eye on me and wanted to marry me.

From my side, marriage, falling in love, confidences and all these stories were miles away from my mind. Maybe it was different from Miriam side. Most probably Miriam might have opened up to her mother, and my aunt got suspicious and hurried the entire affairs.

When I was overseas, my many aunts would suggest I marry one of their girls, and I would refuse adamantly.

I refused so many times that my latest letter was not delivered to destination. Miriam’s mother, who was now living in Paris and fleeing the civil war, and who forwarded my letters with people going back to Lebanon, read my letter and decided that it was best not to transfer it to my parents.

If Miriam didn’t marry that young, we would have attended university together.

We would have walked all over Beirut together, watched theater and movies, and maybe shared in a few demonstrations and marches. Together, Beirut would have looked much more interesting and social and fun.

We could have arranged to live in any country, fleeing the civil war, any country that she liked, continuing our education.

Life would have never been boring, lonely, sad, oppressing… I would have had the best buddy around to fill any room she entered…

Miriam is Mireille.

I would have been a happier guy if she were around. My life would have been different if she were around.

Note 1: My younger sister told me that Miriam was like her older sister and she constantly totally confided in her and accepted to join her invitations to parties…

My sister said that she noticed the neighbor Joseph ogling Miriam while she was sweeping the balcony and she told her that Joseph looked in love. Six months later, Miriam and Joseph were engaged.

The Christmas of Miriam passing away, my sister hand-designed the ornaments of the Xmas tree. Samir, the elder son of Miriam, claims that the evening was vivid in his mind and that he saved the ornaments.

Miriam was pregnant with a third child, and it was a difficult pregnancy. A week before passing away, Miriam was busy shopping in order to attend the wedding of a relative Khalil. Not many attended the wedding: People were grieving Miriam.

Note 2: I don’t even recall where the wedding ceremony took place. My younger sister was 11 of age then and told me that the ceremony was in the Bishopry (Motraniyat)  in Antelias, but she has no idea  where the celebration was held.

Note 3: I feel ashamed that I was so inconscient those days and even don’t recall if I knew before hand of the fiancaille of Mireille. Though right now, I feel as angry as a wasp against all the aunts and elder brother and sister for this hurried wedding. They should have been steadfast against Mireille marriage, until at least she tried one year at university and tried to fly a little on her own.

Note 4: The son of Miriam, now settled in Australia, never replied to my article.





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