Category Archives: Go!

Life is a little crazy at the moment. I’m not sure what all you’ve heard in terms of our chapulling and fighting for change over here, but it’s kind of a big deal for those of us who call Turkey home. I don’t really want to spend time speculating and analyzing what is going on. There is more than enough of that on the internet, but if you’re interested in a few of my thoughts, and how the protests have been affecting me, check out my post here. And do please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

New Beginnings: Language!!

You should have known that this would come up, right? I mean, I am an Applied Linguistics student who is teaching a language, working hard to master a language, and overall, I think that there are major benefits for EVERYONE to learn a language (psychologically, culturally, socially . . .) But, this post isn’t from me. I did an interview with my friend Aaron over at the Everyday Language Learner. (By the way, his last post was really great, especially for any of you out there working on language number 3 or more!!) Aaron is now living in the States, but had been in Turkey for the last several years, so we’ve been able to connect over a shared love of Turkish and languages in general. If you are working on studying a language, I highly recommend checking out Aaron’s website and resources.

But now, onto the interview!! (And hopefully this will inspire any of you monolinguals out there to get working on a language!!)


1. How many languages have you studied?

I studied German for a year in university but it was futile.  I learned very little because at the time I put forth little effort.  Four months after graduating from university though, I took a trip to Mexico with some friends.  We decided to move to Tijuana in order to work with the urban poor alongside a church there.  That started my journey into Spanish.  I am largely self taught though I did take one week long course about seven years into learning Spanish.  I am now trying to resurrect my Spanish.  It went into hibernation when my family and I moved to Turkey and I began learning Turkish.  So German, Spanish and Turkish.  I speak Turkish the best.

2. What has been your motivation for learning the languages that you have studied?

My main motivation has always been the fact that I was moving to the country where the language is spoken.  I had to learn Spanish and Turkish.  That is perhaps the main reason that German didn’t work out – I needed to graduate but had no plans to use it.

3. What is your favorite thing about learning a language?

Getting to know people in their language is my favorite thing.  Most of the relationships I have with Turks are ones that would not exist if I had not learned Turkish.  So for me, it’s all about the relationships.  Of course language are fascinating in and of themselves and I love that there are words in Spanish and Turkish that express ideas in ways that just can’t be expressed in English.

4. Would you advise people who are living in their native country to learn a second language, even if they might not use it much? Why or why not?

Absolutely.  There are countless reasons to learn another language and vast opportunities to use a language.  We live in a super connected world where borders are becoming more and more meaningless. People are moving around like never before and learning another person’s heart language is perhaps one of the greatest acts of kindness anyone could do.  I suppose I write that mostly to monolinguals in North America.

5. What do you think is the most important thing to do at the on-start of learning a second language?

Find or create a reason to learn the language.  Everyone I know thinks learning another language is a good idea, but unless there is a specific, tactile, present reason for learning it, most of us will quit.  Nobody works hard for a “good idea”.  It’s an abstraction.  You need to understand why you want and need to learn the language.  If the desired outcome is clear, the rest will fall into place.

 6. What are your three favorite resources to help in language learning?

The Internet has completely changed the playing field for language learners.  Ten years ago you needed a teacher to learn another language if only because the teacher could provide you with resources.  But with the Internet, nearly every language on the face of the earth is available to learn.  So the first resource is the Internet and sites like LivemochaLingQ,DuolingoRhinospike and Lang-8.

The second resource I love are what I call password phrases.  These are phrases that you get translated into your target language that allow you to investigate the language, to ask questions, to become an independent language learner out in the community of native speakers.  You can read my post about these here.

Another favorite resource is the use of handcrafted audio.  The basic idea is that the learner write regularly – stories, journals, retellings of events.  With a native speaker, the learner then gets all of his or her writing corrected to make sure it is all grammatically correct and makes sense.  Then the native speaker would read the writing while the learner records it for later listening.  When I create handcrafted audio, I try to pack in all the new words, expressions and grammar forms I am learning.  By writing and recording several of these every week, a learner can begin to build up a library of listening material that has samples of everything that he or she has learned.  It’s a great resource for increasing both depth and breadth of learning.

7. Do you think that anyone can learn a language? What characteristics or disciplines do people need to develop in order to successfully learn a language?

Everyone can learn another language.  Two thirds of the world are multilingual – if everyone else is doing it, it is because it is a natural, God-given ability.  No excuses about “not being good at learning languages” allowed.  The main characteristic needed is perseverance – you just have to stick with it.

8. What encouragement or advice do you have for people who have gotten down the basics, but feel stuck at making further progress in their language journey?

Increase your level of need.  Everyone learns a language to just above the level they actually need to survive.  In order to move forward, you need to increase the need.  Put yourself in new situations.  Sign up to give a speech.  Sign up for a class at the local university.  Wanting to get better is rarely enough.  Put yourself in situations that require you to improve.

9. What are your future language learning goals?

Right now I am working to resurrect my Spanish.  I’ve been solely in Turkish for the last five years.  Spanish is in there – I still understand a lot – but whenever I try to speak, Turkish comes out.  So I am trying some things to see what it takes to get my conversational Spanish back to where it was and at the same time, I continue to work on my Turkish.

10. What are three small steps that people can take this year towards their language learning goals?

First I like to encourage everyone to create a list of five to ten time sensitive, convenient activities that they can do in five minutes or less to engage with the language.  Everyone is busy so you need to manipulate the system in your favor and take advantage of the small chunks of time that present themselves throughout your day.

Second would be to begin to build a learning environment that works in your favor.  If you drive to work everyday, let the only CD’s in your car be of music or books or podcasts in the target language.  Surround yourself with the language so that it’s easy for you to get into it.

Finally, I’d say make a plan.  A goal without a plan is just wishful thinking.  Make a plan to learn the language.  Think daily, weekly and monthly.


Aaron, thanks so much for your thoughts and ideas!! This post has been encouraging for me, personally, and I hope it is encouraging to others out there. Again, if you are hoping to start working on learning a language, you have to check out Aaron’s resources at You won’t be disappointed!

Kolay gelsin!

Buena suerte!

Καλὴ τύχη!

New Beginnings: Chasing Dreams! (and a Giveaway!!)

One thing that always seems to come up at New Year’s, at least for me is re-evaluating my dreams and having them reignited. I decided to interview Peter Hollens, who is a pop singer, songwriter, and producer. Peter’s specialty is A Cappella music, which if you have read this blog for long, you will have noticed that I am a big fan of! Peter’s music is always extremely well done and uses only the human voice. He currently has two cover CDs available for sale in his online store. I decided to ask Peter a few questions about how he has pursued his dreams and what advice he might have for others hoping to do the same. Read to the end to get the chance to win one of Peter’s CDs!

1. When did you first know you wanted to pursue singing? 

Probably back in High School when I first began singing and realized that it was helping me find my confidence and passion for life.  I really never felt alive until I started singing.

2. What kinds of musical activities were you involved in before you launched your own music career? 

Well from present to past . . . My wife and I sang for over four years as featured singers with Royal Caribbean in the production shows. Before that, I started my own business recording a cappella groups around the nation. I started a group from the University of Oregon with my friend Leo, called “On the Rocks” and  was lucky enough to sing on national television with them numerous times as their soloist on NBC’s “The Sing Off”

3. I first encountered your music when you sang on The Sing-Off with On the Rocks. What did you think about that experience, and how did it influence your career? 

It really helped push me to make my own music after so many loving fans requested more music from me!  I had never thought about doing my own music, or that people would be that interested in watching, listening and buying my music!

Sidenote: I just released physical CDs for the first time, and they ship internationally!

You can also by  single or album downloads through iTunes or my distributor (but I’d recommend going through my distributor, as iTunes takes a huge chunk of the money!)

4. What inspired you to pursue A Cappella music specifically? 

A Cappella Music has always moved me more than any other genre of music.  It’s unique, it’s raw and you can’t fake it.  It’s also such a great art to foster right now as the budgets in our school systems are being drained since it costs very little money for a school to support an a cappella group. Most of the time they can be self run, and require no instruments!

5. What were the best and worst things about launching your music career? 

Best things:  I get to inspire others and make others happy for a living.   I get to do what I love and share my gift with the world.  I could never think of anything else I would ever want to do.  I am so blessed.

Worst: Probably just not knowing if I can sustain my growth enough to continue making music for a living.

6. Where do you get your inspiration for which songs you choose to cover and also the music videos that you create? 

I think it’s all part of the process. It’s very hard to get away from the cover song top 40 routine, which many youtube musicians get forced to follow to find exposure and to pay the bills.   Sometimes I just hear a song and know that I adore it and want to cover it.  Other times, my supporters (which I call the #Hollensfamily – because I see them so much more as my family than my fans) recommend songs for me to do, and I LOVE making them happy and doing recommendations!

7. What is your favorite song that you have covered so far? 

Favorite songs:  Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Shenandoah, I Won’t Give Up, Skyrim, Misty Mountains — I adore songs that allow me to just flat out sing, and not copy another artist’s version.   Sometimes members of my creative team give me awesome ideas and suggestions as well.

8. What advice do you have for singers out there who have the dream of pursuing a music career? 

Just follow your heart, be yourself, and try to be unique.   Know that if you truly want to do this you will have to work your butt off to accomplish your goals.   Never stop singing – it’s so good for your soul, and it makes you happy.  Whatever you do, never ever stop.

9. What advice do you have in general for anyone pursuing their dreams, whether music-related or not? What characteristics do you think are important to be successful? 

First I would say just start…. whatever you want to do, stop talking about it, and thinking about doing it, but try it.  Start the process.  The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out, but never trying is just a travesty.  Never ever look back and say “I wish I had tried that”  DO IT!

As far as characteristics, you need to have passion, and drive, and set goals for yourself that are attainable … and keep on setting new ones when you reach your goals.  I could talk about this forever…  🙂


Thanks so much, Peter, for answering my questions! It was fun to get to know you a little more, and to hear your ideas about chasing dreams!! If you’d like to connect with Peter, you can find him on youtubetwitter,  and facebook!

Also, today I am going to be doing a giveaway of Peter’s first cover CD!! Here’s the deal. To enter, you have to leave a comment on this post telling me what dream you’re chasing this year. The contest will only be valid after 20 people have entered. You can only leave one comment, but you can earn extra chances by tweeting about the contest once a day, just click the link below to gather your entry points! The contest will close on January 31, 2013. Good luck!!

Rafflecopter Giveaway!!

New Beginnings: Resolute Resources

Perhaps one of your resolutions this year was to spend less time on technology, which in my opinion isn’t a bad a resolution! But, at the same time, I think that there are some technological resources available to help you achieve more of your goals this year. I want to share just a few that I have been either looking at or using recently.

1. Exercise

My favorite resource for staying fit so far in 2013 is POP Pilates on Youtube (for girls!). What I really like about this is that there is a wide range of videos that are simple, upbeat, a good workout, and of different lengths. I did complete a month of Insanity earlier this year (which consisted of about 40 minute workouts), and I had stopped that because I simply did not have the time. So, I figured that if I wanted to do something sustainable, I needed to start short. The Pilates videos range from 10-30 minutes, and they do not require any equipment. So, if you are looking for something to get into to help build a habit of working out, I really suggest checking out this channel!!

2. Faith

I had really wanted to find a way to motivate myself to read my Bible more in 2013, and I have really been loving this app from iTunes. Faithlife allows you to connect with other people and follow a Bible Reading plan together (you can choose from several available reading plans.) The app shows you where to read each day and marks when you have finished. You can also add notes and share them with your community group. On top of all of that, there are a lot of in-app resources like pictures, videos, free books, etc.

3. Language

This app is awesome!! Duolingo is one of the best language learning apps I have ever seen. I have really enjoyed it so far for refreshing my Spanish, but I am hoping to start French very soon as well.

4. Social Networking

Maybe this isn’t a goal for you, but I know for myself, I want to get better at keeping up with blogs and twitter for professional development purposes as well as for work on my own blog. So, the app that I have been really enjoying for this purpose is Flipboard. Flipboard takes the blogs, tweeters, RSS feeds, and Youtube channels you follow (as well as other popular or trending topics) and puts them into a beautifully designed layout that is really easy to read quickly and gives you easy access to the original articles as well. If you have an iPad, I especially recommend it as the iPad app is really nicely laid out and useful.

5. Goal-setting

This final resource I wanted to share was one that I stole from my friend over at the Everyday Language Learner. I have actually just signed up tonight, so I can’t give an in depth review yet, but it looks like a pretty cool program. The program is called AskMeEvery. Basically, you sign up for an account, and then you enter questions that you would like to be asked every day. They can be yes or no questions, but they can also be numerical questions. For example, I have entered these questions:

  1. How many pages did you read in Turkish today? 
  2. Did you do pilates?
  3. Did you read your Bible?

You set the time, and every day at that time, the program will send an email asking you those questions. You simply reply to the email, and the program can keep track of your statistics and chart them out over time. I will have to see how the program works out for me, but it sounds like a great idea!

What resources are you using to help yourself achieve your goals this year? I’d love your suggestions!! Leave them in the comments below!

It’s all about Him

My heart is heavy today for friends that just sent their baby boy back to God. Their latest note included the last verse to this song and it took me back to the time when I was facing this situation with my family and my 8 day old niece also passed on to glory. And it hurts. But even when it hurts, it’s about Jesus, and about the fact that one day He is going to make it all better. He is the great perfecter. This is the great, driving storyline of the world. Jesus makes and will make it better. And that’s why it’s all about Him.

TOMS Revamped

So, I haven’t actually gotten a pair of TOMS yet. I’ve been slow to get on the bandwagon. I love the idea behind the company, but I’m not totally sold on the style yet. I have some sisters and sisters-in-law and some students who love them and can wear them and make them look really cute, but I’m still a little skeptical. BUT, last night, I came across this etsy store and thought to myself, “I would wear those.” Now, I am not really going to any time in the near future, because they are a *little* more expensive than TOMS and that was one thing holding me back in the first place. But, I wanted to share them anyway. I love the idea of carrying scripture and lyrics around with me on my feet. Not only is it a conversation starter, but it’s also a good reminder for myself of things that I need to keep close to heart and mind throughout the day. (On a side note: you can have your shoes customized, so you could choose any lyrics or verses to have written on them.)

Let me know in the comments below what you think, which your favorite are, and what you’d have written on yours!!


“The Danger of a Single Story”

None of us is composed of a single facet. We are a woven web of intricate pieces of character, experience, love, loss, ambition, and more. None of us can be explained in a facebook status, or a tweet, or a blog “About Me” page. Husband and wife spend their lives trying to learn about the person they have committed themselves to, so what makes us think that in a single meeting we can learn the vastness of a person’s being?

This is true not only for people, as individuals, but for communities and cultures as well. We limit ourselves when we only open ourselves to one side of a story. We need a bigger picture. You’ve heard a story from a man who visited the Middle East, but you do not yet know the Middle East. As Chimamanda Adichie shares in her talk, when we only know one story, we rob people of their dignity.

The point? Never stop searching for stories. You aren’t an expert until you’ve heard them all . . .