Study Abroad Experiences: Dr. Tamara Walker

Study abroad experiences

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Welcome to the 5-Week Linguist Show. Last summer was strange. The world is in such a just unprecedented times or rather unprecedented for what we’re used to. Summertime for me is a time for me to make my life during the school year a lot easier. So I spend a lot of time making projects and lessons because I really believe in work-life balance. I get to work at home and make materials and projects and activities for my students in school and outside of school.

My students who use my materials to learn or teach languages in pajamas and leggings and sweatpants with a cup of coffee on my Mac, because I really believe in leaving school at appropriate times. I think teachers work really hard. If anyone’s ever worked in a school, you’ll know that. So that’s one thing that summertime is for me, it’s to enjoy the really creative part of making activities and being an author. And it’s also time for me to be a learner and I love to travel.

I love to go abroad and study languages, but I spent the summer at home like so many of us did because it’s just how things are right now in the world. But I had a chance to connect with some amazing people. And someone who really stands out in my mind is this woman, Dr. Tamara Walker. She is so smart. She’s a history professor. She works in Toronto and she’s from the United States. And study abroad really changed her life.

And I had an opportunity to guest on this massively intelligent teacher and professor and author. She’d been published in The Guardian. She’s got books coming out with Crown. I had a chance to be on her podcast, Why We Wander, and she’s been generous enough to allow me to share it with you here today. So I hope you enjoy, and I’d really like to thank Dr. Walker for sharing her work with us. Thank you so much. And thank you for listening.

So Janina, thanks for joining me this afternoon.

Thank you so much for having me.

So I wanted to start just by asking you about how you got to where you are right now. You are from the US, but you currently live in Cambridge in England. So how did that happen?

Well, I had a very unusual childhood and the two sides of my family are very different from one another. And so some of it was from necessity. I’m originally from the Washington D.C. area. My father at that time was a professor at the Naval Academy and we moved to New Mexico for his work. He’s an aeronautical engineer and my parents got divorced when I was young and my mother moved to Boston. But we’ve traveled very regularly between these places. And so I saw a lot of the US. I have family in Venezuela. I have family in San Francisco.

And interestingly, those an aunt and an uncle who did amazing things with languages, they’re people I love, but they also did something very interesting with their passion for languages. And it just really resonated with me. It was just interesting travel and being able to talk to people and you can’t live in New Mexico without learning. You’re going to learn some Spanish. You’re going to learn some Spanish. And where we lived outside of Boston is very French Canadian as well.

So I studied French and Spanish all throughout high school. And I got to tell you, my father is very practical minded, PhD, engineer. And he’s like, I don’t know. He’s like, “I love languages too, but I don’t know what you’re going to do with that. You’re going to have to figure something out.” And I didn’t know what that was, but I ended up, of course, studying languages all through high school.

And I do a lot acting and writing as well. So I majored in theater arts drama and in foreign languages. So I studied abroad in Madrid. And after I graduated, I started teaching Spanish. I did a masters in Spain, as I told you in Madrid over the summers and in teaching. So I could be really professionalized what I was doing. And I got an opportunity to work in Seoul, Korea for three years at a university, teaching English.

And I had this sort of crossroads place where I love school and research and travel and talking. And so I decided to go with the opportunity that I knew was going to allow me to do some of that, which was working for an organization that has schools, international opportunities. And oddly enough, I ended up here in Cambridge, England, which is not a great language place for an English speaker, as you can well imagine.

But my sister, who is my very best friend also works for the same organization and she lives about an hour away. So, I get to teach languages here. And I usually go and study in the summer. I’ve studied in Paris, I’ve studied in Madrid, I’ve studied in Barcelona. I was supposed to go to Italy this summer. I’ve been working on my Italian. So it just suits me really well. And I have to say the whole … I really believe in the whole teacher filling your cup sort of thing.

You can’t just give and give and give and giving gifts. So when I go and I continue to study languages, even if it’s not Spanish, because I teach mostly Spanish. I also teach English, but mostly Spanish. Having the lens of a learner at these different levels gives me the ideas that would be interesting to students. It kind of keeps me being able to see things through their lens. So yes, I think I’ve rambled. That’s a bit more than you want to know. But yes-

No, it gives me lots of follow up questions. One just having to do with that experience in Madrid, when you studied abroad in college. Can you take me back to that and tell me what made you decide to go to Madrid of all the Spanish speaking places that you could’ve gone to and to a Spanish speaking place, considering that you had also studied French in high school?

Yes. To be honest with you, Spanish was … I had two main reasons to really because I studied in Madrid actually several times, if I’m honest. Sometime with this master’s degree, but before then, and then just, I picked Madrid. I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that’s where my father worked for many years and I got my undergraduate degree about 10 miles from the Mexican border.

And so I kind of felt like I didn’t have extensive travel opportunities in Mexico, but I wanted to go somewhere that was different. Someplace that was really different. And I’m definitely a townie. I go into London when I can. I love Paris. I love Rome. I love Tokyo. I love it. I love all the people and the cultural activities. So to me, Madrid was sort of like, okay, this is great. And then my experience there, I discovered that Madrid has everything from all over Spain.

So one thing that people, I don’t think necessarily is sort of common knowledge about Spain is how diverse the cultures are within. They have the different regions and they have the regions of Spain that are bilingual. It’s not dialect of Spanish, they are different languages. And it’s your duty to know Spanish and the cultural diversity. So like Galicia, for example, they’re Celtic people, they have the bagpipes and then they speak … and it rains and it’s green and it’s sort of like here, and you get all of that in Madrid.

So you can study and you can do your thing in Madrid and Madrid is small and very manageable. You can walk all around Madrid. I know Madrid pretty well and you can get easily around the city center and then every single weekend you can be in Toledo, you can be in Segovia, you can see the Roman aqueducts, you can see the Salamanca and the universities, all of this just cultural, like, ooh, that I just … and I’ll be very honest. I’d love Mexico, but a lot of my experiences in Mexico, I know I’m biased with being so near the border for so long that I didn’t get to the really beautiful stuff.

You know what I mean? I just didn’t get that experience. And then I got into this program and then I’ve made friends and knew of good places to study to go back to that I knew were just reliable. Boom, I can go to Madrid for the summer and have a great summer, and it’s just a two hour flight from here. So it’s easy. So it’s convenience now really more than anything, but I definitely fell in love with Madrid.

Yeah. And did you stay with the host family while you were there?

You know what, I’ve done that and I’ve loved it, but definitely at this point in my life, that is not something I’m really too interested in doing. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but you could do Airbnb now, and you can kind of be in charge of your own life. But one thing I thought was really great. My host family in Spain. So I loved how in Madrid and a lot of the neighborhoods in Madrid they live in these sort of big apartments that this all sort of on one floor.

But what I found really interesting was from the perspective of being American, when I was young, it seemed like there were so much, I don’t know if this is my family or culture, or just a society or a combination of both, but to grow up, to be independent and I’m going to go out and I’m going to do A, B, C, D, and F. And at first I thought these people who are 30 and 31 living with their parents, I thought this is the weirdest thing. And then I’m like, they’ve got it. They love their parents and their parents love having them.

And this is a totally acceptable part of culture that why would you move out? You’ve got this … like it’s a loving family and everybody’s happy and you’re living together. You’re saving money for when you might need to move away for a job, which that brings me to some other interesting experiences of people that I met in Spain with that cultural side of it. People with doctoral degrees in aeronautical engineering, who the whole world wants them to come work for them and they’re not leaving Seville. Because they love their family and it’s just like-

Yeah. They’re like the central of their universe.

Yeah. And I get it like but anyway, so it’s really different. So yeah.

I want to talk more about language learning because you obviously have made a career out of that in more ways than one. So can you tell me more about how it was that you came to teach foreign languages and to write about foreign languages? And maybe you can talk about the book that you’ve written in or thinking to write about this stuff.

Thank you. Yeah. So teaching foreign languages, to be honest with you, it was something I could do. I was a qualified Spanish, I could speak Spanish and I could speak some French. So if I’m completely honest, I didn’t go to school. I didn’t have a teaching degree. I didn’t have the ed background and I felt a little bit guilty. I got kind of recruited by this private school.

And they were like, “We want you to come teach here and we will help pay for you to get your credential,” which is exactly what I did. So even though it was a private school, they got some funding from the State. So they said, “We definitely want you to finish this certificate.” And it was somebody who had gone on sabbatical. And just for me to work there for one year, they were happy to invest. And that was a perfect time period for me, because I thought, what if I like this?

I can do anything for a year and I’ll walk away with a credential and that sort of … but I’ve been doing it ever since. So I’ve never stopped. I’ve never not had a year where I didn’t go to school and teach languages. And then I really wanted to professionalize. I really wanted to be that non-native speaker who can answer any question. That was because not for any ego reasons, I think, it’s really, really just practical.

Like I just want to be able to no problem. And then when I went through that process, because I wanted a specific credential that required you to have a super high level of Spanish that you had to do testing and certificates to get that you get through something called language testing international. So that I had to prove that I could speak as well as a native speaker. And so I went through that experience and I learned so much, I became a language proficiency raider.

I’ve done other languages. I’ve learned French. I speak some Japanese, I speak some Korean and my Italian sort of B1. And so I just feel like, the more I got into the … it was sort of like theory practice, theory practice, theory practice to where I felt so confident. I could present. I get asked to present, I get asked to speak. And as I told you many years ago, I started doing … I would do a five week intense period of time studying languages, partially for the reasons I was telling you to just soak it up.

Like, I want to go to Madrid. I want to walk around. I want to go to the museums. I want to read books. I want to go to the movies. All my little things that I just want the stimulation I really wanted to do. And I also want to really improved my Spanish. And as technology has evolved and I’ve continued to do languages in those five weeks steins, it’s just become a part of my life.

I might walk for half an hour and listened to a lesson, or I do it on my commute or I’ve had some really amazing tides. I had a French partner for many years and he had a house, he has a house in France. And so I would get to do five weeks during the summer. We would go to his house outside of Lyon. And I didn’t go to language schools because I was around them all the time. And those kinds of experiences, and I went to Paris for five weeks. I had a house, my own Airbnb was my in the [foreign language 00:16:39] was like my home. And I went to language school.

So it’s really part of a lifestyle for me more than anything else. And I got writing about it. Yeah, I wrote a book proposal. I can show you how to master language in the next year in five week intervals. And I think my approach is a little bit different than the polyglots out there who are amazing. And a lot of them are my friends, but they’re pretty intense. They’re like, “All right, we’re going to start day one. And by day 90, you’re going to do …” which is great, but it’s not realistic for my schedule.

I want to drink coffee and read a trashy magazine in French, like the personality quizzes. Like I don’t want it to all be intense. I want to enjoy the journey. I want to read the celebrity gossip, like Hola in Spanish [crosstalk 00:17:33] that, exactly. And I don’t care what anyone thinks of it because I think it works. In fact, that’s research based. So Dr. Stephen Krashen, that’s how you learn language. Reading is probably the very best way to learn a language. Pleasure reading.

Okay. [crosstalk 00:17:55] the vocabulary acquisition that happens?

Well. Yeah. And all the grammar, it’s all in context. And so you pick things that you like, it’s obviously not a substitute. I’m not saying it’s a substitute for communicating with people in that piece. But let’s be honest. If you’re working full time, you’ve got a family, you live … how much time do you have to be having a conversation with somebody necessarily? You can read wherever. You can just pick, “Okay. I’ll do this for …” And you’ll soak all of that up.

And he did this study of hyper polyglots and there was one man, and he was Hungarian and he spoke maybe 11 languages. I can’t even remember, it’s something ridiculous. And it was all from doing his pleasure reading in different languages. So a lot of the work I do is all about kind of collecting all those fun and effective things that people can do and curating them and helping people out. And also you can try and help people give them the permission too to you can be really bad at a language and you still should speak and you still should consider yourself a speaker in the language.

There isn’t some point that all of a sudden you’ve achieved. It’s great to set goals and meet them and then surpass them. But have some treat, think about children, we would treat them with compassion while they’re learning. So you’ve got to have that with yourself too.

Yeah. That’s such a great point, especially because it kind of harks back to what I remember thinking, which is that being drunk was always like the best way to [crosstalk 00:19:42] language because it takes the inhibitions away. You’re not so worried about the mistakes that you make. And instead, you’re just going to kind of rattle off and try to communicate as well as possible. And I think that’s something that should be able to happen regardless of what you’re drinking.

That’s so funny. So, one of my uncles and he was one of the aunt and uncle they’re different sides of my family. He is the most tremendous person. And obviously I’m biased, but he’s Phillips Andover, two degrees from Harvard. And he’s the first person to tell you, he has no airs about him. He said, “You know what? Okay, I’m fairly intelligent, but I also, your grandparents, I was helped. People helped me get these opportunities and anybody could do it.

And I’m not any smarter than anybody else. I just had some really good opportunities.” And so, he found his way after some kind of upsetting things. I think I touched on it a little bit. He had been assigned to work for the New York City prosecutor’s office in Attica. And he was really kind of siding with … He had some really strong feelings, like this is not the type of work I want to be doing. I want to support these people and not … and it led him traveling around the world and he eventually did a lot of … got into his niche of intellectual law. And he’s an excellent writer.

And I’m telling you this because he’s high-level, lots of writing in Spanish and English. He holds licenses in Venezuela and in the United States, he’s retired now. And I remember asking him in my early 20s, how do I do this? How does my Spanish going to get as good as yours? And he said, “Listen, he goes, you have to just get a beer and go to a bar.” As Harvard educated guy, he’s like, he goes, “All the classes, that’s nice.”

And the whole takeaway of that, of course is just talk, this is not graded. Don’t worry about it. Just get talking to people.

Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s such a hard lesson to learn, but such an easy one to put in practice.

And it’s interesting too. So many people that, I’m curious of your perspective on this, but in the United States, anyway, in my experience, I think there’s an idea that languages are this really academic thing. And they try to compress everything into a little bit of time as possible. And they’re kind of setting up most people for a not greatly successful experience. And so I think that instead of getting an opportunity to have joy, obviously you’re not going to serve beer in a class.

But to have those opportunities for like you talked about your student who loved poetry or that type of stuff that it kind of cuts off a lot of potential learners. And a lot of learners that we get are people who are tremendous and they’re excellent students. And this is the first thing that maybe didn’t come so easily to them. And that can be a challenge too. They want to be perfect at things because they’re used to it. And you’re just not going to be for a long time.

Yeah. And certainly not if you only can devote an hour a day to classroom instruction. Because I’ve met so many people and I’m sure you have too who studied Spanish or French for 10, 11 years and still can’t string a sentence together. And part of it had to do with it not being anything that they were able to kind of continue doing outside of the classroom or having travel experiences where they were able to immerse themselves.

So like you said, it’s not purely an academic pursuit. And in fact, if you think of it that way, then it’s only ever going to be a thing that people struggle with and can’t really build on.

And I really try to get as much, and I have to tell you, this started as a very selfish thing early in my career to make it as fun as possible, but keep the substance and the content there. So games and jeopardy and films as much as I could, because I thought it was going to be torture for me, if I have all these people who are bored.

[crosstalk 00:23:58] resentful.

Exactly. I got to make this fun. And they’ll talk when their affect is down, they’ll talk just to stay in the games and the activities and the little plays and the pair work and everything just kind of takes the edge off of all of it.

Yeah, yeah. So is that what you cover in the book, just sort of ways to make language study fun and easy?

Yeah. I go over the research. It’s all basically it’s the research in very layman’s terms. So how we learned our first language and how you learn reading, writing, all of that, and then the practical ways, like what’s your language lab? And about incorporating storytelling in Hollywood, those are big parts of language learning that we don’t talk about in depth. You can put on Netflix and put on learning language with Netflix and you can have all the subtitles.

We talked about reading books or history, of course, just what we talked about, reading about the history of people and really learning about their stories and their perspectives really brings it all to life. So yeah, it’s that, and the practical ways to carve out 30 minutes a day to find something that brings you joy and helps you learn languages at the same time, that is not a stressor. That’s really the big message.

Yeah. I love that. And it’s a really timely message honestly for the COVID era because people can’t travel. They can’t immerse themselves in the traditional way that we kind of think of, and instead everyone, Americans especially are stuck at home and unable to have those trips and experiences. So what you’re suggesting are things that people can put into practice without leaving home.

And just to do the things they normally do anyway. Watch Netflix, read blog posts, watch trashy TV, read magazines and books and things like that. So I think that’s really timely and portable advice.

Thank you. Thank you. I don’t know when this just as your book. I think for different reasons, my book has been delayed and your book has been delayed. I really want to cross my Ts and dot my eyes. I’m excited. I’ve got this chapter and that chapter and all of that, but they’ve got stuff to do. They’ve been delayed because of all of this. And it’s really interesting.

I think that now and now your book, you can’t travel, you can’t do some of the things that you need to do to complete your book. So, it’s two totally different reasons, I think. But it’s interesting. I think that what’s going to come out of all of this beyond our books is going to be a whole change in the way this type of content is released. And probably some really good things are going to come out of it.

Because originally, I was wracking my brain, like, okay, I’m going to go mapping out things like, okay, I can be here this weekend and I can be here the following weekend and I can do this. Whereas I think it’s going to be a Tuesday night and we’re on Zoom and having events and that kind of thing. I think that’s going to be the reality, which certainly is less expensive and it’s more inclusive, more people can participate in these things. But I think that some of the stuff that we’re doing now is going to carry on into the future permanently.

Yeah, yeah. And for good reason. Because I do think that there are so many ways that Zoom for as fatiguing as it can be really does kind of open up possibilities and spaces that we don’t normally have access to. But that being said, there’s still things that it can’t recreate. Like the experience, for example, of going to a grocery store and just trying to figure out what different fruits and vegetables are and what the words for those things are and how to weight things and pay for things.

I love that in the market. That’s always one of the first things I always want to teach people. You should learn some chunks, like survival chunks, learning languages in chunks. So like, I need, I want, can I have? Learn those chunks first because you’ll be able to communicate with people right away. So get stuff you need like food.

Yeah. Yeah. Well maybe this is too hopeful a question and too in denial of our current reality. But when you think about the idea of a trip that’s intended to immerse you in the learning of a language, what would you say are the key components of that sort of trip, that five week trip that allows you to learn as much of a language as possible, as quickly as possible?

So, you know what I tend to do, a lot of my activities tend to be correlated to my particular life, my time, you know what I mean? So, I would like to be usually at like a B level, which is like ACTFL intermediate, because you can make really quick progress when you go from zero up to intermediate, which is when you start … you can start making your own sentences. They’re really choppy, but like phrases to sentences. And then it takes twice as long to go to this next spot.

So, that’s a really nice spot to go abroad. Is that B that common European frame of reference, B that ACTFL intermediate. So an ideal situation for me would be to be at that level, because then you can say something because you can do a lot of this work before you go abroad. Then you get to the good stuff really fast when you get there. So my ideal right now with my life, my ideal study abroad experience would be to go to ideally a city.

Because I like stimulation. I love nature and I love the country, but bring me to the movies, bring me to the theater. I want to hear the talk at the museum. That’s what I want to do. So I would go and I would highly recommend the host nation thing. If anybody hasn’t done it. And you’re never too old to do this. My father did it recently. He’s 77 years old and he went to Mexico just for a Spanish refresher. He lived with a family for four weeks. You’re never too old to do that.

What is host nation? I’ll make a note of it in the episode, but I’ve never heard of it.

What did I say? I’m sorry. Did I say he went to Mexico?

Okay. I thought you had said host nation. I thought that was like a particular program.

No. Host family. I’m sorry. The host nation, sorry. That’s something we use in my work. But I would go to a city. But at this point, because I’ve had lots of experience living in other people’s houses abroad, which is a great experience, but I want my own house. I would have a beautiful Airbnb or at least cozy and safe, as a really the big … and then I would go to a language school because they would be patient with me and I would get my grammar instruction and they give you your papers and your books and all your activities.

And usually you get another teacher who does conversation, that sort of thing. And you’re done by 1:00 or 1:30 and then you have lunch and then you walk and you walk and you walk and you walk and you walk and do things like you go to all the hidden spots and you visit a different neighborhood every day or you visit a different museum every day and then you also have experiences with the local. So for example, one time in Madrid, I loved going to yoga class in Madrid. So I got to learn that in Spanish or-

Yeah. All the body parts and positions.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly, exactly. And then some kind of opportunity to definitely a lot of reading time and I love to go to the newsstands and buy, again, magazines that aren’t talking about anything that’s that important. I want to read about my horoscope. I want to read cooking recipes. I love-

Who’s breaking up? [crosstalk 00:32:28].

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And then you can watch … Yeah. Yeah. I love all that stuff. I think because I have a job that I do a lot of reading and a lot of thinking that that’s a let go for me. I don’t have to think too much, but I’m still learning at the same time, if that makes sense. And then I would have the weekends to go do things like in Paris, go to Versailles or when I was in Madrid to go to Salamanca or Barcelona or Bilbao or Asturias, that would be my ideal.

Any place that would give me those experiences. But that’s from my perspective. When I was younger, I think I would have definitely … it’s nicer to feel like you’ve got support and you’re taken care of. Because think about your experience. That’s scary because that’s scary traumatic stuff. And then you’re away from home in this foreign country? Like what if somebody does … just fill in the blank. Somebody does something awful and maybe I can’t explain it as well as I need to in Spanish, maybe they won’t believe me.

Maybe everybody will believe this person and not that. It can be really vulnerable. So that’s why I love what you’re doing with your Wandering Scholar too to help give them a good support network. Know that there’s people there looking out for them.

Yeah. Well this brings up another question because what you were describing of your ideal also sounds like my ideal, but it’s also a very solitary experience of travel and language immersion. And we’ve talked in the podcast before about the different configurations in which people travel, parents and children, couples, groups of friends. Are those configurations kind of suited to immersive language acquisition?

Thank you for asking me that question. Okay. So, I live in a village or almost in a village outside of the city center in Cambridge. So it would take me like 20 minutes to walk to the city center. But for many years, I lived right in the city center and the university owns all the buildings and the land. And there’s a lot of language students here.

And I remember one morning because I get up really early and my work day starts a little bit earlier than most people’s here. So I woke up, I remember hearing outside my window in Spanish, these two girls talking to each other about they’d been out all night and they just weren’t sure, this is in Spanish, that they just weren’t sure if they were going to go to class. Like, “I don’t know if I’m going to go to class. I don’t know. I was out really late, dah, dah, dah,” and all this kind of stuff.

And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, you’re so young, you’re not taking advantage of this. You’re probably hanging around with some friends that you either knew in your hometown or came with you and your parents want you to have this experience. And of course you’re young. So maybe you don’t recognize that yet in your life that there were sacrifices made to get you speaking English and you’re away from home and it’s scary and you’re vulnerable.”

So you want to gravitate towards what’s familiar, but what you need to do is, that’s exactly what you need to not be doing for it to be really effective. You need to try to immerse yourself as much as possible with the local culture and language. But it’s hard to do.

Yeah. Are you an advocate of people say a couple travels together, are you an advocate of them speaking the local language to one another? Or does that just kind of [crosstalk 00:36:09] that happens?

It gets to be your habits. So my first husband, I thought of my first husband, my first husband he came to Madrid with me for a couple of times and he wasn’t as interested in the travel part and the cultural experience. And I didn’t want to … that was something that I really wanted to be working on my Spanish knowledge, my Spanish language and culture.

And so while it’s not that I didn’t want him there, I didn’t see the benefit of us both being there. Now, if he had been really passionate about wanting to learn Spanish, I think that would have been totally different. And I have a friend who’s a French teacher who had the same. Her husband would want to go … she’d want to go and work on her French, live with a host family. And of course her husband wants to come to and have fun and hang out and all of this kind of stuff.

But it’s sort of like, I really want this time to work on languages. And then my ex that is French is … our relationship was in … Like we lived here, our relationship was in English. So we would tend to, even in France, speak in English to each other. But when we were at the whole family obviously we’re all speaking French because that’s kind of can be really alienating to other people.

But we had established our relationships in English. And he would help me sometimes when I needed it. I made some errors that I can’t talk about on the podcast right now. Maybe I’ll tell you sometime.


I’ve had to really let go of a lot of pride to be good at languages. Let me tell you has it been. I’ve said some things that I really did not mean to say.

Yeah. I had an experience that I always tell students about. When I went to Mexico in high school, there were two of us staying with the host family, speaking of, kind of traveling in groups. And it didn’t serve us well to have two people from the same school and same program in the same host family. Because we very quickly defaulted to English. The girl I was with had some dietary issue where she couldn’t have milk with milk fat.

And so we were trying to convey that to the host family with our high school Spanish where we didn’t know the word [foreign language 00:38:46], we just knew the word [foreign language 00:38:48]. That’s what you’re trying to say she can’t have [foreign language]. So, they just thought funniest thing.

There are some good stories, let me tell you. You know, you got a lot of them your own and some of the looks on people’s faces and you’re, “No, I didn’t mean that,” when you find that-

It’s like, I’m trying. [crosstalk 00:39:08] to make them laugh. [crosstalk 00:39:09].

But what’s really nice is I think most of the people who it’s been my experience that a lot of the people who have host families tend to be, I knew one woman, brilliant woman from Bolivia living in Spain. And she stayed over there after she got divorced because she had a child with a Spanish man. So she just wasn’t going to go back. That just worked out for their family. She would have a lot of [foreign language 00:39:36], she would have people, they were all from some scholarship.

Mostly by word of mouth, they’d all want to come stay with her, live with her for a year or two, or she’d always have people there, very intelligent people. She was massively intelligent. It was the perfect fit. She knew they kind of wanted to be on their own. They wanted a room, they were studious people. So, that’s kind of one sort of person. But the other kind of people that I think really like having host families are grandparents.

Maybe they don’t have a lot of money. It’s an easy way for them to bring in money. They’re nurturing. They’re kind. That you’re going to go out and do … you’re going to be your classes and hopefully doing other productive sightseeing and studying and research and all of that. So, that tends to be a really good fit. I’ve seen a lot of host families like that. So my point being, they tend to be very sympathetic to learners and-

Yes. Yeah, that’s such a good point, and patient. I can also see a multi-generational family being really helpful because then you learn how young people speak the language or whatever slang they use and how kind of the older members of the family communicate. And they might have slang terms that are out of fashion, but that are still part of how they speak just in the way that’s true in English speaking families.

So it seems like you can’t go wrong with any kind of host families set up, you just get different things out of them than you would not staying with the host family. But I’ve just really loved that idea that it’s not just for like language acquisition and these immersive experiences are not just for high schoolers and college students. I think in US culture, that tends to be the way we think about it. That those are things that you do when you’re young. And then when you grow up, you travel in very different ways.

But I like the spirit that you’re advocating for of being lifelong learners and applying it to the way you live your life and to your interest. So that it’s something that you still enjoy and think of as fun and fine at a fine. So I think that’s a really cool message. Where can our listeners find more of your writing and your ideas? [crosstalk 00:41:56].

I blog at this is long,, and I’m Janina @ Real Life Language on Instagram. And I have to tell you, I think I have 20 different podcasts. So I do a lot of mini language courses that I just publish from files from these experiences abroad actually. So a lot of language for travel and beginner. So I had a bunch from my time in Japan, like little MP3 files that I recorded. And so they’re on iTunes.

So if you look up Real Life Language, they’re not real traditional podcasts. They’re meant to be bite-sized chunks of language that people can make their own playlist with. So it’s not traditional podcasts, and then I started one the 5-Week Linguist Show, which is talking all about language teaching and learning and the kind of stuff that we’re talking about right now. Yeah.

That’s so great. Well, we’ll link to all of that in the episode notes. But thank you so much for your time and for your wisdom. Any final thoughts before we part ways?

No. No, thank you so much. I can’t wait to read your book and I can’t wait to read more of you in The Guardian perhaps in the future.

[inaudible 00:43:16].

So thanks for your work.

Thank you.

Thank you. Bye.

Thank you for listening to the 5-Week Linguist Show with Janina Klimas. Join us each week here and visit us at blog for more resources for learning and teaching languages.

The Wandering Scholar provides study abroad experiences for high schoolers from underrepresented backgrounds.

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