All posts by Tomanomanous

5 Reasons Why I Dislike Instagram

Hello, I haven’t made a post in a little while as my mind has been in other areas, such as learning a lot of new vocabulary for Japanese, preparing for my Human Rights and Sociolinguistics subject this semester, and dealing with some financial issues. Anyway, what I am going to be discussing with you today is an idea which was recommended to me by a friend (Her blog is at http://eternalwayfarer.blogspot.com.au/), and a lot of points I agree with.

The discussion of today, quite obvious from the heading of this article, is going to list 5 main reasons why I don’t like Instagram. In summary:

It is pointless
It feeds narcissism
It stunts in-person interaction
It encourages people to seek validation
The filters make amateurs think they’re photographers

1. It is pointless

So, what exactly does Thommy Dee mean by Instagram being pointless? Well. I have gone back onto Instagram for a week now to see what it is like, and I can pretty much say that you can do everything that you do on Instagram on other forms of social networking. Upload a photo? Facebook. Comment on a photo? Facebook. Like a photo? Facebook. It basically has the same features as Facebook, but less. On Facebook you can also check into places, you can chat to people on a live form of interaction (Facebook chat), you can also choose moods and list what you’re doing when you post a status (WITH a photo!!), and share things. So in terms of function, Facebook is most certainly winning because it ticks all the boxes Instagram does, but more.

“Oh, but Facebook etiquette states that I can’t post too many facebook statuses about my daily life…”
Now now Jimmy, calm down, we aren’t up to reason two just yet.

2. It feeds narcissism

It’s a given that any form of social networking is going to be seething pot of narcissism; these narcissistic black holes which suck everything around it inside, compress it down to a deathly state (or takes it to another universe, who knows?) and then grow larger and destroy even more around it until all you’re left with is an empty universe full of black holes. The hunger for these black holes to get bigger and bigger will also feed into the fourth reason in this discussion. But at the moment, let’s just go over this point.

If social networking is a seething pot of narcissism and a black hole, then Instagram is a pot bubbling out of control, splurting toxic liquid in all directions, and is the size of a supermassive black hole.

Going back into the first point of Instagram being pointless: it­ is basically just people posting up photos, and most of the time these are photos of daily occurrences in people’s lives. You are naked in your bedsheets, oh well, the world needs to know. You are having a 10am coffee at a trendy hipster café, oh the world certainly needs to know. You’re going underwear shopping, OH LORD YES THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW THEN. Nothing gets my gay gears grinding on more than knowing a lady is buying some new frilly undies with a cupcake over their caboose regions.

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I think now you are getting to see the point. But if not, I will take you on a trip back down my memory lane. It was a sunny January day (where I got sunburnt for three days just spending 10 minutes waiting for a train to get into Melbourne), and I met up with one of my also gay male friends to have a Starbucks frappuccino. Anyway, I met up with him, and we both got green tea frappuccinos and decided to sit down in the shade outside. I was about to drink my frappuccino when this guy told me “Oh, I have to take a photo of my frappuccino to put on Instagram.” So, pulling faces like an assortment of farm animals in selfie-mode, picture 1, 2, 3, 4…7…16…18…573
“I didn’t get the starbucks logo on it correctly”
“Uh my eyes look weird”
“The straw covered my face too much”
“You look too pale in the photo”

15 minutes just to take a good photo WHERE HE FINALLY LET ME DRINK THE FRAPPUCCINO I PAID FOR. He then spent 10 more minutes trying to find the perfect filter to put on the photo.

So, basically, there are people who base themselves on the number of followers they get on Instagram, and then think that because they have a number like that, then their life is more important than other peoples, and so they must promote that life and they constantly admire themselves and expect others to kiss their feet.

I can only imagine how many more image obsessed people there are out there like this, and how much time out of their day is used to feed their own narcissism and promote their own life like it is a cat walk.

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3. It stunts in-person interaction

With my story in the last reason still fresh in your mind, let’s go over the next reason. Now, for those who are a part of my generation (or a little bit older, as the addiction to smartphone use has spread up to many middle-aged businessmen I come across on public transport), raise your hand if you have ever felt your in-person interaction has been stunted or ruined because of someone using social media on their smartphones 24/7.

Just as I thought, yes.

I’ve gone across some dates with guys where they have half-interested, half paid attention and then half-arsed the date because in their hand they have been using a form of social media, one of them including Instagram (I certainly don’t go on a second date with people like that). To narrow it down to Instagram even more, I’m grateful I have not come across many Instragram addicts in my life, but the ones I have come across take pictures of every meal they have outside home, of every place that they go to, and then of anything they like in a store. Then they spend extra time getting the perfect filter (please just choose Valencia and get the fuck on with your life). It makes the time with them I’m supposed to be spending socialising then feel like a pageant of their life and I’m just there to feed what’s more important to them; their likes and followers. Sorry, but that’s not social interaction – not in the way I want it.

4. It encourages people to seek validation

Feeding narcissism for those who want others to kiss their ass, Instagram also promotes those who are insecure about the popularity of their life to then post many images of their life. These pictures then, they hope, make them popular and a sensation, and so it then makes that person seek validation on Instagram. There are no limits to how many photos one can take, so then pointless photos and images bombard the app like shrapnel.

Yes, it is nice to take a photo of an event occurring in your life for the sake of the memory, but when you are taking a photo and uploading it just for validation, then that’s where there begins to become a problem.

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And those who do take photos, and those who do get likes/favourites on their photos, and comments, then want to place themselves above those who don’t get many. It’s the way the human ego goes. And so this political society is made within the social network. So then, people are based upon how much attention and validation they receive from other people, and they construct their image on that.

Then people try and live their life like those who do get more likes (If I’m like them I’ll get more likes and followers and get attention), and so it promotes this image-based lifestyle: Tanning on the beach, spending money on expensive things, eating out all the time, going clubbing every weekend. Because Instagram is just posting about your life, and how others see that life.

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I have had people get upset because they don’t get many likes on their pictures, and then I’ve had stories of people basing other people on how many likes/followers they get on Instagram. Then I’ve had people brag about how many followers they have on Instagram. I don’t mean to sound like a bitch, but if you’re that insecure that you base your worth on other people’s validation and your number of followers – then you need a reality check, or perhaps a psychologist.

5. The filters make amateurs think they’re photographers

Okay, don’t get me wrong, I like some of the lighter filters because they help to clear out the imperfections in my skin. I do this when I take pictures to change my profile pictures on facebook, BUT I do know that that does NOT make me a photographer. The part of Instagram which also annoys me, and the last reason in this opinion piece: The filters that blur out the details in the photos, details that some may seem undesirable, make people think they’re amazing at taking photos.

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And then because some of these people think that they’re amazing at taking photos (because the filters make the photos look ‘mellow’), they should take ten thousand. And then upload them all (Notice me senpai). Some of the heavier filters just make the photos look tacky.

If you also want to see a video perfectly depicting something else wrong with my generation (I’m the cut-off of Generation Y and Generation Z), then this video perfectly describes it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdemFfbS5H0

Thank you for reading.

Real Men Also Wear Makeup and High Heels

Today, the topic of this article is going to be something which is also quite personal to me, and a topic which I am seemingly incessantly getting into arguments over conservative people about. Getting straight to the point: that topic is gender roles.

The more you pay attention to them, the more you realize that they surround many aspects of our life and dictate what behaviours are appropriate for us to perform, and conversely, which behaviours aren’t appropriate for us. From a young age, we are branded with a code of behaviour:

“Boys like blue, girls like pink.”
“Boys like cars.”
“Boys have to be tough.”
“Be a man.”
“Men don’t cry.”
“Real men do ______.”

All you have to do is walk into a toy store, and the dichotomy of gender roles is branded clear as day. Laced along one aisle, everything is pink and purple indicating for the girls to play with dolls. The other aisle is blue with toy cars and toy trucks, signaling the toys that the boys are to play with.
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If a boy wants to buy a doll because he is interested in dressing them up due to his interest in fashion, he is ostracized as a freak and it is seen as an odd behaviour. And so, from a young age, society indoctrinates children to believe that because you were born a certain gender, your genitalia then define the way you behave, and even the things you are supposed to like.

If who you are corresponds to this construction, and you have grown up to be the ‘tough, emotionless’ ideal of a male, then you probably have not thought much of this. But for someone like me who is of the ‘feminine’, it is a set of ideals that go against many aspects of the person who I want to be, and for it I have faced ostracism. The fact that I don’t fit to this construction then forces me to think of this construction on a daily basis. Why is it constructed? What substance does it actually have behind it? The factors behind these questions are going to be some of the discussion of this article.

But first, where would my manners be if I didn’t introduce some aspects of myself:
I choose to wear skinny pants and tight clothing.
I choose to wear jewelry.
I choose to say words like ‘dear’, ‘hon’, ‘love’ to refer to people
I choose to wear 5 inch heels.
I choose to wear makeup.
I choose to wear perfumes labelled in the ‘ladies’ section.

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Lady Gaga’s Fame is a particular favourite of mine when it comes to fragrances.

With regards to the aforementioned points listed, before I go on, I bet that some people are going to immediately, right off the bat, go “Oh but he’s gay, that’s expected.” BUT truthfully:

Actions such as these should not correlate with my sexuality. Just because I am sexually attracted to men, it does not mean validate my behaviours to be allowed outside of a gender role construction and forced within a narrow-minded stereotype.

The fact that I do the aforementioned has people assume that I am gay, and this just shows the unhealthy effects that this dichotomy places upon our society. If I were a heterosexual, I imagine I would have it a lot worse off (whoa, did Thommy Dee just mention a situation where heterosexuals would have it worse off?!?!). In that situation, people would assume my sexuality as homosexual and mistake it just because I feel more comfortable with myself wearing shoes with heels on them (makes my butt look nice and round), or giving my skin a clearer look by using a good foundation and other cosmetics.

People should not have to validate their gender by performing a set of actions which have little to no proper meaning behind them.

I’ve had many experiences of people I know attempt to assert the conventional gender roles upon me. If I don’t follow these actions which society has made, actions which have no real substance behind them in proving that I am in fact a man, then these people think that something is wrong with me. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong. I look down, I have a penis. Yep. Lovely. I’m a male. Simple as that. No code of behaviours beyond that should have to prove that something is there that I already know is there JUST BY LOOKING.

Arguments generally look like this:
“It’s weird for you to wear makeup.”
No it isn’t.
“Yes, it is.”
What is telling you that?
“It just isn’t normal?”
Once again, what is telling you that.
“Society. People just don’t do it.”
So a construction made by society makes it wrong. Okay. Beyond that, why is it wrong?
“Boys just don’t do it.”
And why is that?
“Because it’s weird. Society.”
And as you can see, as it is a construction with no proper substance behind it, basically all the arguments I have come across follow this circular argument going nowhere.

Going back within the depths of my memory (quite recent though), I have had men tell me that they would date me if I didn’t “dress like a girl”, as they basically put it.
And this guy whom I met up with, who seemed properly interested in me, said he wouldn’t kiss me because he “doesn’t kiss girls”.

And then last year I had a couple of friends try and push me to act more “normal” as they put it: To not wear cosmetics, and dress exactly like the other men where I live do: wearing chinos and buttonup shirts and snapbacks.

When I ran out of foundation and met up with them, I was treated like a dog who had just learned how to sit for the first time.
These latent attempts of manipulation pissed me off. Just because the way someone presents themselves doesn’t follow a ridiculous hollow construction of a dichotomous nature, it doesn’t make it any less valid. 

Plus the dichotomy set up through gender roles in the modern world is a factor towards gender inequality, but that’s a topic a whole other article could be written on.

The media does not help this, either. Even when you have seemingly grown up past the gender dichotomy, it is still prevalent in the adult world. Putting flame in the problem, Father’s day and Mother’s day advertising is just a rampant cavalcade of assigned gender roles. The below advertisements (catalogues) are examples of this.

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You will see that for father’s day, advertising is generally of hardware tools. And then for mother’s day, it is cosmetics, jewelry, spas and domestic ware. Basically, men are forced to the shed to play with their tools and to fix up their cars, and women are forced to the kitchen.

Furthermore, this culture of a male having to be tough, and unable to show their emotion has shown time and time again to bring upon destructive side effects.  Men aren’t supposed to cry. It is odd for men to show emotion. They are weak if they show emotion.
NO.
It is healthy to cry and show emotion. And in a society such as this one, where one’s roles and expectations are decided by their gender, and men having to be tough and suppress their emotion, it may damage their psyche. And suppressed emotion becomes anger. And anger becomes aggression. And this may be one reason why crimes of homicide and assault and rape are committed by men a lot more than they are committed by women.

Whilst on the topic of crime, the looks I get just for expressing myself outside the bounds of gender conformity make it seem like I’m committing a crime. I wait for the day I can walk in public in my 5-inch heeled ankle boots and my makeup and not have people stop walking in public just to take a few minutes to process the defiance of the transparent construction of gender roles.

I should not have to feel any discomforts or worries in public that I may get beaten or attacked just because I choose to act and present myself in a way that isn’t in the ways of “being a real man”.

I could say a LOT more on this topic, but to keep it simple: I have a penis. Therefore, whilst I put on my makeup and zip up my 5-inch heeled ankle boots, I’m just as much as a valid male as a sports player, a businessman or a mechanic, or a tradie.

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Get used to it.

LGBTQ+ Safe-Sex Education Needs a Place In Our Schools

Hello, in the midst of my winter holidays, I have got into studying Japanese and Mandarin and leaning some theories and principles of Syntax in preparation for my unit next semester called Syntax (yes, quite anti-climactic).

HOWEVER, today I am going to be taking (or more specifically, writing) about something which hits a lot more personally and closer to home for me, something which concerns the safety and rights for LGBTQ+ people.

I have been considering this over in my head for a while, and I think it is quite an important issue. Even more so from the widespread acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriage equality and rights for LGBTQ+ people. The important issue being the education and acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ sex in high schools and the incorporation of STI prevention, safe-sex procedures for LGBTQ+ people, and HIV safety into sex education.

All you have to do is look onto a website about STI statistics and HIV statistics to know that both of these are much more concentrated among the LGBTQ+ community than the heterosexual community. I took the liberty of making a google search and found these two pages in thirty seconds.

http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/
http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/us_gay_mens_astonishing_hivstd_rates.php

As a 19 year old gay man myself, this is a statistic that spreads discomfort and fear across me. Why? What are we doing wrong? What is society doing wrong? How can this be fixed?

Perhaps teaching LGBTQ+ safe sex practices, and making it an imperative to teach LGBTQ+ safe sex practices within high schools is one way to reduce this statistic.

I remember back in my years of schooling in Australia when sex education was taught (Years 6-10, which is 2006 to 2010 for me), we were quite rightfully taught about contraception and safe sex procedures, and even had to place the condom on the banana.

That was all though. There was nothing about safe sex procedures for those who were non-heterosexual. For men it was just learning about a condom, and how to place on a condom. For females it was contraceptive devices such as the pill and female condoms.

Even if some people think that 4-5 years is a long time difference and that it may have changed since then, I have had a friend in NSW who is in year 11 tell me that when they were taught sex-ed last year, same-sex safe-sex procedures were brushed over and it was not discussed.

Brisbane-Image

So therefore, being gay myself, and soon moving to the city and coming across more gay guys and performing certain acts with them (if you want to have visual details I’m sure there’s some lovely comparative videos on redtube), I did not know about the safety procedures for two men, and how to prevent STIs that could come from male-on-male action, and I have learned what I can from other men who have had experience and have picked up on this from other men.

This is why I want to start pushing and finding ways for LGBTQ+ safe-sex practices to be educated in our schools. I want to start an online page where people can sign for LGBTQ+ safe sex practices to be taught in Australian high schools. I would implore other people to do so too. I feel that this is something that straight people also need to fight for, too, as a majority can be helpful in transforming ideas. It is an imperative that all high school students have access to this kind of information, regardless of their sexuality.  Even if it is a 10 minute talk alongside heterosexual safe sex practices, and awareness about HIV. An important minority should not have to miss out in this modern world, and it also ensures that LGBTQ+ people will know and be prepared of what is ahead of them when they enter the sexual world.

This also potentially serves another purpose of breaking down prejudice. There is still a taboo on the discussion of sexual acts performed by two people of the same gender, even in a professional setting where it could be discussed, and should be discussed. If this is discussed, then it will educate those who may have uncertain false ideas about LGBTQ+ people, and make those acts perceived as less of a taboo topic, and more readily accepted and embraced into society. It is human nature to be cautious of things we don’t know.

And on that topic, even now, from not knowing, I feel like I am suffering. Even though I have gained experience with men, I still feel a bit vague and not 100% about what is safe, and what is not.

Ignorance breeds fear, and through education, we can reduce fear, and also help to reduce any existing prejudices.

Thank you for reading. This is something I’ve considered for a while, and something I am prepared to fight for.

Recipe: Green Tea Frappuccino (抹茶フラペチーノ)

Hello, once again it is time for me to post up a recipe! I have been quite broke lately (is it not the life of the university student to be broke?) and have eaten enough boiled pasta to make me want to scream and hurl whenever I see a noodle.

But today, I got some money, and I’ve been intending to make this post for a while, so I went out and got the ingredients to make a green tea frappuccino.

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I got the inspiration to make this during the summer, when being my typical usual lazy self, I did not want to have to go to the Melbourne CBD to have to buy a Starbucks frappuccino. So therefore, I googled how to make a frappuccino, and then adapted my own method and list of ingredients based upon looking at a few recipes.

I have received 100% positive reviews from my real life friends from this frappuccino, some even saying that it tastes better than the Starbucks one. So if you want to try it out for yourself, then please read on.

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The ingredients as follows are:

2tsp matcha powder
1tbs white sugar
1tbs concentrated natural vanilla extract
3 big tbs of ice cream (Ben and Jerrys works a charm!)
4-5 ice cubes (Which are in the freezer and not in this picture)
A few hundred mL of milk

HOWEVER, if you do not have a sweet tooth like me, it is probably advised to use less vanilla extract, and less sugar, and perhaps less ice cream.

Equipment:
Blender/Magic Bullet

(I make things intuitively and this is just a rough approximation of the proportions I usually use. But trying off the measurements from this list of ingredients it turned out fine and alike to the taste of what I normally produce)

Ok, so now let’s get down to it!!!

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First off, what I add is the green tea (also known as Matcha in Japanese) powder. You can buy this stuff quite easily from a Japanese store; and if you are as lucky as me, you will be served by a cute Japanese boy (oh my god he was so hot *drools*). Anyway, about this powder, it looks VERY green. Radioactively green is an excellent way to put it.
DO NOT GET THIS SHIT ON YOUR CLOTHING. It is very hard to get out. So when you handle it, please be careful.

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Next, you add the sugar and the vanilla extract. I prefer to use natural vanilla extract, because it produces a more genuine taste than artificially made stuff. But, if you want to be excessively fancy, I guess you could even add vanilla bean paste (but that will probably make the process of blending overall more difficult). So when you add those, it should look like this:

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Then, we get to the part which will make your Frappuccino deliciously icy!!! This is where you add the ice and the ice cream. I normally add in three ice cubes, but more can work. I actually suggest 4 to 5. The hotter the day, the more ice cubes I guess.
For the ice cream, you can use different ice creams to give your frappuccino different hints of flavours, BUT I like to go with the neutral vanilla flavoured kind of ice creams, or ice creams with a soft taste.  I like to use Ben and Jerry’s Sweet Cream and Cookies because it has a soft taste, and when blended the bits of cookies make a nice layer in the frappuccino. Then, it should look like this.

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“oh god he’s putting up so many pictures omfg he can’t even”

OH, and the ice is crushed in that picture because I felt like crushing my ice cubes to let out all my teenage angst. Plus when crushed it looks sort of like cocaine.

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THEN, you add in milk. I normally go with a few hundred mL. BUT! If you have a magic bullet then just fill it with milk until the milk is about 75% of the way up the blender. Screw on the lid if you’re using a magic bullet.

THEN! You blend it all together!!

It should come out something like this!
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However! The lighting in my apartment is so wondrously depressing (my apartment catches like next to NO sunlight it’s so dodgy), and the sun was starting to set, so I decided to take a picture of the finished product outside.

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I hope you enjoy making it, and enjoy drinking it!! And I hope it tastes good! Remember, if you are not a sweet tooth like me, you can use less vanilla extract, less sugar, and less ice cream, and a bit more ice.

Thank you, and have a lovely day.

Lectures: One Size Fits All?

I do apologise for the lack of blog posts on my page lately, but I have been busy with my exams, and then taking a break and sorting things out like getting a much needed haircut and fixing out this ingrown toenail that got deliciously infected (not really actually that delicious).

In that time, I reflected back  on the time which I had spent in my classes, and got into a discussion with one of my friends, which ended up having us talk about university lectures and how useful they really are. The ideas from this discussion and the subsequent ideas which have formed in my head is the issue which I want to discuss in my blog post today.

Are university lectures really an effectively universal form of learning across all departments/faculties?

Drawing back on my previous experiences of classes, I have to say that having lectures for a lot of departments is not an effective mode to have students properly learn the content of a subject. Although I am a student studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Linguistics and Asian Studies, I did spend my first year taking Psychology and Biology units, so I have a few different disciplines to draw my experiences from.

Firstly though, I am going to talk about the Japanese units I took at university. I am taking a break from Japanese for a semester to teach myself the language without the obligations of having assessments for it, but that point aside, the Japanese units have lectures. A. Language. Had. Lectures. And to make it even worse, the lectures were marked as attendance (probably because they knew everyone was asleep during the lectures or on the internet on their laptops not even paying attention, or just dying inside).

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Now I can imagine these lectures are important for presenting house-keeping messages about the department to students. BUT. This is the digital age where a lot of things are done online (including most of my university learning). If something is THAT important to be presented to students, then a post will be made on the university’s online learning area. And if people aren’t directed towards their student enough to check the online learning area to receive a message, then that’s their own fault.

I remember in first year in biology I would sit in my lectures taking notes, but in a scientific setting it was more appropriate for me to attend the practicals and spend a couple of hours hands on, using all of my senses to learn about how this part of the body worked, and the chemical reactions involved.  In the lectures I would just end up staring blankly at a wall for 20 minutes (or playing temple run 2), trying to absorb all these facts that barely even strung together properly. THEN when it came to genetics and the lecturer was trying to explain how to solve genetics question problems by having a projected screen up, and not writing things down whilst going through that example, I just cringed. Lectures are certainly not a good way to learn if you have to solve problems (I can only imagine what it is like for those taking engineering who are learning advanced calculus from a lecture….). Furthermore, if you are remembering a list of facts or a process like the Krebs cycle, it is also not an effective way.

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One of my highly intelligent (and pretty awesomely fabulous) friends who I caught up and spent time with this semester ( Her blog – http://eternalwayfarer.blogspot.com.au/) who is studying medical subjects (e.g. biochemistry, pathology, immunology, anatomy) has mentioned to me that lectures have not been the most effective way for her to learn the content in her subjects. In her anatomy subject she was just bombarded with a lot of information that could not be easily connected and were not ready connected. She purchased a colour-in anatomy book, and that was a much more effective way for her to remember places of structures inside the body. Furthermore, she also stated that in subjects on biochemistry, pathology and immunology, there are a LOT of processes to understand. To best understand these processes and how they work interconnectedly, mind-maps and self learning are a much more effective method than dot-points being presented a lecture.

She also agreed on lectures being useless for languages. She had taken Japanese in first year, and took German this semester (from what I’ve seen she’s pretty well spoken at German), so has had some experience to draw from. As aforementioned, Japanese had lectures, and they were an atrocious way to “learn” a language. Taking German though, it did not have lectures; only tutorials. And in those tutorials the learning was much more interactive with movies and discussions (we never do that in Japanese!!! *hmph*), and she commented, and I’m sure all of us agree, that it was a much more effective way of learning. Lectures have no places in learning a language. (Languages are a skill, you learn a language through constant USE of it, not just sitting there absorbing a bunch of slides in a second language like a sponge)

HOWEVER, a different story can be made from the Arts subjects I have taken this semester (Phonetics, Language and Power in Asian Societies, Chinese Studies: Culture and Empire). In these subjects which are humanities and social science subjects (except for probably Phonetics, which is a linguistics subject), the lectures can be told like a story and stringed together much more effectively. And in subjects like these, the assessment is based on the expression and cohesion of original ideas rather than the memorization of facts. So therefore, in a lecture in these subjects, you have a larger body of students’ ideas to consider and bounce off of and it is much easier to form a debate with someone else if necessary (which I’ve heard happen a lot in philosophy lectures). Plus, the way these lectures are formatted can keep you engaged and interested.

An alternative to this problem for science subjects could be replacing lectures with a 1-2 hour concept building class with 15-25 students. In these classes all that dry factual information can be presented in a way that is free from the constraints of a large theatre and powerpoint slides. A group of people can collaborate together and give to others their way of how they have connected a bunch of facts together, and are forced to engage to remember these ideas, instead of latently sitting in a theatre. Either that, or place more focus on the practicals, or provide appropriate resources for people to self-learn these facts outside of class.

In the case of language subjects; just get rid of the lecture.
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It is not necessary. If the time in tutorials is used effectively where students practice their language and are engaged, then that’s good enough.

People are going to be asking me now, but what about my other obligations in life if I now have to attend another class?
Well, when you think about it, it is not really that much of a difference. At the worst, having an extra tutorial running a few times will give you some more flexibility with your timetable of being able to choose when to have that one to two hours. Furthermore, most science and biomedicine students who are studying full time have classes that make them have to go into university atleast few days a week anyway. And those running the class could find ways to make the content easier and interactive to memorise.

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I know I haven’t yet considered in this blog post how it is cheaper for the university to just have all the students forced together into one lecture theatre with only one staff educating all the students. But, I can’t imagine the alternatives provided would cost too much more. Especially if it is just a group of postgraduate students taking a few Concept-Building classes each.

I know this blog post is a bit shorter than my other ones, but thank you for reading.
Effective learning is based on how we accommodate our available time just as much as how much time we accommodate.

So You Want to Start Learning a Language?

Hello, I am sorry for not being online lately to post on my blog. I have been busy with my exams, a couple of them being essays, so I’ve had a lot of reading to do (and have had a lot of procrastinating to do, too). ‘

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Whilst studying for my Japanese exam, I have come to think, what kind of learning methods are involved in learning a language?

I started to get the language learning bug when I graduated from high school at 17 and moved to Melbourne, and consequently, I have been learning Japanese at university for a little over a year now, and I have been learning Mandarin outside of university for around a month.

Starting to learn a language independently, and having not learned a language before that, it has taken a while for me to actually get used to knowing what is involved to learn a language effectively. It’s not to say that I am an A grade student at learning languages, I just know and have myself experienced a lot of mistakes that can be made whilst learning a language. So therefore, I hope this guide will be able to help you learn measures to take when learning to speak and write in a different language.

Starting Out:

If you are learning a language to some degree of independence then I strongly recommend that you get a textbook. There are a lot of textbooks out there, some better than others, so I recommend you look at some forum boards or websites online to find out which textbooks are good, and which textbook will be good for you kind of language learning. For learning Japanese, I am currently using these books.

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I am currently up to the green Genki II textbook, but if you are starting from scratch, get the orange Genki I. At university you go through one of those textbooks in a year. I’ve found the Grammar Dictionary quite handy, as it gives more depth to the grammar explanations found in the textbook, and also has more grammar definitions. It is definitely convenient if you want to extend you learning. Also, the vocabulary is book is convenient as it explains when to and when not to use certain words, has common words, and you will start finding these words and phrases all the time in anime.
For Mandarin, I have these books:

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The New Practical Chinese Reader textbook and workbook are quite handy for an overall learning of the language, and people on forumboards have said that it is probably one of the best Mandarin learning textbooks on the market at the moment, BUT my complaints, and other people’s, have been the grammar explanations and the vocabulary is not that appropriate. So I ended up getting another textbook, the blue one, which has good vocabulary lists and puts the grammar into nice rules.

But at the end of the day, the books you get should be oriented towards the way that you learn. So if you find any books that you think will also be quite convenient and beneficial, then get them.

Phonetics, then Morphology/Syntax, and then Semantics/Pragmatics:

As a linguistics student, these words make sense, but you may have not studied Linguistics before, so I will explain the heading for you. Often, you will find when you are learning a language and the concepts within a language, you first learn how to pronounce and say something, such as a consonant sound. This is called phonetics. When you first learn a language, even though this may sound redundant, and it will become tedious for a while, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the phonetics down. Because, how are you going to be able to read grammar and sentences in the language if you don’t know how to say it, and if you don’t know what it sounds like in your head?

So for the first month or so, I just recommend spending half an hour of time out of your day just to practice the new unfamiliar sounds of a language. It may be the ‘retroflex’ sounds of Mandarin, where the tip of the tongue is curled slightly backwards, which in pinyin are zh, ch, sh and r. Also, languages may also contrast sounds that you may not be able to pick up on without practicing.

Then, once you have got that down good, and whilst you are learning those sounds, it is important to start learning the grammar of the language; the morphology and syntax. The morphology of the language is the modification that happens in words which serves a grammatical purpose, like in English, happen becomes happened, establish to disestablishment. This includes what you’ve probably heard as inflection (inflectional morphology). English doesn’t have much of this compared to some languages, and in languages like Japanese, morphology plays a heavy grammatical role. Then, there are also grammatical functions which involve the syntax of the language, such as how words are ordered in a sentence. (For example in English, it is a subject-verb-object language – I-eat-McDonalds).

Lastly, you then learn the semantics or pragmatics in the use of language. Semantics being the meaning of a sentence not concerning context, and pragmatics, the meaning of the sentence relating to the context. So, you’ve probably learned how to say a grammatical function, where it goes in a sentence, and then you will usually learn what it means in a sentence (semantics), and then in which situations it is appropriate to use it (pragmatics).

You will find a lot of language textbooks use this method anyway. So you don’t really have to focus on this too much, but it is nice to be aware of this.

Language is a Skill, not an Academic Discipline:

Even if you learn a language in an educational institution, using a language is a skill. Therefore, your best chance of learning a language is to view it as one, and not to see it as a subject that you read a book on and suddenly you can bullshit an essay and get a high score (Most of my university course has been that, woopsies). So therefore, to improve a skill, you practice a skill, right? Yes. You are not going to master a language by spending an hour on it every month or so. You have to study for a language, bit by bit, every, damn, freaking, DAY.

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You’re going to have to spend that half hour in the morning learning vocabulary, and an hour at night answering questions and trying to use the language, as a skill.

Exposure is Important:

Sorry sluts, I don’t mean summer skin exposure to put on Instagram. What I am actually referring to is situations where your senses are having to react to the language, and then your brain is having to process it and try and make sense of it.

In the sense of Japanese, I usually watch anime (Yaoi specifically *licks lips*),

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I also read manga in Japanese from time and time, and I also read websites that are in Japanese. In Mandarin, I listen to music (EXO-M anybody) in the language (I also listen to K-Pop too, so I should start learning Korean x.x). This is a good methods in the respect that it makes your senses used to what the language sounds like, and if you are wanting to remember things like vocabulary, it gives those words meaning. They aren’t just a bunch of sounds that you are trying to remember; they have context. It is easier to remember things when there is a context given to them. I cannot stress this enough when you start to learn a language; make it a part of your life.


Think in the Culture and Language:

As language is a way for someone to express their thoughts and ideas, it is important to know the way that the language functions and how it affects the way people think. For example, a society more focused on hierarchy may have levels of politeness which you have to take note of when speaking to someone.

Don’t Neglect Vocabulary:

Possibly the biggest hurdle for those who are learning a language is the vocabulary. Especially for those who can’t properly put the context into the words to remember it. And the annoying thing is, vocabulary is key in speaking a language. You may know how to say the grammar and the morphological changes that take place to a verb or adjective, but it means nothing and the sentence you are constructing in your head falls to pieces if you don’t know how to say all the words.

So don’t neglect your vocabulary. What I do is I make palm cards with the Japanese/Mandarin reading on one side, and the English reading on the other side, making a story based on what the word sounds like. So for the word ‘train’ in Japanese, which is pronounced ‘Densha’, I just imagine an old lady on a train having her dentures fall out (Yes, I’m quite diabolical indeed).

I also have a cute Anki (memory sentences) books with cats on the cover, which helps me to remember words! ❤

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 And also placing post-it notes on household objects with their different names in the language you are learning is a good way to learn new words, too.

Find a Native Speaker! Use Your Skills!!!

If you can find a native speaker for the language that you are learning, then that is amazing. It is very helpful to have someone who is a native speaker of the language to practice with, as they can intuitively know when you are making an error, and then correct you on it, and you are using your skills in an interactive environment. Plus, it also allows you to connect to someone on a deeper level if you are speaking to them in their own language.

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It may be hard for people who don’t live in a diverse setting to actually find a native speaker of the language that they are learning. That’s why there are websites like SharedTalk. Just sign up there, and there are always people willing to add you to skype or to have conversations with you whilst you both learn each other’s language. And it’s definitely a rewarding experience.

Mistakes I Have Made:
Not studying a language for a couple of weeks.

Thinking “OH, I will just remember this vocabulary if I do nothing.”

Thinking that I could cram for a language.

Not putting myself in a situation where I am using my skills

Not being interactive with my language learning

In Conclusion:

Everyone learns differently, but I hope what I have outlined helps to give you a better standing in the first part of learning a language. I will probably make another advice post on how to learn Kanji and Chinese Characters, and what happens when you hit a more intermediate level. But for now, if you just use your language learning every day and practice a bit more every day and are not afraid to challenge yourself, then you should be fine! Good luck!

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