Learning & Education

The ‘L’ Factor – Language Learning

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Language Learning….Having The ‘L’ Factor…

Learning.

The ability to learn a language, is driven by a number of factors;

1. The personal motivation you have – why do I want to learn this language, how much do I want to learn it

2. The needs and reasons for learning it – are you moving abroad for work, are you going backpacking, do you need to learn it because you have been told to by your boss?

3. The interest you have in the language and its cultural / geographical context (No point learning Arabic if you are going to live and work in Japan)

4. The encouragement (or otherwise) you receive from others – do you have friends who speak the language and are keen to practice also. Or do children refuse to practice French with you because…’Dad, it’s embarrassing…’?

5. The environment in which you learn (to learn Spanish in Andalusia, to live and study /work immersed in the culture and landscape of the language is better than an hour a week in an office in Birmingham)

5. The time and opportunities to practice (interacting face to face or via Skype, reading or listening or watching information in the language, the presence or absence of stress / pressure from work or family commitments.)

6. The teaching methods used, or your own approach to learning (Do you write long lists of words with translations or do you select a handful of words and expressions and try to actively incorporate them in a conversation / email exchange etc?….ie actively engaging with the language as opposed to passive learning and not using it.

7. External Factors: Can you find 2 hours to sit and study, free of distractions, the television in the corner, your children playing, fighting, shouting, the dog insisting on that walk, the emails stacked up unanswered, the project deadline looming? Our brains are amazing things, but in order to be most effective at any task, they need a clear, uncluttered, focused approach. Too many distractions and things going on, will limit any effective learning. You need to create the time and space and provide you mid with the freedom to learn.

8. Confidence to use the language, and enjoying making mistakes – We all make mistakes. I do. Every day.  Even as native English speaker of 50 years and an English language teacher of over 20 years. So don;t expect perfection. Nor worry about making mistakes. Mistakes are the lifeblood of learning. I once asked for a cup of tea in Indonesia, without sugar;

“Satu gelas teh, tanpa gila” There was a look of disbelief, followed by a broad smile and a laugh. I repeated my request. More laughter

“Oh mister, satu gelas teh, tanpa gula?”

You see I had asked for “A glass of tea, without crazy.” Gila is ‘crazy’, Gula means sugar. Easy mistake, a funny mistake and one I immediately remembered the next time. The mistake and my confidence to make the mistake led to my learning. If I had just read the word ‘gula’ in a dictionary, it would not have had the impact, the positive impact, the mistake had.

So be confident. Try the language out. Make your mistakes and the learning will come.

Good luck.

Don’t forget, if you are looking to improve your English, for any reason, from work, to university studies, to travel, my online English classes are right for you. I will work with you to tailor the right course for YOUR needs.

Get in touch and let me help you learn English more quickly and effectively.

And by the way, when you are practicing your newly learnt English, mistakes are positive things. Make them!

Best wishes,

Tony

 

 

charity

The Significance of Pain ~ Walking 30 miles in a day for Make A Wish

Pain. It’s temporary they say. It will pass.

It’s true. Pain is a temporary thing and it does pass. But while you are experiencing it, well, it hurts.

Stating the obvious. It hurts.

Last Thursday I decided to do the second part of my charity challenge for Make A Wish. Having successfully cycled coast to coast, from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, 326 miles in 3 days, I set off at 6am to walk from Cheltenham to Worcester. A marathon in a day.
I will be completely honest. I had trained and was ready to cycle over 100 miles for 3 days in a row.
My walk was around 30 miles in total including walking to the station to get the train to Cheltenham and back home from Worcester Cathedral.
Had I trained? No. A few walks with my family down by the river or the canal. But no. No specific walking training.
Just a high level of fitness from cycling and a willpower to succeed and a determination to finish.

I first felt my ankle after a few miles. I recognised the pain. I had experienced it before, many years ago while trekking in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and in Nepal to trek to Everest. The outer bone that protrudes from my left ankle was sore and getting worse. The lateral malleolus…a bone you never think about, until it hurts.

So I walked on, in increasing pain. Every step I was conscious of my ankle rubbing, bruising, and being painful.
What can you do?

A. STOP!
B. Call a taxi / family and pick you up
C. Ignore the pain
D. Keep going
E. Smile / grin and bear it
F. Swear and shout and feel sorry for yourself.

What did I do? C,D&E

What did I think about doing, even briefly? A,B&F

Pain is temporary, but it hurts.
How do you ignore pain? It is easy to tell yourself to ignore pain, not so easy to listen to and follow your ow advice. But I focussed on some key facts and reasons to keep me motivated;

• You chose to do the walk
• You wanted to do it
• The walk will end at some point
• The pain is not stopping you from physically putting one foot in front of the other
• You believe you can do this
• You are walking in beautiful countryside
• You are walking on a lovely warm September day
• You know where you are going, you know the route
• Your pain will pass, for many children they live with constant pain and discomfort
• They can not turn off their pain and it may be more intense and more difficult to ignore
• You have a goal. You have an objective. You have made a committment
• It is easier to quit than continue. Don’t take the easy option
• People believe in you. They have supported you
• People have donated so you can do these challenges, and ultimately help life limited children
• Every step is a step in pain, but a step closer to home
• Focus on your purpose, not your present discomfort
• Be mindful of where you are, why you are there and the pleasure, not the pain you feel.

After many hours walking, passing quiet villages, along winding country roads, past hills and farms and alongside rivers, listening to the gentle sounds of an English afternoon in the countryside, I reached my destination by the River Severn and Worcester Cathedral.

I didn’t jump for joy and celebrate wildly for successfully walking a marathon. I said a quiet well done…actually more of a ‘job done’ and thought about getting a taxi home.
But the traffic was terrible and it was such a lovely evening that after 27 miles, I decided to walk home.

Ignoring the pain.
Remembering the pleasure.
Thinking of the reasons why I did it.
Knowing I had honoured my daughter Milla. Remembering her spirit. She lived a life of discomfort and pain, there was no let up. Her cerebral palsy meant painful spasms and stiff muscles. It also meant she could not walk.

So, I walked 30 miles. And each step my ankle reminded me that pain was something many children like Milla had / have to endure constantly.
But also that my pain was nothing.
It would fade.
Yet the memories of that day of solitary walking would not fade, the enjoyment and the amazing support and the money raised. £1,200 to help Make A Wish continue to grant wishes that create lasting memories.
But neither would the memories of my inspiration fade. My daughter Milla.

I walked for her, because she couldn’t.

Learning & Education, Motivation and Change

Too Old To Learn

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I’m too old to learn. Honestly, I must be. I’m 50. I mean who reaches the age of 50 and says, yeah, let’s learn stuff? I need to learn lots of new things. I need to study more. Come on, let’s be a bit sensible here. At 50, I know everything. Right?

If only life were that simple. Go to school and college, maybe university and that’s your lot. That’s you all finished. Nothing more to learn, no reason to study anymore. Just go and work and enjoy your life, free of the pressures of discovering new information and ideas.

How terribly dull life would be.

At 50, I feel my capacity for learning has increased, not diminished. I am more curious about things than I ever was at school. School, the last great bastion of learning, but regulated and controlled by necessary structure and requirements. Little choice or flexibility in what YOU wish to learn about, rather than what the government imposed curriculum says you must learn.

Today my interests are broad ranging and eclectic. Not the stuff of secondary education curricula. Volcanoes and earthquakes, the importance of silence and mindful thinking, ambient and experimental music and soundscapes, road and cyclocross cycling, vegan lifestyles and cooking, language and culture, history and the arts, opera, flamenco guitar, poetry and creative writing, contemporary novels and travelogues. I could go on, but how many of those subjects are taught in the high school system, even briefly.

A bit of physical geography, history of course (bound within the general limiting world view of British history, not the global context) , perhaps music (appreciation as opposed to theory, form, structure and influence), English language and literature (again limited in its scope by the sheer weight of the English literary pantheon – yet at school I was spoon fed Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and George Orwell. Spanning the centuries, yet barely scratching the surface of creative English expression).

Learning for me has come through the evolution of my own personal development, discovering new interests and finding some things I had dismissed previously as boring or too difficult, actually of merit and worth and surprisingly very interesting.

Take opera. I grew up on 80’s pop, indie and rock music. All synthesizers and wailing guitars. Opera was never music I had listened to, nor explored. Yet, my father loved the classic tenors, Pavarotti and Domingo, Carreras,  Gigli, Caruso, Bjorling. I shunned it at the time, but hearing Una Furtiva Lagrima, or la Donna e Mobile or the Toreador’s song must have registered somewhere. Because with age, I found a new appreciation for tenor singing, for the craft and skill, the dramatic and romantic voices that were suddenly projected on to a popular platform during the 1990 Italy World Cup. When football and opera collided in a perfect marriage of expression, beauty and enjoyment.

Subsequently, the world of opera opened. Not just the wide repertoire of the tenor, but the vast and dynamic field of opera. The enjoyment from watching the great ensembles sing in chorus, the comedy of Donnizetti and Rossini, the dramatic story telling of Verdi and Puccini, the lyricism and poetic beauty of Bizet and the musicality of Mozart. And the arias that elevated opera to world renown. Nessun Dorma, E Lucevan la Stelle, Largo al Factotum, O Mio Rimorso, E’ la Solita Storia, The Pearl Fishers duet, The Queen of the Night Aria.

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But with learning comes the desire to know more, to delve further, to discover and unlock the secrets to this new world you have opened. And thankfully no longer do we need to trawl libraries and await monthly journal publications; although there is a joy in spending an afternoon in a library, consumed by words and silent wonder and a pleasure as the latest journal or magazine bounces on to the doormat. Learning has never been so accessible. A few clicks on the internet and you are taken immediately to wherever you want to go. The world unlocked, the door wide open and the vastness of knowledge awaiting you. Just walk through the door.

My father was a military man. A soldier and an officer in the army. 30 dedicated years. A passion for all he did, yet the inflexibility the military affords to its personnel. Times, dates, schedules, their whole life controlled and regulated. A time for rest, a time to play, a time march and train and exercise, a time for learning. But the subjects of the military’s choosing. Could a 20 year old private spend hours over the works of Verdi? Not to the detriment to their career, their job and the role they were training for.

What did my father do the moment he left the army in his mid 40’s? Learn. Study. He took ‘A’ Levels in politics and geography and passed with A grades. He went on to complete a Masters in Health and Safety management. He is 71 now and studying for a Phd, a doctorate. His thesis is about the ‘Efficacy of Managers in the Third Age’ – ie the effectiveness of managers in their 70’s and 80’s, using their wealth of experience and knowledge to the betterment of their (perhaps retired from) companies and their employees. At a time when many would be happy playing a round of golf and booking a cruise with SAGA holidays.

So, as I take inspiration from my father, I can see there is value and worth in continuing to learn. We are bound only by the limitations of our own curiosity, not by age. At 50, I am spending more time with my head in a book than I do listening to the diet of The Smiths, The Human League, The Cure, ABC, etc that I always used to do. These days you will often find me sat at the table, early in the morning, 5am while the world sleep, sat in silence. Alone in my thoughts, reassessing what I know and what I have learned and how I can apply that knowledge. Or sat, writing a poem, looking at photographs I have taken and critiquing them myself. Or sat reading, absorbed in the words and knowledge of others. Ready and willing to learn. Wishing that I was 15 not 50 and better suited to the rigours of education. And more prepared, as I am now, to give time and thought and dedication to learning.

We are never too old to learn. We can always learn from each other, from the world around us and the information at our finger tips. But as important is that we help open the door to learning and knowledge for the next generations. That we pass on not only our knowledge, but also our desire for learning and discovery. Today, the younger generation are very often consumed by smart phone apps and social media. A world of selfies and pseudo-stardom, minor celebrity, desire to go viral and a need for likes and shares and a validation of themselves by universal approval and acceptance of their ‘status’.

But I would encourage another way. By all means interact and use your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Take pleasure from it. But, let these apps fire your imagination. And let them lead to learning. You see a photo of somewhere you have never heard of. You can either dismiss it, swipe to the next post or photo, or you can be taken there, immediately. Open Google maps, Streetview, Wikipedia, visit their homepage, learn the history, the flora and fauna, the landscape, the climate.

We are bound only by the limitations of our curiosity.

And we should always have the capacity for learning and should never ignore that curiosity. No matter how old you are.

PS, if you have read this and have considered you are not too old to learn or improve your English…then get in touch. I would be only too happy to help you and unlock the door to the English language!

To read my poetry please visit

http://www.frobipoetry.com or go to instagram @ajfrobisherpoetry

Best wishes,

Tony Frobisher, Worcester, September 2018

 

 

 

 

charity, Motivation and Change

Cycling With Wishes in Mind ~ A Reflection

Coast to Coast. Cycling 326 miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft in 3 days. 20180908_16363420180907_07432620180909_17065520180906_17393320180909_16590720180910_085243

A week on.

Time to reflect on a successful challenge, both in the physical achievement of cycling from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England and in raising more than double my initial target for Make A Wish.

I will be honest. Cycling 100 miles in a day is something I am very capable of doing. Even in my 50th year. I know what it takes and I know how it feels.
The difference with my recent challenge was to cycle over 100 miles for 3 consecutive days, solo, unsupported and over some very testing terrain. And that made it a lot tougher.

I lost over 10kgs from 1st January and I know this made a big difference. Especially when facing the endless climbs in Wales on the first morning. And because I was carrying additional weight in a saddle bag and a backpack; clothes, bike tools, a pair of flip flops (!).

The challenge was always about getting from one side of the UK to the other in 3 days, under my own steam. 326 miles. Mountains and wind. But a mental challenge too. Dealing with discomfort and pain. The constant saddle soreness I had to endure, particularly the last day. The long roads cycled in silence. Mile after mile when my mind was saying stop. You don’t need to do this.

But I did. A personal goal, a personal ambition to achieve something significant in my 50th year. But more than that. Much more important was doing it for cause that means a lot to our family.

Make A Wish.

When we were struggling with 24 hour care for our daughter Milla, who had complex special needs, cerebral palsy and left us exhausted after continual sleepless nights, Make A Wish were there.

They stepped in and gave Milla, her twin sister Louisa and us a holiday. A break where we didn’t need to think about anything. All was taken care of. Nothing was too much trouble. A chance to be together, and to be a family and to see Milla and Louisa smiling and happy and enjoying the magic of Disney Land.

It created the memories we carry with us now. After Milla passed away, those memories became sharper and more treasured than ever. And Make A Wish gave us that.

That is why I got on my bike and tested myself. I was confident of completing the challenge and confident it would be tough and would hurt. I wasn’t wrong. But when it hurt, I smiled. As Milla did. As I promised her I would. Like the other children and their families who Make A Wish have helped.

The magic of a wish is in the memories they create.

So, coast to coast. 3 days. 326 miles. But more than double the initial target. £1,139 raised. That is what means the most. That people believed in me and what I was setting out to do. But also why Make A Wish is worth supporting.

Happiness is something we all deserve. And one smile from a Wish Child, a moment to forget their pain, illness, disability and to smile and laugh and be a child, not a patient, that is what I want to help achieve.

Milla stays with me. As always on every bike ride I #rideformilla and I will do again.

What’s next?

A walk. A walk from Cheltenham to Worcester. 26.2 miles. A marathon walk in a day. Time to walk, to think, to reflect and again to raise awareness of Make A Wish.

For donations please visit my justgiving page;

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marathonwalkersclub

Thank you!

Tony Frobisher
September 2018

charity, Motivation and Change

And in the End

And in the end…

And in the end it was all worth it.
The pain and struggle, the exhaustion, the sweat. The constant monotony of turning the pedals for mile after mile. Hour after hour. Day after day.
The ceaseless bumping and rattling, shaking and jolting over cracked and broken roads, the hundreds of unknown, unfamiliar roads and streets, undiscovered towns and villages that passed by in a blur.

To reach the end of any journey is to reach a point of contemplation, of reflection, of validation. Was what I have gone through of value, of note or significance. Or was it just that. A journey. Start to finish with nothing of importance in between.

After returning from my coast to coast challenge, and completing 3 days of cycling over 326 mountainous, hilly and windy miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, I have had chance to reflect.

The distances I cycled each day were easily achievable for anyone with a good level of fitness, experience on the bike and a determined mindset.
100, 112 and 114 miles respectively.
But as I know very well, it is so easy to talk of achievement before it has been accomplished. “I am going to cycle from coast to coast in 3 days”. It is said with a casual confidence. An implied certainty. A tacit guarantee. I will do it. No question.

But there are always questions and doubts, uncertainties and intangibles. The ‘what ifs’…will my body cope, what if I get sick, what if I have a mechanical problem I can’t fix, what if I have an accident, what if I just…stop?

Yet the journey would be far less interesting without that element of uncertainty and risk. When you are flying down a steep descent on a deserted mountain road at 35mph, with no one around, one mistake could be a disaster. A pothole, a sheep straying into your path, taking a corner too fast.

The journey is about overcoming your apprehension and fears and encountering and dealing with obstacles you will face. Mental, physical, or emotional.

From the steep climbs, to the wind and cold, the sapping tiredness, the aches and pains, to the nagging worries in your mind, the voice telling you to stop, the emotions that toy with you and make you question what you are doing, the ‘so what?’ that runs in your thoughts…so what if you have done this journey? What have you proved?
It all conspires to work against you.

So what.

So what did I prove?
A 50 year old man can cycle solo from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England in 3 days. I didn’t land on the moon or discover America. But I proved that a journey is more than just miles and reaching an end.

It is about awareness. Of our place on the planet. It is about appreciation. Of our beautiful world and the environment we inhabit. It is about recollection. A chance to spend time alone. In thought and memory. Recalling time spent happy with loved ones no longer here.
But most of all it IS about achievement. It is about confirming the “I am going to”. About bringing the guarantee to a reality.

And silencing doubts and leaving fears behind.

This journey was not just a cycle challenge. It was to raise awareness and money for a special charity, Make A Wish. I raised £1,100 which is fantastic. But it was also in memory of my daughter Milla. And by cycling and engaging people in my journey, I have sought to honour Milla’s memory and to keep her alive in my heart.

Thank you for reading.

Tony20180906_17453820180906_17393320180907_06395620180907_06370420180907_07433320180907_15405620180910_08524320180909_170655