May 04 2015

Learning A New Language For Travel

Category: ThoughtsNancy Whitman @ 10:07 pm

mexicoIt’s a great option to learn a new language if you’re going to be traveling.  I went to Mexico a few times for surf trips and I found that having even a basic understanding of the Spanish language is a huge asset in terms of being able to get around comfortably and understand common things like food and asking people where the bathrooms are.  And you don’t need to kill yourself to learn that level of language – you can often do it from home.

I learned Spanish in a classroom setting at the University of Michigan.  It was grueling and I feel like I spent a lot of time on it and while I learned a lot, I felt that it wasn’t enough compensation for the time I felt that I was putting into the class. I had 4 one hour classes per week plus a ton of homework.  It was a lot!  And while I got pretty decent with reading comprehension I was lagging in my spoken and conversational skills.

I think that if you do a learn at home course that you should definitely do a bit of research into the ones that are available out there for you to choose from.  I highly recommend looking into the Rocket Spanish courses that have been well reviewed lately in places like the New York Times.  They are computer based but you can also take them with you on your smartphone or tablet.  I found this Rocket Spanish review over at Little Language Site to be very informative.

The best thing that I did to improve my Spanish learning and comprehension while I was in college was to get Spanish magazines and watch Spanish movies.  This bit of extra stuff was not only fun, but it reinforced what I learned and gave me a fun way to practice.  So I definitely recommend that people do those types of things as well.

Another great thing would be to learn a bit of travel vocabulary.  Sometimes language learning courses are rather general, so if you can supplement and learn some travel words then it would benefit you quite a bit.

Also, getting tutored by a native Spanish speaker is a great way to go – you can easily find people online or you can even advertise for lessons from a local college student who would probably be happy to earn a few extra bucks on the side.

Whatever method you choose to go, there are a multitude of different resources out there for you to take advantage of.  It definitely enhances a trip to be able to speak at least a little bit of the native language, and people will be impressed by your desire to learn and immerse yourself in the culture.  Sure, some places have many English speakers, but don’t you want to go above and beyond?

I can definitely say that my surf trips to Spanish speaking countries were much better given my knowledge of Spanish.  When I went to Japan and knew almost no Japanese I felt very lost and helpless –even though it was a very fun trip.  I would have been happier if I could have read some of the Japanese.


Oct 08 2012

Updating Our Views On Reproductive Rights

Category: ThoughtsNancy Whitman @ 9:27 pm

Religion plays a huge role in our view of reproduction and human rights.  This is a huge deal for many people, and one that has inspired a ton of debate over the years.

Human reproduction can never be treated simply as an objective technical subject. No religion and no ethical system has ever been undifferent to the issues involved in reproduction. The recent expansion of the needs for and the means of fertility regulation has inevitably raised a new most of fundamental moral and ethical concerns.

Moral and ethical issues are never static. Some issues fade away while others continue to evolve. When the family planning movement started through volunteer non-governmental efforts, the ethical debate revolved around the principle itself. It was a question of whether mankind “should’ attempt to plan or alter its fertility in contradiction to nature or “God’s Will’.

Much of this debate is history now. It has become widely recognised and affirmed that humans, as rational beings, should be able to plan their own fertility, as indeed they plan other aspects of their life. Two areas related to this principle, however, remain unresolved. One is the stand of the Roman Catholic Church, where it is upheld that the outcome of sexual intercourse should be left to God’s will and that the only acceptable means of fertility regulation is abstinence, which may be adjusted to the fertile period of a woman’s reproductive cycle. The other area is abortion, which continues to be an emotionally charged topic. Still debated is the right to life of the fetus versus the right of the woman to have control over her body and to refuse to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want.

After the issue of “should’ began to fade away and family planning became a subject for international concern, the ethical debate moved to question the “why’. Concern and suspicion focused on whether efforts to reduce births were being imposed in place of efforts to accelerate socioeconomic development or, worse, whether these efforts might be “genocide’ in disguise, aiming to eliminate or keep down members of certain ethnic groups, countries, religions or the world’s poor. Again, this debate has in time lost much of its heat. But concern is still legitimately expressed when the family planning effort or assistance is not a part of a total welfare and development package, or when family planning services run ahead of or are given preferential treatment over other basic health care services.

~Fathalla, M.F. “The ethics of family planning.” World Health (1984)

I do believe that religion needs to be aware of the fact that not everybody can afford to have more children, nor can this world support an ever growing population – which would occur out of control should people never use birth control.  I believe the rise against birth control is rooted in a shameful feeling towards sexuality.