How to master a foreign language from home

You don't have to live abroad to speak like a native

Learning a language, I mean really mastering one, is a lifelong commitment.

If you weren't born bilingual, didn't live in another country, or weren't exposed to multiple languages before a certain "critical period," it's much more difficult to become fluent in a second language. While many of us in the States have language requirements at school, it's increasingly rare that one will be inclined to take their study to a serious level after graduation. But language mastery has a variety of benefits. Not only is it a key to international careers, but it also helps challenge and boost the brain's ability to analyze and problem-solve. Language learning can help strengthen memory, stave off dementia and Alzheimer's, and even improve your mother tongue. It's a commitment as challenging and rewarding as learning to play music.

And like music, words are just one part of the universe of language. Language mastery depends on the ability to not only speak, write, and read words, but to also expertly employ gesture, inflection, expression, and style. Gesture is to language as musicality is to music. Inflection is to language as dynamics is to music. It's something that can't be learned from a textbook or through a translation app, but nurtured from within.

One of the first mistakes that international travelers make is relying on technology to do the hard work for them. With the ease of the Internet, why bother? But when I talk to people that live in countries where English is not the primary language, the majority of them are offended that tourists rarely make an effort to at least try to speak the native language. That's why, if you're up for the challenge, mastering a language is a rewarding journey in itself, not only for you, but for others.

For writers, the prospect of writing in a second language can seem like an initial jump into the abyss. Though Vladimir Nabokov famously wrote in English as exquisitely as he could in his mother tongue of Russian. Author Jhumpa Lahiri made a complete plunge into the Italian language and documented her experience in In Other Words, which she wrote entirely in Italian. Driven by obsession, Lahiri remarks that writing in Italian gives her a whole different sense of freedom; it lets her express a dual soul. New Yorker writer Lauren Collins recently released a memoir of a similar ilk, though she learned her second language by marrying a Frenchman. All of these writers had the unique experience of living in the countries in which they mastered their languages. While living in the country for some period of time, most would agree, is a necessity, language mastery can start on the homefront.

From an early age, I was enraptured by French. Not just the language, but everything about France. I was over the Eiffel Tower and baguettes by the time I was in college. I was interested in argot in the banlieues. I was reading about theatrical French politics and the catastrophic Algerian War. The Vichy Regime. This was the France I wanted—albeit, a bloody one.

I had reached a certain level and studied in Paris, but my time was so limited I felt stuck by incompetence. In groups, I was overwhelmed by the speed at which my new French friends spoke. I didn't want to show my weakness by speaking the language I was more comfortable with, English. I just nodded until someone asked me a question, then answered as slowly and accurately as possible.

When I returned to the States, I was determined to become fluent in French. But the problem was, I didn't have French around me everyday anymore. But if I couldn't be in France, France could be in me. I knew that there were several important things to focus on when it came to language learning: daily practice, speaking, grammar, culture, context, and slang. Here are some of my language tips for advanced speakers that wish to become masters.

1. Write in the language every day

One of the most enjoyable parts of my day comes before 5am. Every morning, I make the time to write at least 500 words in French in my journal by hand. No, it doesn't matter what I write about. It's mostly nonsense. And yes, I make mistakes. While typing on a computer with the language settings set to French would auto-correct all my mistakes, I'd rather make them and maintain a connection to the words I'm writing. Typing takes all of the tactile joy out of writing. Don't do it.

2. Listen to news podcasts

On my morning commute, I listen to Les Matins sur France Culture. Everyday, the 2-hour program is filled with intellectual interviews and reports on the latest in French and world news. The show features many different voices, so I am regularly exposed to different varieties of regional French accents, vocabulary, and slang. All you have to do is close your eyes, then wake up and have absorbed so much more French. In just 3 months, my level of comprehension has easily tripled. Not to mention, it also helps immensely with my pronunciation. Also: subscribe to magazines like France-Amérique, which just happen to be bilingual.

3. Read comic books

When I first became serious about mastering French, I was mistakenly overambitious: I started with Stendhal, Balzac, and Zola. I sat on my bed with a dictionary opened in front of me, prepared to look up every word. But when it took me an hour to read one page, I realized this wasn't a very effective way to understand. Then, I thought back to how I learned to read English: through context clues. Though you have to start from the beginning.

Try comic books. The French have a dazzling collection of bandes dessinées that are as rich in literary merit as they are in language-assistance. Cartoons are a multi-sensory way to facilitate language learning and fill in the gaps of words you don't understand. I've learned so much more from BDs than I ever have from French history books. Riad Sattouf's series, L'arabe du futur is not to be missed; as is Catherine Meurisse's La Légèreté. They are pricey when you order them on Amazon, be warned. But these are treasures you won't just want to have to return at the library. I read them multiple times for maximum effect.

4. Read aloud

It is not enough to read to yourself. Remember how you started reading English: by reading aloud. Whatever you're reading, whether it be a comic book, play, or news article, get in a room with a door, close it, and start reading. Reading aloud will allow you a few liberties. You will read more slowly, with more time to focus on each word. You will also get a chance to work on your pronunciation and accent, while adding inflections of attitude and spirit depending on context. Act it out and have fun! It may sound silly, but it's totally worth it.

5. Watch foreign TV and movies (without subtitles)

Do not succumb to subtitles; they will just distract you. Instead, focus on catching the gist of the situation without knowing every single word. If you feel so inclined, write down a vocabulary word to look up later. But what's more important is to understand the attitude of a situation, the behaviors, the feelings. As you get increasingly fluent, you'll be able to fill in the blanks more easily. Start with the excellent Netflix series, Marseille and the film, Intouchables.

6. Get involved with the embassy and La Maison Française

Your local embassy is an invaluable resource if you're going to master a language. Not only do they have listings of all French-related events in the vicinity (in both French and English), but they post information on job offerings, fellowships, and other ways to get involved. The French Embassy in New York City even has an amazing bilingual bookstore, Albertine. The Maison Française of a local university will also be a useful place to find francophile events. Many of them host gatherings where you can talk to people of all levels of French to practice your skills, while chowing down on some wine and cheese.

7. Join a language alliance

The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) has been an integral part to establishing a French community for me. With a variety of culture-focused, speaking-focused, and grammar-focused courses for all levels, it gives you the chance to talk with like-minded francophiles living in your city. It also gives you access to a French library (where I've found hundreds of BDs, classic literature, and magazines). The institute offers a bunch of information on how to travel to France as well as testing facilities if you're applying for programs and need to take a proficiency exam. The coordinators also host film screenings every Tuesday and have open houses once a month where you can meet people just as passionate about the language as you are in a casual, fun, and food-filled environment.

8. Have authentic dining experiences

There are probably plenty of restaurants claiming they are "French" around you, but I challenge you to eat at a real French restaurant like Le Bernardin. Something with a French chef and French menu. You should know what everything on the menu means if you're serious, plus talk to the wait staff in French. To take it to the next level, try cooking a French recipe from a French recipe book!

9. Live your language

You can study French all you want, but are you thinking in French? For every task you do (eating breakfast, reading the newspaper), have a French voiceover running constantly in your head: "À ce moment, je vais manger le petit-déjeuner. Puis, je vais lire Le Monde." Translating all of your daily tasks into French may seem tedious, but it will become second nature in no time!

10. Dream your language

You know you've mastered a language when you start to dream in it. The unconscious may be seemingly impenetrable, but you can impress your new language on your mind in all states of consciousness. Study right before bed. Think of French things. Sleep and dream.

Language is so much more than just words and grammar—it is a universe unto itself. Mastering a language is infinitely beneficial, not just for your traveling ambitions, but for your soul. Of course, full immersion is the best way to become fluent, but the road to mastery can start at home.

Be your own interpreter.

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Travel Tips

Best Jobs for People Who Love To Travel

If you want to travel but have a job that is currently holding you back, here are a few of our suggestions for the best jobs for people who love to travel.

For many people, traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling is not always feasible because of responsibilities to work.

One way to get around this roadblock is to get a job that will let you travel and see the world. Here are some of the best jobs for people who love to travel.



A translator is a wonderful job for those who want to travel. It will bring you to many places as you work, so long as those places speak the language you can translate. The great thing about translating is the variety of work you can get by translating for specific clients or just translating for tourists in the area. You can choose what type of scene you wish to work in very easily.


A pilot fits the definition of a job that gets to travel perfectly. Now, whether you are a private pilot or a commercial pilot, you will still get to fly all over the planet. The only major problem with this job is the requirement of flight classes. But once you get your license, you can fly freely around the world while making yourself money to fund your trips.

Travel blogger

Being a travel blogger is a temperamental job but, if done correctly, it will allow you to visit anywhere you want. Writing to fans as you travel the world can be a fun and exciting way to engage with the planet. This job can be difficult to do, though, as you must be able to write consistently and capture your audience with each post.

English teacher

This may not sound like a job that allows you to travel, but schools all around the world are always looking for more people to teach English.

In this career, you would move near the school that you would teach at and live there over the course of your time there. The interesting thing about this job is that it does not necessarily require a teaching degree, depending on the school and country in question. You also get to live in a new country for an extended period.

When it comes to the best jobs for people who love to travel, these are just a few of our suggestions. There are plenty of jobs where you can travel around the world, but these ones are far-reaching and cover a lot of different lifestyles. They might seem like pipe dreams, but hey, you never know!

Seattle, Washington is a rainy, coffee-fueled, coastal town often referred to as the "Emerald City."

Located against the ecological wonderland of Puget Sound, this cosmopolitan, seaside city is a mishmash of arts, culture, history, nature, and, of course, cloudy weather. Thanks to its proximity to nature, its greenery, and its culturally rich, big-city atmosphere, the city is becoming increasingly popular, both for tourists and those looking for a change of scenery.

The Big Stops: Tourist Seattle

If you only have a few days to visit Seattle, you'll probably want to check out the area's most famous attractions.

For nature lovers and summit-chasers, there's the imposing, wildflower-shrouded Mt. Rainier.


Mt. Rainier

For foodies, there's the popular Pike Place Market, a giant patchwork of food-sellers and friendly chaos where you can purchase everything from giant crabs' legs to bottomless amounts of coffee (more on that later).

Pike Place

And finally, there's the iconic Space Needle and the Sky View Observatory, which will give you extraordinary views of the city.


Seattle Arts and Museums

For arts and culture lovers, Seattle has plenty to cut your teeth on. Don't miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a collection of extraordinary blown-glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.


Chihuly Gardens

For art, there's the giant Seattle Art Museum Downtown. Seattle also offers the Museum of Pop Culture, a nonprofit that features all your favorite icons from history, and plenty of other options.

Museum of Pop

For some history, there's the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which commemorates Seattle's history as a gold rush hub.

There are plenty of quirky attractions—like the giant Fremont Troll, the 18-foot sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood that cuts an imposing figure.


You could also take in the city from a boat—marine enthusiasts might enjoy visiting to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to explore the history of this port city.

Seattle, of course, also has a gritty underground side—you may know the city from its time at the heart of the '90s grunge movement.

It also has a long, storied history that has left more than a few scars. You can literally see its underground through one of its underground tours, which will take you on a walk through the "buried city," the remnants left over from before the Great Fire of 1889.

Seattle Undergroundpinterest

Natural Wonders

Seattle is notorious for its natural wonders. For a close-up view, there's the Seattle Aquarium, a marine experience that showcases the best of what Puget Sound has to offer.

For more exposure to the beauty of Seattle's nature, try the Washington Park Arboretum, a 230-acre showcase of Seattle's wetlands and natural wonders.

Washington Park

You might also pay a visit to the Alki Beach for some time with the ocean waves.


Or consider taking a more exhaustive adventure to Discovery Park, a giant and labyrinthine natural park at the edge of Puget Sound.

Discovery Parktrip

Food and Drink

Food tours are also popular options for those who want to get more intimate with the city's cuisine, and Seattle is often ranked as one of the best cities for foodies.

It's also a great place for coffee-heads. You might also pay a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, AKA Ultimate Starbucks, a tasting room that features a coffee library amongst other treats for coffee addicts.

Sarbucks Reserve

Moving to Seattle

If you're planning on moving to Seattle, locals say there's a few things you should know. First off, it is most definitely overcast the majority of the time, though the rain is rather like a mist. That makes the rare sunny day shine even more, though, locals say, in addition to fostering natural abundance.

The city is generally very congested with traffic, which can be noisy, though it offers great public transportation options, from buses to rail—regardless, you'll want to get an Orca Card for that.

Like every city, Seattle has a number of diverse and charismatic neighborhoods. For example, there's the beachy, more laid-back West Seattle.

West SeattleWest Seattle

There's the vibrant Capitol Hill, a hub of arts, culture, tech bros, and nightlife (during non-COVID times).

There's the historic and artsy Pioneer Square, featuring plenty of museums, shops, galleries, and pubs.

Pioneer Square SeattleExpedia

Fremont is a more bohemian area. Belltown is a trendy waterfront neighborhood that's close to everything.

In general, Seattle residents love the city for its proximity to nature, from beaches to glaciers, and its abundance of arts and cultural attractions. As Kimberly Kinrade said, "Seattle is for people who love culture, but refuse to sacrifice their wild nature to attain it." Residents dislike the steep cost of housing and all things that come from rising prices, including the city's large homeless population.

In general, the city is known as environmentally conscious, liberal, and dog-loving. The people are often referred to as nice but possibly a bit standoffish and cold (the "Seattle Freeze" is when you make plans to hang out and then bail, which is apparently very common). The rain can certainly get depressing, but the proximity to nature helps.

Remember, if you do happen to move: umbrellas are dead giveaways for tourists.

What's your favorite part about Seattle? What did we leave out? Let us know at @thejourniest on Twitter!


Weed World Candies Exist to Prey on Gullible Tourists

Weed is still illegal in New York, but scamming tourists is not.

You wouldn't know it walking around midtown Manhattan, but marijuana is still illegal in New York.

It does seem strange to think that perhaps the most metropolitan city in the US would be lagging behind so many other parts of the country that have legalized possession, production, and sale of cannabis and THC products, but it's true.

New York's decriminalization of marijuana has led many smokers to be more brazen with their public consumption in recent years, and Governor Cuomo recently announced plans for limited legalization for recreational use at the state level. But for the time being the sale of products containing THC is still very much illegal.

buy happiness You sure about that?

Adding to the confusion is a company that has sprung up to prey on tourist's uncertainty. Weed World trucks have multiplied at a staggering rate since they first started appearing in Midtown and the Village a few years ago. Easily a dozen RVs and vans now line the tourist-dense streets of Manhattan, advertising Girl Scout Cookies and Gorilla Glue, clad in marijuana-leaf decals and occupied by employees who are paid either to be stoned out of their minds, or just to pretend they are.

With eyes nearly in slits and an air of relaxation that suggests that customers are temporary interludes from a permanent nap, they will promise you as much as they can get away with while letting their branding do most of the work. They will sell you four lollipops for $20, which would seem like a great deal if not for the fact that they will not deliver on the strong implication that they'll get you high.

They have a Twitter account where they celebrate the supposed availability of weed and claim to "have New York locked down." They'll even sell you vape cartridges that advise you to "get medicated," and which are packed with potent doses of… flavor?

weed world truck

An employee once assured me that their candies do contain THC—maybe they wouldn't be so brazenly dishonest today—and in a drunken state I coughed up $5 to test that claim. There is a faint weedy taste to their candies, and you may find trace amounts of CBD inside, but that's it. It's a scam. There is no THC. Nothing that will give their customers the experience they're selling.

Worse than the trucks is the Weed World Candies storefront that opened in midtown in 2019. Just walking past you would swear that people were passing a massive blunt inside.

The smell is unmistakable and overpowering, except that it's fake. Whatever chemical fragrance they pumped onto the street, it was not connected to anyone smoking weed. Inside, the psychedelic wall art complemented shelves lined with suggestive candies and boxes emblazoned with pot leaf insignia.

Whatever the venue, they are all too happy to sell you overpriced hemp products and CBD creams and chocolates made to look like nugs. And if you're a tourist, or a moron like me, you might believe the scam long enough to give them money, but nothing they sell will get you high.

weed world store Hiroki Kittaka

The owners of Weed World, Judah Izrael and Bilal Muhammad—who prefers to go by "Dro Man" or "Doctor Dro"—will defend their products by claiming that they serve to promote legalization and decriminalization efforts by normalizing the idea of public sale of marijuana. But at no point in the purchasing process is the illusion that their candies will get you high broken. At no point are their customers offered literature explaining the mission of Weed World.

On their website's FAQs page, there is no mention of THC or its absence from their products, but the first question, "How much should I eat?" is answered, "It's all based on your tolerance but there's no limit." Tolerance for what? Sugar? The company—which originated in Alabama and has spread to cities around the country—mostly seems like a very profitable way to sell candy to gullible adults.

weed world wall art Nicole Mallete

The best thing I can say in their defense is that one of their trucks was recently busted by police in Saraland, Alabama, with products that "tested positive for marijuana." Assuming this isn't a screw up or deliberate frame-job by the police, it's possible that some of the Weed World trucks are using their faux activism as a front for selling actual drugs. If so, that would be the most honest thing about this company. Until that's confirmed, ignore these trucks and maybe just ask a friend for a hookup.