“Language”: An Introduction

My main aim in establishing this website is as much to help you learn your foreign language as to help you help yourself learn independently!!

The sooner you take your learning into your own hands, whether you are already on a language course or studying alone, with or without a tutor or teacher, and the more independent you become, the more certain you can be of your absolute success acquiring a foreign language!!

« On ne doit pas juger du mérite d’un homme par ses grandes qualités, mais par l’usage qu’il en sait faire. »

— Jean De La Bruyère

This means…

more effective learning methods,

more efficient study time, and

・a more motivating and rewarding overall experience!

If you are passionate about foreign languages, I hope you are inspired to embark on the next steps of your journey with me!

Hannah Johnston
Away With Words⎪Language Tuition

“Travel and Culture”: An Introduction

I have been blessed with a love for travelling and a passion for discovery, and have had the great fortune to experience a whole host of incredible places…

As well as travelling for leisure and exploration, I am also thankful for the opportunity to discover new places whilst pursuing my training in Shōtōkan Karate with the JKS – destinations include the JKS Headquarters Honbu Dōjō in Tōkyō, Japan, as well as the headquarters dōjōs in Belgium, Holland, France, England and Scotland.


— Japanese Proverb

From living in two foreign countries (experiences gained thanks to work and study opportunities), to discovering and rediscovering new and previous holiday destinations and group meet-ups conducted in our respective hometowns, I invite you to indulge in my travelling experiences and share with us your own, if you so wish!

I hope you are as excited about reading my posts as I am about sharing them with you!!

“Life”: An Introduction

In this category, inspired by reading on topics such as the Law of Attraction, gratitude, visualisation and various other subjects, I try to offer my personal insight into these topics.

From time to time, I will also share reviews on books, language-learning resources, music, charities and groups as well as personal development coaches and entrepreneurs who really talk to me – I’d love to know if they inspire you, too!

“There are no ordinary moments.”

— Dan Millman, The Peaceful Warrior

I have always appreciated the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude, of appreciating and taking in each moment, and of using the Law of Attraction (without ever realising it until I read about it!!), but have felt totally inspired by learning from the perspectives of writers such as Rhonda Byrne, Tony Robbins, Beth Kempton, Jim Rohn, Wayne Dyer, Héctor García and Francesc Miralles… This is something I hope to share with you, too, in the time to come!

I am looking forward to sharing my posts with you, and especially to receiving your thoughts and views in return!!

Thoughts of Peace, Freedom and Gratitude

Days such as today (commemorations, anniversaries, etc.) always remind me of the same important thing. One day is designated as a memorial day, during which we should dedicate our thoughts and attention towards significant people and events. However, thoughts of peace, freedom and gratitude aren’t to be restricted to just one day per year.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Please understand this: there is no criticism here of any kind against those who outwardly show that they mark Remembrance Day with poppies, badges, wristbands or otherwise. There is nothing towards anyone, on the basis that they ‘don’t do enough the rest of the time in order to justify these few days of recognition at this time of year…’.

I won’t try to make you believe that I reserve time every single day specifically in order to remember and thank the soldiers who fought and died to preserve their world and ours. This is rather about encompassing these unnamed martyrs of freedom and peace, to whom we owe our way of life, in the overall circle of gratitude I send out for anything and everything for which I am grateful.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

What if we made it our objective, starting with this day, Remembrance Sunday – 15th November 2020, to remember, not once per year but at least once per day, whom our freedom is (in large part) thanks to. At least, to recognise the simple fact that freedom, as well as peace, are ours. In doing so, I daresay we will never again risk taking for granted even the smallest measure of freedom and peace which we enjoy every single day… Freedom can manifest itself in any number of ways, which aren’t for us to qualify as ‘big’ or ‘small’.

Our ‘everyday’ freedom, the kind which allows us to realise everyday endeavours, every day, may seem anything but extraordinary. However, we’d certainly notice if one day it were gone. Imagine a situation in which our right to go out as we choose – or to stay out as late as we choose – were taken away…? Let’s try to imagine that for just a moment…??!! Thoughts of peace, freedom and gratitude may seem a tall order when we are forced to compromise on what we consider as our basic ‘rights’.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

This morning, I woke up in a warm bed, in a peaceful apartment; we had toast for breakfast, of which there was plenty, and thought of the day ahead, which we’d fill with whatever we would decide. Later, I sat looking through the window at the sky and view outside, breathing and taking in that quiet, placid moment.

I then began thinking of the gift which is this peace, bestowed upon us by those for whom today is appointed a day of memorial.

It was justly this moment at which it occurred to me that I don’t attribute this gift to those who gave their lives for it, as they did for so many people, nearly as often as I ought to.

This one manifestation of the freedom I enjoy in my everyday life illustrates the main point I wish to make: even something by all accounts ‘ordinary’ warrants our gratitude for having the freedom to do it. That we don’t necessarily take the time daily to dedicate our thoughts to the brave soldiers, resistance fighters, medics, activists, civilians… All those who sacrificed and fought in order that we can live a life so peaceful they are absent from our very thoughts for so much of the year is perhaps even somewhat cruel irony…?

May we never know the fear they knew, face the danger they faced or be confronted, as they were, with the uncertainty of whether we will live to see another day of quiet peace, let alone return home to share it with our families.

May we live in such a way that, so as not to take for granted all they gave up in order to preserve the existence of their world, thereby paving the way for ours, they might feel as though all that they gave was worth the sacrifice.

Image by Michael from Pexels

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

All year round we mark special occasions, and commemorate past ones with anniversaries, celebrating or remembering loved ones and the significant events which tie us together. Whatever the occasion, or nature of the significance, let’s reserve a place for remembering their importance not just on the ‘one day of the year that counts’, but every day of the year.

Keeping everything and everyone which matters to us constantly at the forefront of our minds is not what it takes to show them their importance to us. Thank goodness – where would be the space for all the insignificant, everyday things which clamour for the same attention?!! It isn’t even necessarily about telling them, either – no less giving them something – in order to remind them how important they are. Everyday recognition, in any form – however ‘big’ or ‘small’, but especially ‘small’ – of who and what makes our life extraordinary, is the first way of expressing our gratitude for them…

This can just as well be an internal (‘SMALL’!) as an external word of thanks, a tiny yet perceptible – and equally if not more powerful – acknowledgment of our gratitude for their presence or existence. The constant presence of these sentiments is what renders days such as anniversaries so genuinely special.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

© Away With Words, 2020

Thoughts on how to experience each moment fully…

How to feel that we really are experiencing a moment fully, and taking it in for everything it is worth… It’s one thing to know without question or doubt that we feel happy or content in a given moment. Knowing that there is no limit as to how ecstatic we can feel in any moment, however ‘simple’ or ‘ordinary’, is something else entirely… This means never putting any constraints on our feelings of happiness or gratitude, at any time – ever!

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay


You are happy, at present, in this simple moment (which you already know is more than just a “simple” moment)… Imagine, now, how happy it would make you to know that this is already your second chance at this moment…? You’ve lived it before, in another time… And right now, having travelled through distant time and universes, you find yourself right here once again.

I’ll let that sensation sink in…

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Does it feel good to be back, having been gone so far from here and for so long? Do you miss the person you are with? When was the last time you saw them? Don’t be surprised by the need to look at them more closely, or listen to them more intently than perhaps you did the first time you lived this moment; you probably weren’t counting on this chance to live it again. Perhaps this experience has offered you a new perspective on what it means to experience each moment fully…?

But, now that you are here, you’re ever more grateful for this second chance, because you know just how lucky you are it’s yours!!

“There are no ordinary moments. There is always something going on.”

Peaceful Warrior

In twenty years’ time…

… you will desperately wish you still looked the way you do in that ‘awful’ photo just taken of you, or that you still had the ability to move, laugh, see and hear as freely and easily as you currently do. Your youth, vitality, independence, senses and mobility are gifts you’ll want to appreciate long before they’re either jeopardised or altogether lost.

Stop… Accord your attention to the details of where you are – your company and surroundings – which are only here, only now. Realise, in that very moment, that it’s the last chance you’ll have to experience that exact moment exactly as it is, here in the present.

Many centuries from now, when your life in this world has long ended, imagine what you wouldn’t give to live just one more “simple” or ‘ordinary’ moment in this present time…

Start NOW, by treating every single moment, “ordinary” or EXTRAORDINARY, as if it were already your second chance at it! This way, you will know you are able to experience each moment fully… When that chance is over, you will have no regrets for not having taken the chance to live it fully!!

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Daily Habits and Practices for a Calm, Healthy, Happy Mind

These are some examples of daily habits and practices I would recommend to anyone…

… To help integrate their favourite activities as regularly as possible into their lives, as well as to keep their minds calm and free from invading, distracting thoughts. I say ‘daily’ as, for me, any day which consists of any and all of these is a good day! But instead of wanting to try and fit in every single one of these, every single day, however they benefit you, how about starting to make time for one per day, another one per week, another per month…? This way, you’ll give yourself the chance to see which daily habits and practices are particularly beneficial, and therefore which you should keep . Then aim to make the very best ones even more regular, and notice the difference in your frame of mind and your satisfaction at how your precious time is spent everyday!

Are any of these already a part of your daily rituals and habits? Do you see any which inspire you to take action? Which are your favourites?

Listening to inspiring audios

You can find any amount of inspiring material by searching in the right place! Listen when you’re able to concentrate only on what you hear, for example while meditating, cooking, running, walking, falling asleep… For audios on personal development, self improvement, spirituality, positive mentality, try: Tony Robbins, Beth Kempton or Law of Attraction Coaching.

Keeping a journal and/or a gratitude diary

Have the means to record any and all thoughts, ideas, impressions and reflections, at any time, and create the means to be able to come back and refer to them later. Don’t know why you would do that? You needn’t right now, however you’re giving yourself no way to come back to what you thought of, in order to decide what to do with it, unless you at least write it down straight away!


Perhaps the least strenuous, easiest, most relaxing form of exercise you could achieve! For those able, that is – there are people who would give anything to find walking as easy as we find it, which means it’s also up to us not to take it for granted, for their sake if for nothing else!

Drinking Water

Fill a reusable (sports) bottle, and have it with you as you go about your daily habits and practices. Water, like air, is the key to life! Hydrate, refresh and cleanse yourself from the inside out. You are more likely to drink a higher volume of water by drinking from a bottle throughout the day, than if you keep going back for one glass at a time… Drink at least twice as much if a sporting activity is also a part of your day!


Need I say more?? Read the same or a different book every time, settle down with a whole selection to indulge in, read for leisure or for learning, fiction or non-fiction… Keep that notebook by you 😉 don’t forget to stop and daydream from time to time, and you STAY THERE until the time you allocate is all up!! The rest will have to wait…


No matter whether it’s learning a foreign language, or any other skill, by personal study or otherwise, or simply a fact/figure/statistic/quote or even a new word – create the habit of taking in new information as regularly as you can. It’s not a question of trying to retain EVERY SINGLE item you learn. However, you will develop a reflex for taking in new, useful, interesting knowledge – and the more you do that, the less space you leave to be potentially invaded by harmful, negative or false pieces of information, and the more sensitive you’ll also be in order to recognise them in the first place!


Indoors, outdoors, or both, if possible… You are here; be here. Take the time to explore what each of your senses is giving to you, right now; breathe deeply and fully, and just be… Be present, be conscious, be aware, and be grateful

Looking out of the window

My last flat was less than 9m2, and looked out on to an internal courtyard and into other people’s flats (all of whose were definitely bigger than mine). I could still see the sky, thankfully, as I was on the 5th floor, and that was largely what constituted my ‘view’. So, I looked! I did go out, too, most days. Only looking indoors all day is like walking outside looking at the ground; there are surely plenty of nice things to look at there, but so many others if you lift your gaze and actually look around, too!

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.

Zen Proverb

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

I hope you decide to share your own daily habits and practices with us, below! I look forward to reading them, and certainly to being inspired by them, too!

Feature image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Language Learning Daily Rituals: Baguette

Incorporating an integral element of French culture into your daily rituals to help you stay committed… This could apply to any foreign language, or – indeed – any habit or subject of study!

language learning daily rituals baguette

If you have lived or travelled in France, you will certainly be familiar with the ritual of buying bread from the bakery first thing in the morning. You may also, then, have experienced the sentiment of simultaneous relief and joy you get when passing someone on your way, walking in the opposite direction, a baked good of some description in their hand? Your confirmation that the bakery is OPEN today, and that you are going to arrive ON TIME without it closing! NB: Bakeries, like many establishments in France, have certain closing times during the day – sometimes for up to two hours. Don’t get caught out!!

Rather than representing a chore or a hardship of any kind, this early morning ritual is both a necessary and important duty, and a pleasure! Who wouldn’t enjoy starting the day by being greeted with the fresh, warm aromas and beautiful array of delicious-looking pastries that a French bakery has to offer?

Why is this important, and how can I make it relevant to language learning?

There are several ways in which you can use this practice to help inspire your own language learning daily rituals:

  • you make time for it first thing in morning: it may require you to get up earlier (unless, for you, it can mean starting your day later…), but by creating a time slot first thing in the morning expressly for language learning, it won’t encroach on the rest of your busy schedule;
  • it constitutes an important, essential task – therefore, treat it as such! It will never get your attention unless you see it as something necessary for you to do, not just a pastime;
  • opening your routine with a learning (or a physical) activity will leave you feeling set up for the rest of the day! You will be prepared both mentally and physically, as you will already be engaged in the process of personal growth and development!

Please read for more ideas on how to integrate foreign language into your rituals for everyday life!

10 Years – 10 Life Lessons

10 life lessons in 10 years… And realising that what I was already certain I believed, I am now absolutely convinced is true.

love life

1. You don’t have to try to be like someone else (however well-liked or popular they may be) in order for other people to like you.

2. You’re not being cruel, inconsiderate, unreasonable or ‘picky’ by not wanting to go out with someone who doesn’t entirely correspond to what you’re looking for in a partner.

3. The interests, preferences and qualities you have – especially those which set you apart from others – are there to be celebrated, cherished and honed.

4. You need neither the approval nor the advice of people you don’t admire, don’t want to follow, and whose lifestyle doesn’t make you dream

5. EVERYTHING happens in the right way, the only way it’s supposed to, whether you like it at first or not.

6. Though technology can help facilitate any number of tasks in daily life, it isn’t there to replace fundamental needs. We always need real-life contact with people (particularly those present), to think for ourselves and even just to ‘be‘ – without being occupied or entertained.

7. If it feels right for you, do it – it’ll either be a great experience and great memories and/or something you learn from. If it doesn’t feel right to you, or you have to be pressured into doing it, then don’t!! Better let it be someone else’s mistake rather than your own regret…

8. You can make a living from doing what you love, and get rich by doing it, and feel good about it all.

9. Appearance is so far from being your most important asset or quality. Valuing beauty doesn’t make you superficial, but always putting it first wouldn’t be doing justice to your real qualities – the ones you can work on which allow you to keep improving as a person.

10. Working hard or working long hours aren’t synonymous with working well, or delivering your best quality service to others. Add value to others’ lives by what you do for them, not the number of hours you spend breaking your back, forgetting to enjoy your own life in the process, no less criticising yourself in the end for ‘still not doing enough’.

You are already doing more than enough (which is to say that you are doing exceptionally or outstandingly well – and why aim for anything else?) by dedicating yourself to delivering a high-quality service, and feeding your own passion in doing so. Life lessons will tell you that you are a credit to yourself as well as to all those who are lucky enough to be influenced by you!

enjoy life

There is no time like the present…

Dear everyone,

As we reach a point where we can all more or less empathise with each other, across continents, nations and cities, please let’s first take a moment to appreciate one thing: what we’re effectively trying to stay away from, to distance ourselves from as much as possible, by being asked to stay indoors unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, has nothing to do with hiding ourselves from other people; for what feels like the first time in a long time, ‘other people’ are not what represents the greatest ‘threat’ to us at present. To that end, the very reason for being asked to do everything possible to avoid each other is so as to protect each other, to keep other people safe from potential dangers to which we could unwittingly/inadvertently expose them if we’re not careful.

There’s nothing we’re missing out on by being ‘stuck at home’, and it’s no less fair on us than on anyone else – this is impacting us all in the same way, that is, as long as we respectfully do as we’ve been asked – advisedbegged by those who know best.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Rather than being asked to actively help prevent the spread as such, we are instead urged to do everything we can to be as helpful as possible to the services… By doing NOTHING. If you find that challenging, ask yourself whether you’d find it easier to go out and fight, act or contribute towards the overall effort in any active way; would you do it then? Is it suddenly starting to feel a whole lot more manageable to find ways to do what you can, with what you’ve got – right at home??

We’re absolutely not to feel helpless, useless or anything of the sort for not being able to ‘do more to help’; it has been made clear, time and time again, that this is the best thing we can do, to allow the right people to do everything THEY can do, in order to appease and improve the situation.

What if love itself, and every positive thought or reflection possible in the absence of fear, scarcity, foreboding, selfishness or greed, were enough to stamp the virus out? No amount of thinking about the horrors or torment of people affected, of people treating people who are affected, loved ones of people who are affected, the potential effect of more and more people being affected… Will ever bring us any closer to the end, let alone in a positive way. Instead of allowing ourselves to be drawn in, or have fear instilled in us by the media for another moment, what if we got matters and our minds, our thoughts, our reactions and our perspectives back under our own control? How about treating this as our calling: it’s impossible to feel hatred, fear or panic at the same time as love, gratitude and faith; fostering negative feelings over positive ones will not do to ‘get us out alive’, any more than continuing to think, feel and act as well as we can amidst and in spite of the state of our global community. Whatever freedom we may think we’re being deprived of, one freedom we will maintain as long as we exist is the freedom to choose what we think. The best we can do for ourselves, for those around us, whether physically near or far, and (through the power of thoughts) for the global community, is to deprive the Universe of our bad feelings, and instead gift it and ourselves with the best, most positive and most powerful thoughts we have!

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Down to interpretation:

Force for good ー Question 1) How could I use all… this… time…? For a start, perhaps by not wishing it was all over, just like that, and thinking endlessly of the life you had, missed and want straight back; instead, by taking this time, and by using it to do good.

I would like to propose this as a time to rediscover yourself, and to (re)discover all the things that all this extra time on your hands could allow you to do, or to accomplish. Denied the freedom of going outside at will and being in physical contact with other people, but instead gifted with a home, food, heating, running water, books, a television, the internet (by no means true for everyone facing this, I know; but, if you’re reading this, then I’m guessing it is for you) – who knew we would ever find out what it felt like to miss that level of liberty…? However, instead of staying focused on what we think has been taken away from us: what are all the ways in which this situation could be nothing other than a gift to us?

Home ー Look at the faces of the one(s) you share your home with differently, and be open to your relationship with them being renewed. However you feel about it, you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time with them for the foreseeable future, which is potentially a LOT more than you’re used to spending together. On top of all the time you are accustomed to spending appreciating them, and valuing their place in your life and in your heart, let’s agree that this is enough to bring even that to a new level! Be extra wary of the time each of you needs to spend individually (it’s only natural that you will need more – and it’s not a bad thing, at all), and cherish even more the time you spend in each other’s company. Whatever your situation at the beginning, I’d like to think that you’ll end up becoming even closer as housemates, as siblings, as a family or as a couple. Think of this as your chance to do just that – remember, you can use your time to do whatever you want, especially right now!

Whether that is or isn’t you, time spent alone – of which there will be an abundance, for the foreseeable future!! – is golden, whether for you that means a process of healing, clarifying, cleansing, it is the chance for you to listen to, to think for, to decide for, to act for: only you. If you want it to be, your time can be virtually uninterrupted – except for the odd welcome interruptions in the form of calls or messages shared with distant loved ones (‘distant’ as a matter of perspective) – and there is a plethora of possible ways of spending your precious time, as abundant as the time itself… Please allow me to share with you a few of mine:

  • –  reading;
  • –  writing/journalling;
  • –  stretching/exercising;
  • –  cleaning/tidying;
  • –  Skype/FaceTime/WhatsApp calling;
  • –  watching TV/films/series/videos;
  • –  looking through old photos;
  • –  tapestry/calligraphy;
  • –  … add to that playing video games, drawing, singing/playing an instrument, baking, clothes making (or mask-making!!), knitting – all of which I’m sure, if you’re good at or want to get good at them, are really fun!!

Contact with loved ones ー Technology is as wonderful as whatever we choose to use it for. For most of us right now, on top of the fact that it is perhaps what allows work (and therefore income) to continue from home, it facilitates contact with our loved ones, and is therefore our one solution to keeping up with them at all. Although I have had as part of my ‘Life Goals’ since the beginning of last year to video call my sister, send messages to my brother and share photos with my close friends at regular intervals, only now am I closer than ever to actually doing so… Why?? Why now, when it was neither difficult nor a chore in the past? Surely I wasn’t waiting until I had a big enough reason in the form of a viral outbreak for it to become sufficiently urgent? Absolutely not. Is it nonetheless as good an opportunity as ever to get round to it? Oh, yes – absolutely!!

Creative endeavours ー Time spent in isolation, rather than being considered as ‘time we’ll never get back’, or that ‘could have otherwise been spent anywhere/doing anything else’, is anything but time wasted: it is time invested. As long as we’re not sick in hospital, fighting on the frontline tending to those who are, or working to ensure the continued security of the nation and its inhabitants then, by definition, we have both the means and the opportunity to put our creative mind power to use in the pursuit of brilliance. Indeed, some of the best works to be bestowed upon us by the minds of such genii as William Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton were conceived of during times of plague, and, therefore: physical distancing and self-isolation. Starved of outside distractions or interactions (not to mention the absence of on-demand, on tap news items from the external world), inspiration took free reign. What’s more – today, not only does the creative energy keep flowing, but we can even share in the genius of numerous musicians coming to life from across the world: their passion and generosity compel these artists, in what could otherwise be considered purely as a ‘time of crisis’, to maintain (and undoubtedly strengthen) the connection they have with their audiences around the world, for free, in their own homes, using the means available to us and to them to spread nothing but love and good vibes.

We have witnessed (and haven’t seen the end of – thankfully!!) the products of the creativity of people who are moved to post their own reflections, home videos and jokes: demonstrating everything from the insightful and informative, whilst beautifully positive, to the utterly stupid and nothing short of hilarious… Thank goodness for our natural ability to make light of a bad situation!! Needless to say, it is by far more productive to choose humour and inspiration over boredom and frustration, whether to pass the time, stay sane or simply make the most of it – whatever you need!!

Historical perspective ー Whilst I’m not suggesting trying to ignore the inescapable blow to our population dealt by the virus, I would nevertheless like to make reference to the innumerable disasters and tragedies scattered across our history, all of which our species has eventually managed to contain and recover from. In each case, whatever the strife and nature/extent of the torment, those who suffered it have come through. The difference this time is that, whereas people in the past still had to recover their lives, families, homes and businesses all over again, they were forced to do so without anywhere near the same level of comfort, standard of living, nature of technology, or hygiene/sanitary conditions the majority of us enjoy today. In our case, yes, it would be inhumane to be inconsiderate of the inevitable impact this outbreak will have on countless, but no less humane for us to want it to stay as far away from our loved ones and ourselves as possible.

Renewed gratitude ー You aren’t to be blamed for missing life the way it used to be before this new and unprecedented set of circumstances arose. By contrast, you may find you’re not missing it whatsoever. However, if it is the case, don’t fight against it, or let it make you feel as though you’re in some way ungrateful for your life the way it currently is – on the contrary: when this does pass (and pass, it shall) and when you life does go back to (a new, better version of) ‘normal’, what you’re currently experiencing when you imagine that life will have evolved into a revived sense of gratitude for the ‘small’, the ‘insignificant’ or the ‘everyday’ like you’ve never known before. What better way to continue with life as though you have had a second chance at living it (but for real, this time), especially when so many will not get the chance? Thinking of how you’ll want to feel when looking back on this time from a future point will surely help you to decide what to use it for whilst you’re still here, and while it isn’t too late for you to go back and make the most of it.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Lessons to be drawn:

Projection ー Thinking of how the ‘you’ of the future will want to look back on this time from an individual point of view is one thing – but what will we think of ourselves, as a species, when our whole global community wants to look back at this time? When all is said and done, the last ‘Closed’ signs taken down and the first steps back towards school, work, entertainment and gatherings are taken, what will we have made of all this? What will we want to have accomplished, improved or developed during this period? Although an effective treatment for the virus might be a good start, will there also be other sorts of advancements made, somewhat independently of these conditions? It may well be the time we look back on as the dawn of so many startup businesses, blooming and thriving online; as the return to locally-sourced products and goods, at a time when we found out the hard way what happens when you can no longer rely upon importing them (despite the apparent cost-effective interest); maybe even as the mass exodus from mainstream occupations of disenchanted, dispassionate employees towards a new career destination, having realised the job they had doesn’t fit the life they want, and which they know they are worthy of having.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

I hope, and I believe, that amidst all the pain caused there will be a beacon of light in the form of a newfound, newly appreciated way to continue living (‘newfound’ ironically, since it will have so much to do with going back to a previous, all but forgotten way of living!!). Who knows what form it will take exactly – as with so many things, only time and faith will tell – but I should like to think it will leave us with a renewed sense of community among peers, colleagues and teammates, in their relative absence – at least physically; with a remodelled vision of different ways to learn, create, teach, work, communicate and do business; less dependent on others’ resources than on our own means (thereby reducing the need for so MUCH energy, and resources, to be wasted in order to make those resources accessible to us in the first place); hopefully, the list goes on…

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Work and passion ー Back in those normal days, do you ever remember wishing it could just hurry up and be the end of the day, so that you could go home, or at least just leave work at all costs…? How do you feel about the day now? If that was you, are you now cherishing each hour of every day, however you spend it, or do you still have the same feeling as always? Perhaps you’re already wondering whether you’ll honestly be going back to that same job after all this, this having given you the opportunity to see what else you could do. How else would you have known that you’re able to work from home, and/or do something creative, which engages your passion and your interests, which other people not only need but also love…?

Nature and the environment ー The forces which have long moulded and which now govern our society are those which have also trained us up from a very young age to become the perfect consumers. This has come at a price, namely that of Nature, of our environment, which isn’t news to us – far from it – and yet here we are: being reminded by Her, once again, that we’ve gone too far in our destructive habits. Now, however, what with most shops, restaurants and the like closing, for the most part we have no choice but to buy so much less than usual, let alone ‘over-buy’. Whereas any number of us (not necessarily excluding myself!!) might normally have been out pleasing ourselves, buying consumables such as food, drink, cosmetics, even cigarettes (many of whose containers are likely destined to top up landfill sites) or clothing, shoes, accessories or any other kind of ‘stuff’, at the slightest whim, right now we’re being taught what it means to ‘do with’ what really is essential for living. Meanwhile, as ever: supermarkets continue to be provisioned beyond necessity (provided we only shop enough for the house until the next time the clocks change, and don’t accidentally shop for the entire postcode until the ‘next’ next time they do), bins continue to be collected, streets kept safe and free of crime, emergency calls responded to, radio and TV programmes broadcast, internet connection kept running, people in hospitals and shelters (in spite of everything) are continuing to be looked after by dedicated health professionals – whose wings and halos are, safe to say, well past due…

With comparatively ‘fewer’ things, and ‘limited’ to fewer, or uniquely indoor, activities, and any travel plans for at least the next month out the window (apart from the ones whose destination you can see from your window), are you able to say what really is essential to you, after all? Are there items of clothing you now know you can happily give away; clothes, products and foodstuffs you realise you can comfortably do without buying; leisure activities you’ve given yourself the chance not to miss, which could be saving you time, money, petrol…? It is no stretch to our precious planet for every one of us to enjoy a beautiful life, one of abundance, but ‘abundant’ is not synonymous with ‘excessive’, nor does it have to mean ‘abusive’; therein lies the problem.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

We are against neither nature nor each other, and as connected as we are to nature and to each other, nature is calling us now. How many more wake-up calls from our environment can we have the impudence to ignore before we fall afoul of our own standard of living once and for all, and we don’t get given any more ‘second chances’? Whilst it’s true that the immediate and small-scale effects have already begun to take place:

• air pollution has dropped dramatically in China and Italy over the past couple of months;
• trade and consumption of wild animals has been banned in China;
• water runs clear and fish can be spotted again in Venice;

… if we want the effect to last, it’ll take a lot more than being ‘forced’ to comply, without necessarily reducing our level of consumption consciously, or of our own volition.

Annalise Batista for Pixabay

Each to their own interpretation of what this is all supposed to mean, in the scheme of our existence as tenants of this planet; for, whatever we may mistakenly believe, it isn’t (in fact) ours to do with what we please. However you choose to interpret any situation gives you an indication as to what you will gain or what you will lose through it. Personally, I am as determined as ever to believe that it has its own place in Nature, in our history and in the evolution of our kind. To see such a thing in this way, I think, requires holding a strong sense of conviction that all is perfect as it is, that the Universe knows best (that it certainly knows better than we do) and that all that happens has its own part to play in the enormous and universal balancing act that is Life. Most of all, the time is now, if ever, to be able to approach our own lives, families, homes, jobs, time and selves with an entirely new perspective, as if we were being rewarded with a bigger chance at all of these – at Life.

There is no time like the present to:

  • love, protect and strengthen ourselves as a whole;
  • use the power of our thoughts to become a force for good;
  • rediscover and reconnect with ourselves, our close family members and close friends;
  • explore our creativity and take this opportunity to see what our mind is really capable of;
  • put the current situation into perspective by looking back at our history;
  • learn what we can do to improve our own lives, now and from now on;
  • implement what we can to ensure the continued wellbeing of the environment, as well as our own;
  • reflect on the past, be grateful for the present and have faith in the future.





What do you want to learn, and what for?

The biggest, most important question to be asking yourself over the course of your learning journey, and the one to which the answer will keep you going when the journey gets tougher, is not ‘HOW am I going to do this’, but ‘WHY am I going to do this’!!

In writing this, I am mainly addressing foreign language learners – however, the principles of prioritising the WHY over the HOW can be applied in any domain (professional, sporting, creative, …), and to whatever you are in the process of learning to do or trying to accomplish!!!

Hence, this is generally one of the first questions I tend to ask my new students in order to find out the nature of their goals, and exactly what we are to begin working towards. 

Another reason I ask is to hear from them what outcome they envisage, so that it becomes what they keep in mind when work begins, gets tougher, and eventually rewards them!

Undoubtedly, when embarking upon any new adventure or endeavour, we can always expect to encounter obstacles of some description. But we wouldn’t do without them – in their absence, there wouldn’t be much of any substance involved in the learning experience, and what use calling it an adventure or an endeavour if it’s no more challenging or fulfilling than any of our other regular, day-to-day activities? So how best to ensure our perseverance in order to see our enterprise through to the end, past the challenges and obstacles? 

The temptation or, perhaps, the initial reflex, is to ask ourselves the question of: ‘How?’, but repeating the question ‘How…?’ fixates our attention on those obstacles, whereas by focusing instead on the question ‘Why…?’ we liberate ourselves from such concerns, thus allowing creative energy and inspiration to flow freely…

Why… did you decide to undertake it in the first place?

Reflect on the original motivation or incentive which struck you, the spark of genius or inspiration which gave you the initial idea to go forth and be brilliant… Is this a creative endeavour, or one related to your profession, or a sporting ambition? When, in the beginning, you first felt a rush of excitement thinking about what greatness lay ahead, already then were you making a connection in time with the rewarding sensation of accomplishment at the completion of your journey, not to mention the countless victories and challenge-surpassing along the way! Hold onto it – if concentrating on the feeling you want in the end is what it will take to get you there, let it lead you blindly along!!

Why… is the outcome so important to you?

What will achieving your ambition allow you to do that makes you want it so badly? What will the result prove to you? Visualise and make a connection with the ways in which your life will change for the better when you succeed, and think about how you see yourself and your environment: is your home beautiful and renovated, making it a comfortable, safe space to share with your loved one(s)? Has your body changed, and do you feel healthier, stronger and more resilient? Do you finally see for yourself how capable, intelligent, skilled and disciplined you really are? EXCELLENT. THAT is why you embarked upon this journey. THESE are the reasons you want to succeed, and THIS is why YOU WILL CONTINUE and see it through!!

These questions hold on the basis that you personally, not someone else, e.g. at work, set yourself a particular task, goal or ambition. The only way for you to justify dedicating so much of your time to a particular endeavour (least of all when it’s easy, and especially when it’s not) is to focus on how it is significant to you, and not just what it means to someone else or how it will benefit them.

Does thinking about it now make you reconsider your goals somewhat, either altering them, adapting your approach or setting yourself entirely new goals? To that end, do they hold even greater power now that you have reflected on their real significance?

The strength and conviction of each of your answers is the premise of your motivation to continue, so those answers had better be strong and full of conviction!!!

My goal is for you to DECIDE WHY you are starting what you’re about to start, or REMEMBER WHY you started it in the first place, and – in either case – FOCUS ON THE ‘WHY’ from now on and through to the end of the journey!

I invite you, kind readers of this post, to share your own personal goal, foreign language-related or otherwise, in a comment at the bottom of this page (whether or not you intend to pursue a course with me in future, or to make use of the resources soon to be available on this website), as another means of reinforcing it for yourself as well as to provide encouragement and inspiration to your fellow readers by sharing it with them. Thank you in advance! I shall begin that part of the discussion by sharing with you a couple of my own sources of motivation:

Why… learn and improve in Japanese …?

==> so that I can talk with confidence and at length with the Japanese karate instructors with whom I have the good fortune to spend so much time, and so often;

==> so that I can stay constantly so far ahead of my students as to motivate them, and always have some new knowledge, advice or learning material to offer them.


7 advantages of finding that someone can do what you want to do better than you can

… and how that will help you get better at what you want to get better at doing!!

1 Coming across a person or the result of a person’s work which merits your recognition is a sign that your idea to come up with the same thing was a good one: you’re just not the only one who had that idea! Take it as confirmation that what you will pursue is worthy of your efforts, and rest assured having deduced that others (namely, your audience) will also agree that it was a good idea – pick up your pen, and get to work!

2 Seeing another person carrying out a similar idea to yours can provide you with a free and easy ‘sneak-peek’ at what might have happened if you had gone ahead before you actually do so: their product being the draft, your product will be the final version! What would you change about what they have done? Crucially, how could you make sure your version will be even better than theirs? Take notes – and mentally thank them for the opportunity for this extra insight!!

3 You can choose to feel demotivated or encouraged by seeing someone, possibly someone close to you, achieve what you yourself would also have liked to achieve; you can choose. Know that by sharing in the joy of their success, and fuelling their ambitions as well as your own, you will only bring yourself closer to fulfilling your own endeavours! This is because choosing to ignore or shut out feelings of joy for them will only stop those feelings from coming back round to you, whereas by embracing the feelings of celebration associated with success, albeit for someone else, you are saying ‘Yes!!’ to those emotions, and opening yourself up to them. Don’t block out or deny yourself feelings you want to feel – just as importantly, it is helpful to remember to recognise when someone is fully deserving of their success (as you also will be when you have yours), and to offer the same boost you hope to enjoy when your time comes! « Si vous vous sentez vraiment bien à l’égard du succès, peu importe à qui il appartient, vous attirerez le succès à vous ! » (Byrne 2010 : 174).

4 Very often, it is necessary for the same or similar products to be adapted or even redesigned in order to suit a wide audience; how else could we explain the existence of so many innumerable, thriving brands selling the same or similar products? It’s not because you witness someone else’s success with a product the same or similar to the one you wish to promote that you can’t also have the same or yet greater success with your product (be it more or less exactly the same or just similar); the audience they are catering to is almost certainly different to your ideal audience. There is a reason you stand out, so discover your niche, dare to embrace exactly what makes you unique and find the solution to exactly what you can offer your clients that absolutely no-one else could! “The thing to remember is this: someone else’s success does not hinder your chances of achieving what you want.” (Kempton 2018: 152).

5 Admiring a great person is, in itself, a great reflection on you. It isn’t synonymous with admitting you’re less adept than another person, nor is it accepting that you’ve given in to the competition – on the contrary: you can’t lead the way until you’ve been the way, which is why having admiration for someone else can give you the same gratification as having a great personal mentor or role model. For that matter, think of it as having a whole host of mentors, since there is no limit as to how many great examples you may choose to follow, and whose influence you would like to grace your work!! Consider it a product of your clever judgement, and pride yourself on the fact that theirs is the example you have chosen to follow. With a plethora of possible role models available, your personal choice in whom to lend your attention is what will help contribute to your eventual and inevitable triumph!

6 Did your ambition arise out of the inspiration you felt by witnessing someone achieve or dare something brilliant, by any chance…? A person in the figure of a teacher, an athlete or an artist, perhaps? The greatest leaders are those who never deem themselves as having reached the stage where they are no longer students: if, like them, you are constantly in a state of mind where you consider you always have something else to learn, or more progress to make, you are leaving the way open to limitless improvements over the course of your entire career! Your journey constitutes an endless stream of developments in the name of finding excellence: instead of seeing that as something negative, embrace it and realise it means you only ever keep getting better! (2018)

7 When you realise that your choice of reaction towards someone seemingly more skilled or talented than yourself isn’t restricted to an attitude of defeat, disappointment or inadequacy, you will find yourself opening up to all of the above principles. Whereas your instinct may otherwise have been to respond with feelings of inferiority, or to allow yourself to feel intimidated in the presence of this person (or these people), as soon as you learn to adopt this alternative mentality, and the fact that you are free to embrace this different outlook, you can willingly accept that there is only positivity to be found in their existence, their success and their impact on you. Be honest with yourself: there is no limit to your learning, nor will there ever be; there will always be new things for you to learn, and you will always be in a position where you can acquire and develop new skills! When you want to succeed, this is the greatest thing you can be grateful for!!

Le Secret ; Le Pouvoir {both by Rhonda Byrne; translated from the English by Jocelyne Roy}

Wabi Sabi {by Beth Kempton}

Ode to the Universe:

Reasons to be grateful for our life and our world…

My dear Universe,

Thank you for keeping every promise you make me;

Thank you for always knowing better than me, however little I care to realise it at the time, and for revealing the answers to me only when I am willing and ready to accept them;

I love you for keeping me in the minds of my loved ones when I am far, and me in theirs, that we may always be together in spirit;

Thank you for allowing me to see far enough into the future to begin to feel accomplishment for the goals I set myself in the present;

Thank you for not letting me forget too much of the past: enough to hold on to what is even more dear to me now than it was then, and to let go of what I needn’t keep once I’ve learned from it all that I can;

Thank you for remaining patient whilst we collectively work through our current state of progression, and for supporting us through our endeavours to better our overall existence, all the while trying to find ways to coexist;

Above all, thank you for filling life with unique, beautiful, memorable, inspiring, enlightening experiences, lifetime after lifetime, moment after moment, whether we believe, see it, feel it or not, continuously and unfailingly.

For all this and more, I thank you, dear Universe.