Category Archives: Learning

My Story: The Mirena Coil Implant

 

There are many different reasons for and against the use of hormonal contraceptives and, given the opportunity, many will throw their opinions at you until you’re left reeling and unable to tell left from right. I think, aside from personal accounts, people should refrain from bashing others with their medical opinions and leave a lot of the talk to doctors, but when it comes to personal experience, the testimony of others can be incredibly useful.
I decided last year, for a combination of reasons, to get the Mirena hormone coil implant as it seemed the best suited to my needs after thorough research online and talking at length with my doctors. I knew the process of getting used to a piece of plastic in my lady parts wouldn’t be easy, but it seemed worth it for the peace of mind and freedom it could offer.
Here is my experience!

My Reasons

For a number of health reasons, me and my reproductive system aren’t the closest of friends. I have always suffered from Dysmenorrhoea (the fancy medical word for “Extremely F***ing painful periods”) and so decided after many years to take steps to naturally stop my periods, without completely writing off the possibility of children someday down the line.
I researched the many kinds of hormonal contraceptives available to me and tried a couple, sadly to no avail. The Mirena turned out to the be the one most likely to give me the relief I needed to lead a happy life.

The Run Up

After multiple appointments with my doctor to settle upon the Mirena, I was booked in for the routine sexual health check up required before getting a coil.
As I had never had any appointments regarding my nether regions before, this was a rather awkward and eye-opening experience for me. I almost chickened out repeatedly, not wanting the embarrassment of a doctor going anywhere near my “hoo ha”, but I realised the only one making a fuss out of it was myself – these doctors spend almost all day every day just inches from a vagina, so mine wasn’t anything new to them.
The screening itself wasn’t really a problem when I calmed myself down. The only scary part was when they said they would text me with the results, and only to worry if I didn’t hear back… And guess who was left for 6 weeks thinking she had an STI because the hospital forgot to text her…. Yup.
You can imagine my relief when they finally told me I was fine after that little doosy!

The Big Day

So, I was told to go about my day as usual before the appointment l and just to take a painkiller a short while before going in and was warned that during and after the appointment I would experience “mild discomfort” and may want to rest for the day.
In reality, the appointment was genuinely the most painful experience of my 22 years, and that includes a head injury I sustained only 2 months before my Mirena insertion. As it turns out, I have an “abnormally small” cervix which meant that it was a whole new level of pain for little ol’ me, especially as the Mirena is mostly recommended for women that have had children.
Just the word “Speculum” makes me unconsciously cross my legs and gives me shudders, but nothing can sum up the bizarre feeling of the little T shaped device popping into place. Six months down the line and I still recall every detail of the fascinating and sickening sensation.
The insertion is kind of like an injection without a needle. The Mirena is on the end of a long stick with a syringe style plunger on the end that pushes the coil into place and then cuts the threads to length as it releases the device.
For all the discomfort, the procedure itself only lasted about 10-15 minutes, plus a 5-10 minute lie down to ensure I didn’t faint from standing up too fast.
The nurses were all incredibly sweet and helpful, ensuring I was safe and as at ease as possible during the whole ordeal.
Pain scale: 8 1/2 out of 10

The First Week

So I left my appointment with my friends, feeling pretty fragile and very queasy. After almost throwing up in my friend’s car from the pain and my body’s shock to the sudden change, I got home and things went from bad to worse.
Keeping in mind that I already suffer from Dysmennorhoea and the strain period pain puts on my daily life, the pain that flooded over me was 100 times worse than any cramps I had suffered in my life.
My boyfriend bundled me inside and wrapped me up as I fought the urge to black out from the sheer agony I was in. I felt as though someone was beating my uterus with a whisk made of fire and scrambling my insides. It was intense and I kept waking up, tossing and turning all night long.
The next day, I could hardly walk. I had to call my work and explain the amount of pain I was in and they kindly let me stay home. It was so rough.
Pain Scale 9 1/2 out of 10

The First Month

I remained in consistent pain for the whole of the first month after the appointment. I had to keep a chair at work to sit on when I wasn’t doing anything and practically lived constantly hopped up on cocodamol just to make it through the day.
It was intense, but I knew what I was in for given my health and my tiny frame. I survived through work, Christmas, travelling and just focussed on staying active and living life as normally as possible until the pain eased off.
When you get the coil, your body may react to the device and try to expel it, due to it being a foreign object inside your body, so pain is normal.
Pain Scale: Constant 6-7 out of 10

6 Months Later

It is 6 months to the day since I got the Mirena coil put in and, while I cannot say the process has been easy, it has been worth it.
In the 6 months I have had the coil, I have had a total of 6 accumulated weeks off my period. No joke. Due to the hormone release, your body has to figure out what to do and get used to the chemicals rushing around in your system and that takes time. The upside is that, while the bleeding is definitely an inconvenience, the pain I get from my periods has lessened significantly and my body is already starting to adjust and I am noticing my periods seem to be wearing off and getting a little shorter in between the growing breaks off.
occasionally I still get the odd twinge from it and pains here and there, but nothing as bad as what I was feeling every month before I got the coil.

Advice and Heads Up

  • When you get the coil inserted, you must return for a check-up 6 weeks later to ensure the device is in the correct position to work, so you will need to use other forms of contraception until that point, such as condoms, patches or the pill.
  • Obvious, I know, but important: The coil doesn’t protect you from any STIs, so be safe!
  • Try not to be too reliant on painkillers as you can build up a tolerance to them and, in some cases, get addicted or damage your organs. I know they seem like an easier option, but I felt a lot worse in the times I was using them too much.
  • Don’t let the pain scare you out of it if you really need it. I have decided to be honest about my experience because I wished I had been told, but the impact this device has had on my life in incredible and I feel a lot better knowing I could be on my way to getting rid of painful periods for up to 5 years and the knowledge that I am almost completely safe from accidental pregnancy.
  • Your boobs may get noticeably bigger. Thank you, Mirena!
  • BOOK TIME OFF WORK FOR AFTER. I was very lucky I had such understanding bosses who let me take a couple days to feel better, but do yourself a favour and make sure you get yourself at least a day or two to rest before going back, even if you are fine after, just so you don’t over exhaust yourself.
  • Make sure you talk to your doctors about the options you have available to you, to find the contraceptives that suit your needs best, as we are all very different.
  • Carry your Mirena patient card with you at all times. I didn’t know this until recently myself, but I was informed that the reason you are given the card isn’t just to remind you 5 years down the line to replace it, but also for medical reasons. Say you get into an accident and are rushed to hospital, if you have the card the medics will know that you have the Mirena instantly, as the device can show up looking like shrapnel in an X-Ray and it could get removed or cause issue with treatment.
  • If, like me, the Mirena causes heavily prolonged periods, make sure you talk to your doctor about the risk of Anemia and possibly invest in some iron supplements, as you don’t want to have to deal with an iron deficiency from bleeding on top of getting used to a coil!

I will be updating this post the further along I get into my experience with the coil and hopefully adding some testimonies from other people about their Mirena stories!
Thank you very much and I hope this has been useful for you!
Please join in the conversation in the comments below and over on Facebook! Xx

Claddagh rings – The IRL relationship status!

Today, when we meet someone new that we’re romantically interested in, one of the first 12788431_971115229639817_884393266_othings we are likely to do is go on Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram – even Linked in, if we’re really desperate) and check their Relationship Status for the all clear that we want to see before we pursue a relationship. Facebook makes it so much easier to do that harmless snooping we need.

But what about BEFORE the invention of social media, where all we had to go off was the presence, or lack therof, of a wedding ring? There were no telltale signs short of just asking the person outright (which can get kind of embarrassing in some circumstances) or asking around with friends or family.
That’s why I love the Claddagh ring so much. Named after the Irish town of its origin, the claddagh ring is designed for the exact purpose of displaying a person’s “romantic status” for the world to see.
The design includes two hands holding a heart that is adorned with a crown. The hands symbolize friendship and support, the heart represents love and the crown means loyalty. These are great little details, but the really interesting part comes down to the WAY it is worn!

12776841_971115212973152_692921021_oJust by looking at the orientation on the hands, you can quickly tell if the wearer is single (or at least not currently exclusive with the person they are seeing).
When a claddagh ring is worn on the right hand, with the heart pointing out (away from the wearer’s palm) then they are essentially single. It means that their heart isn’t taken, so that could mean they are not dating anyone or aren’t yet exclusive with them.
Similarly, if it is worn on the right hand with the heart pointing IN, then their heart definitely isn’t up for grabs, as they’ve either given it to someone else or are keeping it to one side ready for them (i.e dating somebody already).
When the claddagh ring is worn on the left hand, it’s a whole lot more serious! If they wear it on their left hand with the heart pointing out, then they are engaged to be married (I always chuckle because it’s almost like the ring is going “Hey, try get me now before it’s too late!”) and if it is on the left hand and pointing inwards the wearer is married (or in a serious committed very long-term relationship – we don’t have to go by tradition here!).

Claddagh rings are an Irish tradition, but it is so common for people without Irish herritage to wear them too. I’m not aware of any Irish in my family, and I’ve worn my Claddagh ring for the last 7 years, with only a few short breaks when it’s accidentally gone through the wash or been misplaced for a couple weeks!
If you’re interested in getting your very own claddagh ring, here is the particular design I have worn for the last 7 years

And, if you are interested in some of the flashier rings, here are a few of my favorites:

I hope you have enjoyed this quick random piece! If you are interested, come and connect with us on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter, join me on my own personal Twitter and also, check out my YouTube channels! Xx

Think Like A Native – Using your thoughts to improve your language skills

 

11650593_850429428375065_1268473140_nIn learning languages like Japanese and Korean, I have found one of the best ways of privately encouraging my learning, especially when unable to communicate with others in that language, is to make effort to communicate with myself.
Over recent months, due to breaking up with my Korean ex-boyfriend and terribly missing my Japanese best friend, I have neglected my language studies and this site in favor of taking time out to heal – trust me, you guys didn’t want to be witness to that mess! While this has somewhat dulled my abilities, I have found that regular practice in the privacy of my own mind has helped to preserve my understanding a great deal.
IMG_0844.PNGIt can be hard to find opportunities to communicate in languages not used in the area you live, so I decided to do my level best to think in Japanese and Korean wherever possible.
Going about my day and trying to think of the Japanese or Korean words for items I see and trying to string together the correct sentences goes a long way to help keep me focused on retaining what I already know, while also encouraging me to learn more.
When I dial a phone number, I try my best to think it in Japanese or Korean as I dial and that not only helps to improve my abilities, but I find helps with my concentration. If I am not sure of the word for a letter, I’ll just go with English and ensure to look it up later so I’ll be able to recall it the next time.
Of course, if you aren’t fluent, this isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it does serve as a way of revising a language when you cannot practice in conversation with others.
Even if you only use the odd word here and there, it will still help to build that comfort and understanding that will make learning faster and smoother. It will also help to make you able to fluidly move between languages – an ability that will serve you well the further you improve in all your language studies!
This has been a very short piece, I know, but I wanted to make something quick and simple as a way of getting back into things. Thank you so much to everyone who has waited patiently for me to be ready to return – I really appreciate your patience and all the supportive messages I have received in my time away!
As always, please share any thoughts or comments in the section below, or come join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

What is ‘Oppa’?

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Since Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ went viral worldwide in 2012, more people around the world have been aware of Korea and its pop culture. With that comes the typical questions that come with exploring a country with a completely different language and culture.

One part of Korea that a lot of people are still baffled by is the word “Oppa”. I see a lot of people asking “What is an Oppa?” and there is a lot of confusion about the word due to the cultural differences between us and Korea.
An Oppa isn’t a husband, actor, crush, classmate or a boyfriend, but at the same time it kind of is.
“Oppa” (오빠) means “brother” but is used by women to address older men of a close or similar status as them, so you would say it to an older brother, and older male cousin, an older male classmate or co-worker whom you are close-ish to, and older male friend, a boyfriend (some older women call their younger boyfriends ‘oppa’ to seem cutsy) a husband or even just an older man. You can simply call someone ‘oppa’ or attach it to the end of their name (For example, “Hyunseung-oppa”/”현승오빠”). One of the issues with understanding this word is that there isn’t really a direct equivalent in English, so it is a new concept. If you will, you can kind of imagine that words as like a much less formal “sir” that you can use throughout a whole conversation/interaction.
Photo 08-03-2015 02 19 10It has a lot to do with respect and friendship and knowing when it is and isn’t acceptable to use can be quite tough for non-Koreans to understand sometimes. When in doubt, you can simply ask whether it is okay to call them “oppa”. If you are learning about Korean and Korean culture, pay attention to learning good manners, but Koreans will often be understanding if you make a few errors, so long as they know that your heart is in the right place.
‘Oppa’ is one of 4 very commonly used words of this kind.
You are already aware of ‘oppa’ as the word for brother which applies when a younger female talks to an older male. Along this same strain, you have the word ‘Hyung’ (형) which is the equivalent for a younger male in addressing an older male.
And, if you switch the genders, a younger man talking to an older woman would use the word ‘Noona’ (누나) while a younger woman talking to an older woman would say ‘eonni’ (언니).
Make sure that you use these words with care. Some people don’t like being called by them and you should make effort to respect people’s preferences, especially when you do not have a deep and practiced understanding of the language to guide you.
Do you have any more questions about English, Japanese or Korean? Share your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them for you! Leave comments in the section below, or come join us on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Random Acts of Kindness

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We’ve all seen videos on Youtube and Facebook about people going out and doing random acts of kindness for others. They fill us up with that warm fuzzy feeling as unsuspecting people are shown gestures of kindness and good will. It’s really easy to watch these videos, but a lot of people don’t feel like they have what it takes to actually DO this.
Well, my sister and close friends have taken it upon ourselves to spread the love and bring joy to people’s day on a regular basis!

Inspired by videos of these kinds of events from big-hearted people like Ryan Higa and his crew, who regularly upload videos of themselves doing kind gestures as a way to inspire others to do the same. They give toys and flowers to people at Christmas and they went around their city giving food to the homeless for Thanksgiving. Popular Viner Thomas Sanders went around shopping mall for “Givemas” giving out gift cards to stores in that mall to happy customers and staff. These people are great examples of how selflessness can be both rewarding and really fun! These are the kinds of people who inspired us to start out own style of Random Acts of Kindness.

11041481_790157151068960_1238396688_nOne day a couple of summers ago, my sister and I traveled to a nearby town for a day at the beach together. It was nice – We drew pictures in the sand, paddled in the water and had a laugh before realising that we were surrounded, both on land and in the water, by literally hundreds of jelly fish and decided to flee the beach.
Wandering around and seeing a mixture of moods from passers-by. Some were loving the summer fun and enjoying the company of their families, while others were stressing out, sulking and generally being moody. We decided, as we were already having a great time, to do something nice to brighten other’s days a bit more. We put our heads together and decided that food and drinks were off the cards due to the insane numbers of seagulls that swoop at anything remotely edible and giving money just seemed weird, so we’d settle for something adults and children alike could just enjoy – Balloons!
After hurrying to the nearest card shop, we set off to deliver our handful of balloons to some lucky people.
Honestly, this first experience opened up so much for us. It was a great feeling to come into someone’s life, give them a gift and just let them go with a big smile on their faces. We met some absolutely lovely people and had some truly moving and enlightening conversations. And, just with balloons, we actually made a positive difference to the lives of others!

With that first experience a great success, we were hungry to do it again.

Valentine’s Day: Taking it a step bigger

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Valentine’s Day is known as a day of celebrating your love and putting on displays of affection for the world to see, but this day can be a huge downer for a lot of people with no partner and a glum attitude. In honesty, I meet more people who are miserable than happy on Valentine’s Day and that is because of the hype and weight put on having a partner. It reinforces the idea that having a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife should be your top priority and not having one is somehow a failure on your part. That can seriously bring you down and Valentine’s Day can be extra bad.
My best friend, little sister and I decided that we were going to take a stand against this yearly downer and go out and spread the love for everyone!
1939724_583856765032334_271925713_nOn Valentine’s Day 2014, we went out armed with ‘Free Hug’ banners and 20 balloons.
Due extremely high winds due to the huge storm that was pelting Britain at the time (hands up if you remember #UKstorm) we moved our post indoors and instead we targeted the students and faculty of our local university!
Shy students didn’t respond too openly to the offer of free hugs, but the balloons when down (or up) a treat! We managed to brighten many days, meet some very nice people and even confused a business lecturer when half his class turned up with balloons tied to their desks!
It was a fantastic day and the three of us had a great time seeing so many smiling faces! It brought us three closer together, introduced us to some nice people and brightened the days of many people!

Despite the success of that day, due to people getting jobs, my best friend moving back to Japan, lots of changes and such, the next time we had the availability to do another Random Act of Kindness was the following Valentine’s Day 2015.
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Due to my best friend still being in Japan, we still needed another to join us. Funnily enough, a few months after Valentine’s Day 2014, my sister made friends with a girl whom we later discovered, when we happened to talk about Valentine’s Day, we had given a balloon to on that day and then had met by chance later! This friend came along to help us out this year and the tradition continued for a second year! Armed with about 25 balloons and a handful of silk roses, the three of us wondered the town.
Due to it being a Saturday, the high street was packed full of families, couples and children of all ages. Honestly, the minute we stepped out with all the balloons ready to go we were mobbed by kids who wanted their own. Seriously, pre-teens are scary!!
The first child we were moved to give a balloon to was a small toddler whose parents asked us where they could buy their daughter a balloon like ours. I wish I could have captured the expression of true delight when we responded by handing over the big heart-shaped balloon that their little one had been so keen on and told them it was their’s for free.
We met a lot of lovely people along the road and we were really well received by everyone we encountered.

The overwhelming feeling I was left with was that it is so easy to make a significant difference to a person’s day (and thus a person’s life) simply by doing a nice gesture as simple as giving them a balloon.

How YOU can try it!

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So, now that you know that it’s actually very easy to do random acts of kindness, there’s nothing holding you back from trying it for yourself. This kind of thing is fantastic for helping the people around you, bringing friends together and practicing the very healthy activity of giving.
In honesty, it is a LOT easier to do it with a group of friends with whom you can feel comfortable around and whom you can chat to and enthuse with. Going around doing these activities does cause a physical reaction of nervousness and it takes a lot of energy, so having friends with you will help to keep your energy up.
There are so many ways that you can try this out for yourself, but sometimes you need some ideas to get you going:
Giving fun things: Balloons, toys for children, gift cards, second-hand video games, etc
Motivational: Positive/inspiring sticky notes, a letter to a stranger, a supportive and inspirational letter to give to a parent to give to their child, Random compliments, etc
Helpful: Giving food or drink to the homeless, a group trip volunteering, a fun charity event, visiting elderly neighbours, etc.

Remember to be creative in your ideas. My crew plan to expand on the original balloon idea for next time, so keep thinking and try to think of some original, helpful and fun ideas. Remember, fun and positivity are the mail point! People will remember their experience of being chosen for a random act of kindness, so make sure it’s a lovely memory for them to share with others.

Remember:

Some cultures are not so open to the contact of total strangers. Especially in more reserved cultures, some of the more friendly ideas might be seen as inappropriate or even illegal, so always be careful of what you decide to do.
In some places, it may be more or less okay to do ‘free hugs’ than in other places, etc.
Be very careful to make sure that you aren’t making yourself at the risk of any legal issues. When I handed over a balloon, I always noted that they should be used with care. Sometimes the giving of stuff, especially to children, can put you at some risk, so make sure you carefully consider that.

Do you have any ideas or questions about Random Acts of Kindness that you want to share? Share them in the comments below or over on Facebook or Twitter! Have a great day! Xx

 

This is purely an informational piece and anyone who uses suggestions from this piece or other pieces on this website should do so with care, consideration, their own common sense and always behave well within the law. Safety first!!

Loving your skin

Photo 21-01-2015 13 36 02 (1)Taking care of your skin is vital keeping it fresh, clean and youthful. Especially for those of us with sensitive skin, it is sometimes difficult to know what the right thing to do is when it comes to skin care and looking good. And sometimes, main brand skin care products can cause mild to severe skin irritation. But we want to look good and find the best way to maintain healthy and nice skin. Here is some advice for keeping that sweet smooth skin just how you like it:

Give It What It Needs

Photo 29-01-2015 01 06 04It’s important that you have inside what you need to reflect your health on the outside.
Making sure that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way to helping your health. Getting the balance of nutrients you need from meat (or meat substitutes) and vegetables is so important in every area of your life.
A balanced diet can support good physical and mental health as well as keeping your skin supple and healthy.

A multivitamin a day can really help you to keep your body topped up with all the goodies it needs. There are a lot of vitamins and minerals that we don’t get enough of naturally, so taking a supplement can help to keep your body functioning at its best.
Make sure that you take multivitamins with a meal. It isn’t bad for you to take them without necessarily, but it does mean that your body won’t absorb as much of the goodness as it would while digesting a meal.
Make sure that your vitamins contain iron. Iron is VITAL to your health. If you are like me and suffer from anemia from time to time, you need to make sure that you are getting enough iron.

QUICK TEST: Wash your hands and gently pull down your bottom eyelid to look on the inside of the eyelid. The colour of the inside should be a red-ish pink-ish colour. If it looks pale or your eye itself looks a little yellowish, then you may need to talk to consume more iron.
OR(!) if looking in your eye seems a bit nasty, you can try this other quick test
Gently squeeze the ends of one of your fingers, with the pressure being downwards against the surface of your nail. Then release and watch how long it takes for the pressure mark (usually a pale pink or white colour) to change back to the usual pink.
If it’s slow to change back (or if your nail beds are usually white most of the time) you may not be getting enough iron.

(Note: Make sure that you take and questions and concerns about your diet and supplement/vitamin intake to a medical professional.)

Pick Of the Bunch

Evening Primrose oil, extracted from the Evening Primrose flower, is high in Omega-6, which your body converts into hormones needed for numerous bodily functions, including menstruation in women (helping to make periods shorted, lighter and less painful). But, as well as being a life-saver for us ladies, Evening Primrose actually does wonders for our skin!
Regularly taking Evening Primrose Oil capsules can help to keep skin clear and prevent breakouts and rashes, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used to treat more sever skin conditions like Eczema.
Consider getting some Evening Primrose capsules as a way of helping to balance your hormones, which will do a lot of good for your whole body as well as your skin.

Stay away from the nasties

There are a lot of companies that want to produce products that SEEM really nourishing and kind to your skin which are actually full of harsh chemicals that you might not want to rub on your face or eyelids if you knew what they were.
Companies that want to cut corners will even use carcinogenic, hormone disrupting or even toxic chemicals in their products.
I know personally that it’s not much help when people say “Try to avoid products containing harsh chemicals” because I was not aware of what those chemicals ARE!
I’m in NO WAY an expert in the chemicals used in cosmetics (I could’ve been a chemist but I figured – hey – I’ll be an actor and blogger instead!) but with just a little searching and research, I’ve managed to freak myself out at the major nasties that have popped up at me, such as:

Parfum or Fragrances

Even some products that claim to be un-scented actually contain chemicals and fragrances to give off a lighter or ‘odorless scent’ (if that makes any sense). These chemicals can be harsh, drying and some can irritate eczema and asthma and some are even believed to be linked to cancers and contain neurotoxins!
If you suffer from acne, eczema, asthma or migraines, then you should be careful how many fragrance chemicals you expose yourself to, as these can be major irritants.
Of course, it is going to be difficult totally avoiding fragrances, but you should be aware of how many products you use regularly that contain them and try to minimize your exposure.

Parabens

Used as a preservative in product, parabens are supposedly really bad for you, even at low levels. Apparently many of them are considered sensitive substances as they are believed to interfere with hormones and have even been found in breast cancer tissue. They are also believed to react with UVB rays in a way that increases and speeds up skin damage and aging from sun exposure.
The way you can tell if an ingredient is a paraben is that the word usually ends in paraben. For example you have butylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben and methylparaben.

Paraphenylenediamine 

(try saying that 3 times fast!)

This chemical, used in hair products, is toxic to the skin and can seriously affect your immune system. I just now looked at a box of hair dye from my old red-head days (before I chose to come back to my natural brown and white colour) and the leaflet states that it ‘contains phenylenediamines’ and repeatedly states that the product can cause ‘allergic reactions’. Is it technically and ALLERGIC reaction if it is something that is actually TOXIC to your skin??? Really???? Or is it just a toxic chemical that they shouldn’t really be encouraging you to rub on your head???
So, please, try to avoid products that contain this very nasty chemical. I, of course, am no expert in this area, but I can tell just from reading about it that it’s not nice stuff.

With all the long chemical names and numbers that you find on packaging it’s hard not to assume that every ingredient is practically acid or just become baffled, but one way of shopping for makeup (without having to memorise all these chemicals and whatnot) is to hold the product in one hand and your phone in the other. Just read the label and Google any of the chemicals you don’t recognise and look them up on trusted sources.
In all honesty, there is a lot of scaremongering over cosmetics products and everyone seems to think everything on an ingredients list will kill you, but try to just be calm and look for the facts. Don’t take any “YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO USE THIS AGAIN WHEN YOU KNOW [blah blah blah]” and just try to go as au naturel as you can.

And in these modern times we sadly aren’t going to be able to totally avoid these chemicals unless we go totally bare-faced, so it’s best that you are just cautiously aware of what you are putting on your face. It doesn’t mean that you have to give up makeup, condemn skin products and forgo shampoo, but you should be aware what you put on your skin and plan accordingly.

Treat Yourself

I know spending a lot of money on your skin isn’t always an option, but sometimes a few pounds (or Euro, or Dollars, or 円 or 원) can go a LONG way!
Just recently I went out with the intention to treat myself to some new beauty goodies. I was all ready to splurge a little and get a little pricey, but in the end, after 3 or 4 stores, I was kitted up and had only spent about £25. It may be quite an extravagant spend for some, but saving a few pence and pounds here and there will soon add up to more than enough!
Here is a list of a few items that can make your skin care routine a lot easier:

Soft wash cloth

A good wash cloth will be like a gentle kiss to your skin, rather than like scraping burlap over your face, and will help to gently wash and buff your skin clean. These days, a good wash cloth isn’t that expensive, just look around for one that feels really gentle. The way to keep your skin like a baby, is to not use anything on it that you wouldn’t use on a baby. Treat your skin with love and respect and it’ll be good to you.
A soft exfoliating brush
I know using a brush on your face doesn’t sound all that gentle, but a super soft facial brush can act as a great exfoliator when paired with a cleansing oil. Just make sure that you buffing your face lightly in small circular motions. I often find a lot of grainy exfoliators irritate my skin and the residue if often hard to fully wash off, but a good brush will do the trick.

Cosmetic pads

Where standard cotton wool can leave residue on your skin and not be very effective, cosmetics pads (while a tiny bit more pricey) will do a much more thorough job of taking off makeup and washing your skin.
I’ve heard that some people actually dry out and reuse their cosmetics pads in future uses. Please don’t do this, it’s basically just wiping days old makeup (and added bacteria) into your eyes and face and can lead to infections. Throw it away when you’re done

Facial band

Don’t you hate when your hair gets all oily/dirty when it touches your face while you’re washing it or you can’t quite wash all your face easily? Getting a nice facial hair band will help a lot. They are usually a strip with velcro either end so that you can wrap it around your head easily.

Eye mask

Light disturbance when you sleep can really affect your skin. Our bodies aren’t designed for all the artificial light in our lives these days and it can play silly games with our sleep, which affects a lot about our health, skin and mental well-being. Investing in a good sleeping eye mask will help your sleep a lot (even if it might seem a little funny at first if you sleep next to someone at night)

Eye cooling mask

Often gel eye packs that you can keep in the fridge, a cooling mask will basically do the same thing as eye cucumbers (eew, nasty mental image) but without the wastage. These help to refresh, wake-up and reduce puffiness in your eyes and are very relaxing.

Nail kit

I work in a restaurant and I also do a lot of art. Restaurant work requires being clean and well presentable whilst also handling food and drinks etc. Art can quickly get very messy and have a laborious clean-up afterwards. to both these effects, I carry around a small nail kit with me that I got from H&M for £2.99 that includes a cuticle pusher, a nail block (one of those blocks with a file and four sides for polishing) and a mini nail brush. It’s a tiny little case and is super convenient. I get so self-conscious if my nails are dirty so this makes me feel a whole lot more secure.

Black-head remover tool

This is a vital part of my skin-care. Because I work in oily environments and do a lot of running around and physical exertion, I regularly have to get rid of blackheads, especially around my nose and just above my eyebrows.

facial steamer

A tiny bit more expensive (at about the £20 mark) but it is great for refreshing your skin. Before I do a facial or black head clearing I always make sure that I steam my face to open up the pores to make it quicker, easier and less irritating.

Oil me up!

I don’t like the normal foaming face washes (especially as most of them contain really nasty chemicals), but I love cleansing oils. They’re soft on your skin and don’t strip away the natural ‘good stuff’ while taking away the dirt and dead skill cells that you don’t want!
A lot of people think “I don’t want oily skin, so oil cleansers aren’t for me. I want tight squeaky clean skin” but that is actually the opposite of what you want. Oil cleansers don’t leave your face greasy and oily all day, and they wash off really nicely. That tight ‘squeaky clean’ feeling you get is actually a bad thing, as it means that the natural good oils in your skin have been stripped away leaving it dry (thus feeling tight).
Cleansing oils might still not be for you, but try to be kind and gentle on your skin by avoiding products that strip the natural moisture in your face. Dirt and dead skin = Bad. Natural and gentle oils = Good.

Overall, a good diet, avoiding nasties, good sleep and gentle maintenance are the best things you can do to keep your skin looking b-e-a-utiful, so take care and be gentle!

(I am in NO WAY a professional. This piece is purely advise that I have gained from my own personal experience and the advice and experience of others. Please use caution and your own common sense when following the advice in this piece. Always take care! Xx)
I hope that you have enjoyed this piece. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel welcome to share them in the comment section below or join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Learning Language Like A Baby

IMG_1004.JPGLearning a language is easier than people think. Just look at yourself now, you are reading an article written in English by someone probably very very far away from where you are. You most likely learnt this language as a young baby – as your native tongue – or perhaps you learnt the language later in life.

Baby Amy
Me as a baby

Regardless of whether it’s your first, second or sixth language, it got in there. The hard part about learning a language is the getting around your own mind to allow it in. Most of us learnt a language growing up that serves to comminicate with our community in both a written and spoken form (however, some are not so lucky, due to physical or psychological issues) We learn it as we grow for one reason: survival. If we want to get fed, we have to communicate that we are hungry. If we are scared, we need to be able to explain the danger that is facing us.
As a baby, your parents were probably quite good at understanding the babblings and cooings you made as a kind of personalised pre-language to know when you were hungry, sleepy, scared or needed changing. Parents and guardians are very good at picking up on the needs of the people in their care. But you had to be able to communicate better. If you wanted one of the toys in front of you, it would help you acheive getting it if you said ‘Ball’ or ‘truck’, so the listener would know exactly what you wanted.
You aquired language as a necessity for your survival, pleasure and comfort.
Learning a second language requires a bit more work as we try so hard to learn it through our first language. It is very normal to say “What is this in English?” or “So ‘____’ is just like ‘___’ in English?”
When it is a language that is similar to your langage it is okay, but when it is two entirely different languages it gets confusing. One of the biggest problems I am finding in learning Korean and Japanese is that it is so hard to learn it through the context of English, because they are so vastly different. At times, I even find it a lot easier to learn Korean through Japanese, because they are at least slighty similar.
When you were a baby, the only way you could work out what something meant was through context. You would see and hear how it was used and learn from that.
A Korean baby can’t hear the word “비행기” and think “I think that’s Korean for ‘airplane’.” But they hear it said, maybe the parent points at a toy plane or a picture of a plane as they say it and the child will eventually put two and two together.
It can be a slow process, but it’s the best proven method to make you both natural and comfortable in that language – It made you fluent in your native language!
I know it is incredibly tough to learn another language without referencing your native language, but there are a couple of ways that you can try to work around your native tongue.

 

Go Sub-free

Copyright (C) SBS
Copyright (C) SBS

It’s so easy to watch television programs in the language you are studying and always have the subtitles on. It’s the safer and easier option which means you can take everything in as easily as if you were watching a show from your home.
But, you can find that you’ve watched an entire series and barely looked up from the words on the screen!
I love watching Japanese and Korean dramas without subtitles because I can really watch the performances and it’s a great way to test what I know and try to figure out the stuff I don’t know from other sources (i.e how it’s said, the context of the scene and the relationship between the speaker and listener).
It can be tough and you may miss some details, but it really does help (and gives you an excuse to watch it again later)!
Sometimes, as you improve, you will also find ways that the subtitle writers didn’t get it totally right or misunderstood and you can get an even clearer understanding of what the character is saying. I remember watching a Japanese drama where the subtitles consistantly made a mistake that confused me for ages until I watched it without, actually listened to the actual Japanese dialogue and suddenly it all made sense!

Stick to it

sticky note 1One method I use is to put up sticky notes around my bedroom and office space that have words in Japanese and/or Korean that have pictures to describe what the word or phrase means! I don’t put a single word of English on it so that I learn to recognise and appreciate it in that language. It’s a bit like pictionary, if you think about it!

sticky note 2Try to leave sticky notes or flashcards around for yourself so you learn to recognise them with ease. If you’re feeling tricky as you boost the difficulty, perhaps write a description of what the word or phrase means IN the language you’re learning. If you have friends who speak that language fluently, get them to write some of the words and answers for you so that 1) you can’t cheat (because, if you wrote it, you might remember it) and 2) you’ll know for sure that it’s right!

Read it and weep (or don’t weep)

Try buying a book in the language of your choice. Try reading a bit of it from time to time and see how much of it you understand or just try to look at the grammar and sentence structure to get a better understanding of that. Reading an original book in the language will give you a good feeling for how it is consumed on a day-to-day basis and help you really immerse yourself. Don’t worry if the book makes absolutely NO sense to begin with, just keep studying and soon enough you’ll start to pick stuff up.
I bought myself a book of Korean poetry (which was a difficult first choice) and I’m finding with time that I can pick out more and more that I understand. I’ve got a long way to go, but it really helps to have that as a marker of where I’m up to!

Take it social

Again, the more you immerse yourself the more comfortable around the language you will become. I try to make myself unescapably surrounded by all of the languages I am trying to learn – and that includes online too!
On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I try my best to keep my exposure to language high. I’ll follow Korean and Japanese people on Instagram and Twitter and try my best to read their messages. Interacting with people is great because it’s a perfect opportunity to test your written knowledge and try have a chat with people.
(Of course, always be careful of who you talk to online. There are creeps everywhere and in every language, so always use your common sense when talking to strangers)
I always keep my ‘Trending Topics’ bar on Twitter set to either Japanese or Korean and I’ll make sure that every time I check Twitter that I am reading every trending topic.
On Facebook, I follow the Korean Huffinton Post, Korean stores like G Market and Retrip (a Japanese online magazine) which is great for a casual glance over the news and makes a nice buffer between quizzes and stressed-out revision statuses!

Listen up

Listening to audiobooks, like reading, gives you a subtitle-free and pure exposure to a text but also has the added benefit of being able to hear clear pronunciation, often totally uninterrupted by noisy surroundings or music that you would find in at TV show or movie.
There is a huge wealth of audiobooks available online, so have a look around and have a listen!
I’m currently listening to the Korean radio play adaptation of Don Quichotte by SBS that is available to listen to on Youtube!

I hope this piece is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

K-Drama and Actor Names in Korean

It’s great being a foreign consumer of Korean dramas. We get the benefit of having an outsider appreciation for them and can enjoy the community of people to whom these shows are a luxury, not just everyday viewing that can be taken for granted. As an outside consumer, you get the experience of getting to fully appreciate these programs as new and exciting, where often Koreans see shows like this all the time and they aren’t all that special. We get a whole new angle of appreciation, much like foreign viewers of our television shows find them much more exciting than us.

However, it can hinder our appreciation to not know the name of a show or an actor, especially when you are talking to a Korean friend who may not know the English title of the drama you’re discussing. It also comes in handy when writing to know the Hangul for an actor or show – or, if you can’t type it in Korean, you can copy+paste it from here ;).
If you are interested in learning to type Hangul, I’ve done a piece of adding keyboards on Windows and you can also buy hangul stickers to add you to your keyboard to help you type faster:

Drama Titles

Secret Garden – 시크릿 가든
Heirs (The Inheritors) – 상속자들
(The First Shop Of) Coffee Prince – 커피 프린스 1호점
Boys Over Flowers – 꽃보다 남자
My Love From Another Star – 별에서 온 그대
City Hunter – 시티헌터
Sweden Laundry – 스웨덴 세탁소
Healer – 힐러
Kill me, Heal me – 킬미, 힐미
Doctor Stranger – 닥터 이방인
Tomorrow Cantabile – 내일도 칸타빌레
The Great Doctor (or Faith) – 신의
She’s So Lovable (or My Lovable Girl) – 내겐 너무 사랑스러운 그녀
Fun fact: Google Translate thinks that ‘내겐 너무 사랑스러운 그녀’ means ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ which is a 2007 film starring Ryan Gosling, about a man who falls in love with a life size woman doll! You can get it on DVD on Amazon:

Anyway, moving back along!
Reply 1997 – 응답하라 1997
Good Doctor – 굿 닥터
Rooftop Prince – 옥탑방 왕세자
You’re Beautiful – 미남이시네요
School 2013 – 학교 2013

Iris – 아이리스
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop – 꽃미남 라면가게
To The Beautiful You – 아름다운 그대에게
Personal Taste – 개인의 취향
Emergency Couple – 응급남녀

You may notice that a few of these titles are actually the English words written in Hangul, such as “Good Doctor” and “Secret Garden”. That’s quite common to find in Korean dramas, though I’m not too sure why!

Now, knowing Korean actor’s names comes in very handy, especially when trying to look up accurate filmographies and interviews. Here is a list of just some of the names that you may need to know (If I happen to miss someone you want to know, just ask in the comments or on Facebook)

Lee Min ho – 이민호
Kim Soo Hyun – 김수현
Park Shin hye – 박신혜
Kim Woo Bin – 김우빈
Jun Ji Hyun – 전지현
T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun) – 최승현
Park Min Young – 박민영
Hyun Bin – 현빈
Suzy – 수지
Lee Jong Suk – 이종석
Ha Ji Won – 하지원
Sandara Park – 박산다라
Song Joong Ki – 송중기
Park Yoo Chun – 박유천
Gong Yoo – 공유

You may notice as you learn more Korean that the Romanized spellings of some Korean names don’t fully match the original. This is, again, another example of how relying on romanizaion can hold back your progress and do more harm than good. It’s best to try to learn hangul as soon as you can as it will help your progress with the language all around. I actually found it really helpful to read Korean names as a way to practice my hangul and pronunciation.

I hope you enjoyed this piece! If you have any comments or questions please share them in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

Using Kdramas To Learn Korean

©SBS
©SBS

Learning Korean is fun and rewarding, but it isn’t the easiest language there is to learn. This means that we need a helping hand where possible, and television can be really useful. As well as studying Korean in textbooks and online, I use Korean dramas to reinforce my learning. It is really useful to have a casual and native source of dialogue where there is little to no risk of being taught meaningless phrases – which has happened to me a number of times.
A lot of foreigners use British and American television for learning English, so it makes sense that it works in the reverse.

Really listen

I know it’s easy when watching the dramas to kind of glaze over the words being spoken (with the usual exception of ‘oppa’, ‘eonni’, ‘eotteoke’ and ‘jinjja’) and just watch the subtitles all the time. You’re going to have to curb that habit and pay attention to the dialogue. Listen to the words and try to learn the individual words and phrases.
If a phrase sticks out at you that you understand, write it down and try to listen out for when it pops up in future.

Compare

Korean books 2When you study Korean in the textbooks, try to listen out for each of the phrases you learn in the dramas you watch. Some of them, like “남대문 열려있다”/”namdaemun yeolyeoitda” (Translation: “The south gate is open.” Meaning: “Your fly is open”) will not occur very much, but listening out for the Korean you know will get you hearing and beginning to comprehend the dialogue you are hearing.

Turn off subtitles

When you are beginning to find your feet in the language, try turning off the subtitles and watching the drama without them and seeing, from the amount of Korean you know, how much you understand of what is going on in the story.
It might not make a ton of sense for a while, but you’ll start understanding more and more with time, practice and immersion.

Personal taste

Just like anywhere in the world, people’s voices can differ hugely and that can be a big help to hear and identify little details in the language that you many not have noticed before. Listen for the way individual actors speak as a way of helping your comprehension and pronunciation. Lee Min Ho speaks Korean quite differently from his former ‘Heirs’ co-star Kim Woo Bin and Kim Soo Hyun’s voice isn’t the same as Bigbang’s T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun).
Also, pay attention to the little bits of emphasis in the words. Those could go a long way to helping you remember the meaning, the way to convey emotion in the voice as well as help you to hear every sound in the word (which comes in very handy when you’re learning to write in Hangul)

Getting it right way ’round

One of the things that listening to Korean dramas helps with the most is sentence structure. Because the speaking is so natural, but slower than the usual conversation between Korean people (which is incredibly fast), it is easier to hear which order the words come in for more complex sentences than you are often taught in textbooks. In textbooks, the phrases you are taught are often very basic, but dialogue is a lot more complex, and thus great for learning practical skills needed for natural conversation.

Overall, try to focus on the language with as little relation to English as possible. It is its own unique language, and the less you try to understand it with regard to a totally different language, the better grasp of it you will develop in time. Understand that also a lot of words and phrases don’t directly translate to English. For example, the phrase “힘내요” is used to say “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry”, but often it is translated as “Cheer up”, which can mean that it is often misused and seems weird when used in the correct context, because it doesn’t match up with the English “meaning”.

I really hope this piece helps you to improve your Korean study (and perhaps give you a good excuse for more Kdrama marathons). Let me know what you think of this piece in the comments below and come join us on the Facebook and Twitter! X

Tongue twisters from around the world

Tongue twisters are words or phrases that are difficult and confusing to say. learning and performing tongue twisters is a common pass-time for kids on the UK, but I never realised until I met my best friend (and guest writer on Learn With Amy) that tongue twisters are hugely popular all around the world!

So, for all you language enthusiasts out there, how many of these tongue twisters from around the globe can you say?

First: How do tongue twisters work?

Tongue twisters are phrases that are difficult to articulate as they require fast delivery and/or contain a complex combinations of phonemes. Often they contain two or more sounds that alternate between use of the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx.
Many studies have tried to identify how the complex phrases affect the brain, but the studies have found that tongue twisters actually slow down how fast the brain takes in the information. Tongue twisters aren’t just hard to say, they’re hard to READ too!

English:

The most commonly loved tongue twister in the UK is the famous rhyme, based on the story of Mary Anning, that goes:

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I’m sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.

As it turns out, Mary Anning was actually selling various fossils on the sea-shore as a supplemental income to her family!

Gilbert and Sullivan were famous writers of comic operas that featured tongue twisting lyrics that fast paced and comedic. One of their most popular operettas was The Mikado (Sometimes called ‘The Town Of Titipu’), an opera that satirised British politics and society – made acceptable by subtly masking it with the Japanese setting.
One of the songs, entitled ‘I Am So Proud’ features these very tricky to say (and SING) lines:

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a lifelong lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

Some tongue twisters also try to get you to say ‘bad words’ as a trick for getting muddled.
Try the following tongue twister and see if you can say it all without swearing:

I slit the sheet,
The sheet I slit
and on the slitted sheet I sit.

Did you say it? Eh?
How about this one? Be careful – You might say something you don’t mean! Tee hee

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.

Not that easy, are they? Well, things are about to get a lot trickier as we bring different languages into it! We all know that Japanese is quite a tough language, but it’s about to get a lot trickier as we take a quick look at the tongue twisters that even Japanese people find difficult!

Japanese:

In Japanese, the word for ‘tongue twister’ is ‘早口言葉’/’hayakuchi kotoba’ which directly translates as ‘fast mouth words’ – No kidding!
Here’s a fairly easy one to start off with:

“生麦、生米、生卵”
”なまむぎ、なまごめ、なまたまご”
“Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago”

The meaning of this phrase is “Raw wheat, raw rice, raw eggs”. Tricky, but they get harder!

“蛙ぴょこぴょこ三ぴょこぴょこ、合わせてぴょこぴょこ六ぴょこぴょこ”
”かえるぴょこぴょこみぴょこぴょこ、あわせてぴょこぴょこむぴょこぴょこ”
“Kaeru pyoko pyoko mi pyoko pyoko, awasete pyoko pyoko mu pyoko pyoko”

This one, which hurts to say, translates as “A frog jumps twice, three times and six times in all.”

If you’re a fan of gardening and fine cuisine, give this one a go:

“にわの庭には、二羽の鶏はにわかにわにを食べた”
”にわのにわには、にわとりわにわかにわにおたべた”
“Niwa no niwa ni wa, niwa no niwatori wa niwakani wani o tabeta.”

This is such a fun one (and made me feel good, because I understood it without the translation – yay, go me!) and it translates as “in Niwa’s garden, two chickens suddenly ate a crocodile”

Korean:

Korean can be a tough language for some to learn as the words can sometimes be quite long and a little less straightforward to say than Japanese can be. However, it’s a beautiful language that’s a lot of fun to learn and speak.
Now, from my experience, easy Korean tongue twisters are difficult to come by, but they’re very satisfying when you get them right. Let’s get this started off right, with a nice bit of soy:

“간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 공공장장이다”
“kan-jang-kong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kang kong-jang-jang-ee-go, dwen-jang-kong-jang kkong-jang kong-jang-jang-eun kong kong-jang-jang-ee-da.”

This one means, “President Kang is the president of the soy sauce factory, and president Kong is president of the bean paste factory.”

“육통 통장 적금통장은 황색 적금통장이고, 팔통 통장 적금통장은 녹색 적금통장이다”
“Yuk-tong tong-jang jeog-geum-tong chang-eun hwang-saek jeog-geum-tong-jang-i-go, pal-tong tong-chang jeog-geum-tong jang-eun nok-saeg jeog-geum-tong-chang-i-da.”

This mouthful translates as “6 dong bank book savings book is the yellow bank savings book, 8 dong bank book savings book is the green bank savings book.”
Not easy, are they?!

 

So, what do you think? Do you like Japanese and Korean tongue twisters? Let us know what you think of them!