10 Ways to Boost your Language Skills

Labels: , , 2 comments


One of the things I like the most about meeting new people is that they're always sparkling my brain and giving me ideas for new posts. This time I've been overwhelmingly asked about what I do when I'm learning a different language. Because of the way I speak, maybe? I don't know. The thing is, giving the same answer over and over again is totally tiring me out. That's when you should rejoice, because it means that it is time for another one of those 10-tip posts that everybody seems to appreciate.

Here we go!


#1 Go for whole sentences over single words. Let me guess what! You have no idea how to take the first step. Been there. Well, you're going to have to tackle the basic vocabulary first, but here's where the danger lies (it can either get you pumped up or bogged down). If you're really old school, memorizing word by word could be an option. But, if not (and most people aren't), trying whole sentences will do the trick. I know you don't know anything yet, but it actually works (not to mention that it'll also speed things up a bit).


#2 Change your surroundings. A lot of people fall short when it comes to it. Learning a different language is not just about doing lessons twice a week. It is something that needs to be exercised everyday. Make sure you have some flashcards around so you can run through the new words as you go about doing your regular stuff throughout the day. Change the language on your devices so you can force your brain, and don't forget to replace the newspaper, magazines and books you usually read with others that are written in the language you're learning. In short, you should do your best to make your environment as challenging as possible.


#3 Think in that language. I get people telling me how hard that is all the time (and I'm, by no means, saying otherwise) but, what happens is that they only try it a few times and give up right after that. Learning a new language is no easy task, and putting yourself down will only make things worse. Remember how learning how to ride a bike was? It's almost the same. Baby steps! You'll find it weird at first, but soon enough you'll catch yourself having bilingual thoughts as well. That's when you'll really start getting the fluency that you've been shooting for.


#4 Do an exchange! If changing your surroundings is bearing no fruit, then it may be time to kick it up a few notches. Go for an exchange! Actually, if you have the financial means to do so, I'd suggest that you pack your bags right now. There's no better way to learn a different language than to live in a place where it is widely spoken. Not only will you benefit from the knowledge you'll acquire, but you'll also get to know about a different culture (which is a plus), so... Even better!


#5 Find a native. If you haven't passed the last one over, this shouldn't be a problem. However, if you're too scared or just short on money, you might be wondering how to do so. Fortunately, I wrote this post full of websites where you can find someone to practice with. Do NOT take it for granted! Getting their feedback is crucial to find out what you need to tweak and where you already rocking. No need to freak out... It'll make you feel better!


#6 Start a blog or a journal. If you really want to make the most of the language you're learning, writing in it should also be on your bucket list. I know you're out of ideas right now, but starting a blog (or even a journal) can do wonders! When you're speaking with someone, you're stuck in a certain situation where you must find synonyms and different ways to convey the message that you want if it is not coming out naturally. On the other hand, when it comes to writing, you can research all you want. This is the perfect time to learn how to say things you don't know yet, because that's when you'll have get your juices flowing.


#7 Try some tongue twisters. Another thing that is always getting language learners upset is the speed of their speech. You know how to say what you you want to say, but your words aren't coming out the way they should - you're not living up to your own expectations. Some people will tell you not to rush yourself, because it takes time. The thing is (and let's be honest here), you're desperate to be a bit less "showy" - you don't want to sound like a total foreigner as soon as you open up your mouth. Good news! Tongue twisters will not only help you with this issue, but also boost your vocabulary (new words will come up eventually). Besides, they're really fun and entertaining. If you find out that you're not really good at reciting them, at least you won't have to feel be bad about that. After all, they're supposed to twist your tongue. Even natives go crazy sometimes.


#8 Read stuff out loud. That's another great way to make sure that your words are coming out right. If you don't have someone around to give you their input, just record your own voice and compare it to the one of a native. It's likely that you'll have an accent, but your main goal is to make yourself understandable. If you're really concerned about the accent thing, you can then work it out later on.


#9 Use subtitles! When you're just getting started, it's normal for you to only understand the general meaning of what someone is saying. As long as you get their point, fine! BUT, when watching something, subtitles can make your experience a lot less painful. You'll be able to follow along as they're speaking and, at the same time, put down the words and expressions you've never heard so you can practice them later in your free time. By doing that, you'll find it way easier to remember them, since you already have a context and a scenario playing out in your mind.


#10 Let your hair down. Learning a new language is something that should make you feel happy and excited. If the outcome you're getting is the opposite, then it means that it is time to take a step back and see where you're going wrong. Try to make this experience as laid black as possible. Sing in the shower, act out, tell jokes, copy others, laugh and constantly remind yourself of how much you've progressed so far. The journey is long, but the reward is totally worth it. Be proud!

That's all I have for now!

Got another tip there? We'd love to read it in the comments. Come on, don't be selfish! :)

5 Top Links of the Week! #3

Labels: , , , , 0 comments


How was your week? Not bad, I hope, but you'd better get yourself ready, 'cause it's finally time for another link round-up! This week we have a private agency for guided tours in Rio, two new job finder systems that you can use to land your dream job in Brazil (as well as other countries), a YouTube channel that features an American guy and a Brazilian girl traveling around the world (with a bunch of tips for those who are a little short on money but dying to hit the road) and another website where you can get language partners for free and take your Portuguese (or any other language) to the next level!

Do you want to see your link on this page? Let me know through this form.

Enjoy! :)

Coxinha: The Brazilian Tasty Gem

Labels: 0 comments

If you've ever been to Brazil, chances are that you tried some local food. Of course you did! I can't tell where exactly but, regardless of that, I'm almost sure you at least heard something special about an amazing little snack called coxinha (pronounced like "cosheeña" - it's like a chicken croquette). After all, it is one of the most popular salgadinhos (savories) you'll find out there! Definitely appreciated by most of us - without a doubt! It's not so hard to find Brazilians bragging about that (try it and you'll find out why). By the way, I'm no exception. Every single time I'm talking about food with someone who's not from here, I bring it up - it's a must! What can I do? I just love it!

What happens is that, not so long ago, I used to think that I'd have to become a rocket scientist in order to make coxinhas myself. It turns out that I was DEAD WRONG. These appetizers are not only yummy, but EXTREMELY easy to make! See all those recipes I've posted so far? Forget them all and go for this one. I can't stress that enough. If you do things right and do not become a "coxinha lover," it can only mean one thing: you're an alien!


All right, all right, blah blah blah! Time to get our hands dirty!


  • 500 ml water (about 2 glasses);
  • 250 ml milk ;
  • 1 tbs butter;
  • 360g all-purpose-flour (3 cups);
  • Salt to taste (3 pinches are enough for me);
  • Seasoning (as much as you like - I usually add three bags of sazon para massas. Maybe you have something similar in your country? If not, time to get creative! Perhaps this post will help you somehow);
  • Optional: Chicken stock (I personally don't use it, but almost everybody does).

  • Spiced shredded chicken and cheese spread (tradition says so) or whatever floats your boat. If you don't want to go to the trouble of preparing the chicken, just use cheese alone. It can also do wonders, believe me! Who said we can't branch out a little?

  • 1 egg;
  • Breadcrumbs.


  • In a large pan, add water, milk, butter, salt and seasoning. If you've decided to use chicken stock, this is where it goes.
  • Stir well.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point.
  • Once it happens, turn down the heat and add in the flour.
  • Stir until the mixture starts to show the bottom of the pan when you scrape it with your wooden spoon. It will get harder, but keep doing it. You're almost done! Just use your strength and try to make that sticky blob-shaped thing come together. It should be thick and lumpy enough by now.
  • Put it on a greased (or non-sticking) tray and leave it sitting there for a few minutes. You don't want to burn yourself, do you?
  • When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead it VERY WELL.
  • Pinch off a chunk of dough, roll it out and add the filling. If you want your coxinhas to be the same size, just roll the whole thing out and use a cookie cutter (or a glass) to cut out the pieces that you want. I personally don't bother (mine are huge anyway), but... As the saying goes, "to each his own."
  • Mold it into a drumstick (or a little water drop).
  • Now is time to coat them with breadcrumbs. Well, you do know how to do it, don't you? Ok, you don't need to answer. Just whisk the egg with a fork and dip them (one by one) into it. Then into the breadcrumbs. You can shake off any excess, but make sure they're well coated.
  • Fry them until golden brown.

P.S.: Coxinhas can be served with condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc) and, in case you're coming up with something big, bear in mind that they can be stored in a freezer for up to three months before you fry them.

You're done! Quick and easy, right?

Let me know how yours turned out in the comments below, ok? Please, don't be an alien!

Bon appétit! :)

What does "TMJ" Mean?

Labels: 0 comments


I've recently noticed that some people have been searching my blog for the word "TMJ." This time, however, I'm sure they left without getting what they came here for, unsatisfied. Silly me... How come I haven't taught you this one yet? Probably because I myself don't use this particular slang, but a lot of people (and by that I mean like, uh, A LOT - you get the idea) do! Then here we are again! 

TMJ is a short for tamo junto, which is totally, TOTALLY ungrammatical. The right way to say it would be estamos juntos, but remember that post I wrote once teaching contractions? That's pretty much it. If you're talking to someone and this person says tamo junto to you, it basically means that "you guys are in this together." It's just another cool way of saying "I got your back," or even "I'm with you."

Ex.: Você sabe que eu gosto de você de graça, né? Tamo junto, cara!
       You know that I really like you, don't you? I got your back!

Easy peasy lemon squeasy! :)

Killer Lemon Pie

Labels: 0 comments

Whattup, everybody! No, I'm not gone (alhamdulillah). It's been eons, hasn't it? Just been busy with life - same as always!

I recently came across a Brazilian website called Tudo Gostoso and I found a recipe for a lemon pie that is uh... Mama mia! Amazing! I couldn't help but to come back here and share it with you. It's my duty! Oh, did I forget to mention how easy it is to make the whole thing? I'm in love with it... :P

All right, enough talking! Let's get down to the good stuff!



  • 2 yolks
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 1 tbs baking power
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  • 395g sweet condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice


  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 tbs sugar
  • Lemon zest


  1. Preheat the oven to about 175° C (347° F)


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, the butter, the sugar and the milk. As you're doing it, gradually add in the flour (until it gets thick enough so you can roll it out). Then add in the baking powder.
  2. Spread it out in a (non-stick) pie mold pan or tray. Don't forget to press firmly into the recipient and up the sides.
  3. Place the tray into the oven and let it bake for about 15 min. (or until golden brown).


  1. Mix the lemon juice with the condensed milk in a blender for about 10 min.
  2. Pour it into the baked pastry shell (after it cools down a little).


  1. Whip the egg whites along with the sugar until foamy. After that, you can also add a few lemon drops to the mixture if you want (it'll make it creamy).
  2. Spread it over the pie and sprinkle lemon zest to give it a nice look.
  3. (Optional) - IF you want it to get a bit stiffer, take it to the oven again and let it bake for a few more minutes, but BE CAREFUL! You don't want to burn your pie, do you? I personally tend to avoid this one in order to err on the side of caution. But if you're a good cook, just go ahead and do it without any fear.

There you have it! Quick and easy!

Let me know how yours turned out in the comments below. :)

#10 Tips on How to Treat a New Muslim

Labels: 0 comments


You just got the news that someone has reverted to Islam. You may or may not know this person, but you want to help them anyway, because you're happy to have a new member in the ummah. However, there's a little problem: you don't know how to approach or how to take the first step to make this individual feel "embraced." What now? Good question! Just keep reading to find out.


#1 Be patient. I know I always say that, but not every muslim has the patience that it takes to deal with a new revert. When you're trying to help them, you MUST have in mind that THEY JUST GOT INTO ISLAM! They will NOT change overnight and it is VERY likely that THEY will need YOU or someone else to give them some pointers. Since this is literally a moment of transformation in their lives, they WILL have their ups and downs until they can take it all in. Therefore, be strong and help them through this process with patience - that's vital!

[...] Indeed, Allah is with the patient. [8:46]


#2 Do NOT drift apart. This step is PRIMORDIAL! A lot of muslims fall short here. New muslims usually tend to feel like celebrities during their first weeks into Islam. However, it all ends up being just a flash in the pan (for the most part). At first they get hundreds (if not thousands) of "I'm-so-happy-for-you" messages, but then, after just a few days in the limelight, the exact same people who made them feel so special are all gone. Yes, it's perfectly understandable that you have your own life and that you don't have enough time to "babysit" others. Fair enough, but this is not what I mean. You should try to check on them at least once or twice a week. What you want here is not to let them feel alone (especially in the holidays), because friends play an extremely important role in people's lives. If they don't have any in muslim environments, they'll probably try to get some somewhere else.

A scholar once said: To seal a friendship for Allah’s sake indicates the obligation of establishing relationships of love and trust for His sake; this is a friendship for the sake of Allah. It also indicates that simple affection is not enough here; indeed what is meant is a love based upon alliance. This entails assistance, honor, and respect. It means being with those whom you love both in word and deed.


#3 Teach them what you know. As I said above, they WILL need help. That's for sure! Remember that they're like babies here. They were NOT brought up by muslims. The stories that they heard when they were little are probably way different than the ones you did. They didn't learn anything about the companions, hadeeths or even how to pray. Instead of seeing this situation as a hassle, take it as an opportunity to share your knowledge with someone else. Come on, you don't have to be a scholar! Just teach them what YOU know.

P.S.: Some brothers and sisters do want to help, but they feel ashamed for not knowing that much about islam (despite the fact that they've been muslims for their whole lives). To get around this issue and come out as being wise, all they do is to go online, collect a bunch of websites (that they don't even know sometimes), send them out to new reverts and that's it. Some even disappear right after that. It's ok to share a webpage here and there, but don't do it only. If you live in the same city, try to meet up with them so you can have discussions about islam. If not, try at least to have a video call every once in a while. That means that you care about them and, yeah, they WILL notice that. If you don't have the answer to some of their questions, it's no big deal. Just tell them straight up. It's way better than beating around the bush and getting them even more confused. If you know someone who does, hook them up. That sure goes a long way.


#4 Introduce them to your friends. The first big challenge that most of the new muslims face is telling others about their new lifestyle. Believe me, depending on the environment, this is NOT as simple as it may seem. Maybe they'll lose their friends, their jobs or even get kicked out. That's why they'll need your full-on support. Helping them build this new "islamic network" can definitely make them feel less rejected. It's great to know that you do have a family to fall back on in case things get too ugly, isn't it?

A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not oppress him, nor does he leave him at the mercy of others. [Sahih Muslim]


#5 Don't judge them based on their past. This sucks! What they used to do is simply not relevant. What matters is what they're doing NOW. You have to at least give them the benefit of the doubt. Everybody makes mistakes, and that also includes you - nobody is perfect. If they fail you, just move on. It'll be their loss, not yours. Just do your part and Allah SWT will take care of all the rest.

Always remember:

Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief), THEIR PAST WILL BE FORGIVEN. But if they return (thereto), then the examples of those (punished) before them have already preceded (as a warning). [8:38]


#6 Try to avoid arabic terms for a while. No, I'm not kidding. I'm totally serious! This is so FRUSTATING! Most of the new reverts out there have never had ANY contact with arabic AT ALL. Don't expect them to know what Al Salam Alaykum, Astaghfirullah, Jazakallah Khair, Masha Allah, In shaa Allah, Bismillah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, Subhana Allah, Taqwa, Tawheed and so on mean! Yeah, they'll have to pick them up with time, but try not to overwhelm them with that on day one. If you're going to use it anyway, make sure that they understand what you're saying, or else they'll feel completely lost. You have to be on the same page. After all, you want them to learn things, don't you? Remember step #1! Be patient!

P.S.: Sometimes you'll forget that they're babies and will end up using these terms automatically. It's likely that they'll ask you about their meaning. Please, do NOT get all started on the "are you really a muslim?" thing! I myself have had some experience with that, and guess what? No, it was NOT pleasant. You totally feel like a fish out of water when somebody asks you that. It's as if you were obliged to know words of a language that you don't even speak.


#7 Don't be arrogant. Although it is Allah SWT the One who guides people [6:39], it is part of the human nature to feel attracted towards that which seems to be more appealing. If muslims treat their new brothers and sisters in Islam with disregard, while people from other religions are going in the opposite direction (making them feel welcome), chances are that they will turn to a different path. After all, nobody likes to be kicked around, right? I'm sure you don't want them to turn away because of what YOU did.

He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness. [Sahih Muslim 2592, Grade: Sahih]


#8 Take them to a mosque on a regular basis. Some people are shy, while others are more outgoing. That's life. I'm assuming that you've just met, so... You supposedly do not know that much about their personality. It's ok. I know that going to a mosque is just a customary thing to you, but don't think it's the same to a new revert. YOU've been doing that for your whole life, they haven't. It's definitely not the same. Some will just show up by themselves and others won't (unless invited). Either way, they both will feel a bit uneasy at first. It's a new environment with different people. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Once they get there, teach them what to do and STICK AROUND. You have to give them some time so they can come out of their shells.


#9 Be a good example. Helping a new muslim get started is a big responsibility! That's why you also have to get your act together (if you're not on the "deen"). Since you're the one who's showing them the ropes, it is a fact that they will look up to you when they're about to do something (at least until they're able to tell right from wrong by themselves, islamically speaking). For this reason, you can either teach them how to be great or how to be a "coconut muslim." Please, try not to mess it up, because they'll have a hard time getting rid of the wrong habits that they learned from you later on in life.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend. [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee].


#10 Learn the art of gift giving. This is not a requirement, but it certainly helps. Maybe you're a little short on money (we all have to face lean times during certain periods of our lives), but buying them a book, a chaplet, a prayer mat, a "taqiyah" or whatever floats your boat will not break the bank. It doesn't need to be expensive! It just needs to be useful for their new journey. I'm sure they'll appreciate it A LOT (regardless of the price)!

The Prophet (PBUH) said: Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another. [Al-Bukhaari]

Do you have another tip? Feel free to chime in!

Jazakallah Khair! :)

Aryel Lanes © 2012 | Designed by Meingames and Bubble shooter