1. The trick to know for sure if you’re in love

Do you want to become a better person just because of that one person? Do you want to become the best version of yourself just so you could spend more time with that one person? If yes, then you are totally smitten, in a good way.

2. If you want people to behave like idiots, treat them like idiots, but if you want to have them to behave like mature, considerate people, treat them like mature people and be considerate in your interactions with them.

Does this require any more explanation or has this finally become common knowledge?

3. Truly motivated students will learn a language in three months

I have 5 students in my Dutch class. Three of them started in October, the other two in January. The three that started in October are now able to read newspaper articles, internet articles from travel websites, they can understand pretty much anything I say.

With one of them, Livia, I exchange emails on a daily basis. Three months ago she didn’t know Dutch. Today I can write her emails in Dutch, without ever simplifying or adapting them, and she clearly understands everything I write her and answers in Dutch. Does she make mistakes? Of course. Especially the word order is tricky in Dutch if your native language is Slovak. Do we have a normal, fluent, dynamic email conservation going on? Absolutely. We have discussions about all sorts of topics. I don’t know how long it takes her to write such an email, but I have the impression it really doesn’t take her all day.

So three months. Not counting the emails with Livia, my students have had something like 36 hours of Dutch, and they understand way more than just the basics. Why? Because they are mo-ti-va-ted. They look up stuff. They read at home. They watch a movie in Dutch. They themselves ask to write essays that they give me to correct. They don’t need to be pushed to take notes.

Imagine if they were to have six hours of Dutch each week.

I can honestly say I can have normal every day conversation with them in Dutch.

We mostly don’t realize just how much we are able to accomplish if we focus.

Today we learned something like 240 words in one hour. We did a test immediately  and their average score was over 90 percent.

4. Focus is of course what’s lacking in my classrooms full of teenage boys 

They all have the intellectual capabilities to take giant steps forward when it comes to English. Those that reguarly watch videos on YouTube in English are simply fluent. They don’t know the literary language or the more flowery words, but they can have conversations about many topics. Are they focussed like the women in my Dutch class? No, even some of those who are very fluent, can’t spell basic English words. None of my students actually study English. They consume English. And if you consume a lot of English it will certainly vastly improve your language, but it has its limitations.

I notice this with my Slovak. I’ve never actually studied Slovak. I’ve consumed it. That’s why I keep making the same mistakes till someone finally corrects me a couple of times. Because I’m too lazy to pick up a grammar book and really cram some basic rules into my head.

The same is true for my German. I’ve learned German from having German documentaries playing in the background. Often for 8 hours or more per day.

Wait, why am I listing the lack of focus as an awesome thing?

Let me think.

In a way it’s kinda endearing to see my students and notice how unaware they are of their potential, how unclear they are about the future, how directionless they are. At times it breaks my heart and other times I think it must be a healthy way to live.

Slovak teenagers, especially the boys, are very phlegmatic and I notice that people around here use the word ‘phlegmatic’ a lot. Whereas in Flanders almost nobody ever uses it. Are Slovaks less obsessive than Flemish people? Maybe.

5. Consciously decide to make other people happy, and see their happiness as the only reward

This is an excellent antidote to depression.

It also makes you more creative.

It’s very motivating, you get good vibes cursing through your body.

The stumbling block is of course that you really can’t expect anything back, except the reward of having contributed to someone’s happiness. Someone you care about deeply.

When you are not trying to buy someone’s happiness, you’ll notice that there are little things, but creative ones, that you can do for them. That you go the extra mile to get to know them.

I also notice that people have a tendency to try and control the people we really like, we want to spend all our time with them, we want to monopolize them in a way, we want them to be at our back and call.

If you truly care about someone you will cut out that behavior right now.

People are like sand. If you try to clench it in your fist if will slip through your fingers in seconds, but if you gently let it lie on your open palm, it will stay.

You also stop being shy.

Today I got off the tram and noticed there was a girl walking next to me. She had a piercing through both her nostrils and was wearing some sort of poncho like thing. She looked like a 20 something. She had an artistic look about her. Something about the color combinations.

We crossed a street together and I just walked next to her and said: ‘I like your style’, which was the truth and I had no ‘game plan’ whatsoever in mind.

She started smiling from ear to ear.

I asked if she was studying art at university. She said she was still in highschool; so I didn’t go further into the conversation and quickly wished her a nice day, but she walked off grinning and I was grinning all the way home.

Lately I’ve been practicing full-blown honesty in talking to people I care about, and even when at times this seems to blow up in my face like a German anti-tank mine, in the long run it always strenghtens the bond.

Cherish the people that struck a chord in you that you didn’t even know you had.

So don’t be so shy.

Here’s a whole song to remind you, ‘Don’t be so shy’.