Styling It Out

We all have our own style, our own sense of what works for us, what looks good and when we feel at our best.

When it comes to my own personal sense of style, there are five principles I’ve always believed in and followed:

  1. Know yourself.  Clothes express you and your personality, so wear what makes you happy, not what makes a fashion house money.
  2. Labels don’t equal style.  Individual style comes not from buying brands but from creating a look personal to you, regardless of where you shop.
  3. Find what fits best for you.  A number on a label means nothing, how you feel in it and how it fits are key.  We’re not all supposed to fit into the size two jeans (thank goodness!) and we’re not all built like catwalk glamazons. That doesn’t mean we don’t look good.
  4. Make it your own.  Whether that’s with accessories from a store or a scarf you painted yourself – add little touches to personalise and finish your look.
  5. Confidence is key,  Have fun with your look and know that no one out there can wear it the way you do, so make it your own and enjoy it

This week I realised that style transcends beyond the sartorial.  Having trawled through a list of recommended schools this week we embarked on a set of trial language lessons with various teachers.  I’m still surprised at how different each was.  The first class was a painful two hours where we were forced to repeat the vowels and alphabet in each of the four tones of Mandarin.  No real explanation, no grammar, almost no translation(!).  An emphasis of rote learning.  Having not formally learnt a language since I was a student, and knowing how tough Mandarin was, I presumed this was the only way to learn.  Boy was I wrong.  Last night saw us in a beautiful, vibrant language school that not only had a sense of community, but the teachers an technology that put an emphasis on practical language use.  Just 50mins saw us leave with sentences, grammatical knowledge, and the ability to order kung pow chicken in any restaurant.  (crucial when it tastes so good in this town!!)

I became curious as to why the difference was so stark (and startling).  A little research revealed that there are in fact five language learning styles.

  1. The Vocabulary Based Approach. This stresses vocabulary acquisition and emulates the way we learnt language as children
  2. Double Translation. A pre-1900  method that requires you to translate text from a foreign language into your native tongue and back again (not great if you’re trying to order french fries)
  3. The Grammar Based Approach. This requires memorising grammar rules with an emphasis on reading and writing
  4. The Communicative Approach. Adopted by most modern language schools, alternating students’ focus on one receptive skill (reading or writing) and one productive skill (writing or speaking) in each lesson
  5. Immersion. Get there and do whatever it takes to be understood from charades to googling images.

It turns out my language style is as eclectic as my wardrobe!  Immersion is most certainly happening (6 weeks in and I could beat any of you at charades!).  Between google translate, my iPhone and phrase book i think I can say so is Double Translation.  But it is definitely apparent that my natural style is the communicative approach.  Rote learning vocal and grammar rules, whilst effective for some, are most certainly not for me.

Like my sartorial style shows me, it’s about finding what works best for me, being confident in it and having some fun with it!

Something tells me that this school, that not only teaches classes out in the real world but also teaches you Chinese through Kung Fu, is most definitely me.  I already have a mean right hook, let’s see if I can kick butt at the roundhouse kick too!

What’s your style?