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Learning a new language can be hard. Music can make it easier.

Sometimes an opportunity is all you need to become a better version of yourself.

Learning a new language can be hard. Music can make it easier.

One day, during the fall of 2016, 60-year-old Olga was shopping in downtown Boston when she overheard several women raving about the English class they were taking.

Olga grew up in Moca, in the Dominican Republic. She came to the United States in 1993 with her daughter and lived with family in New Jersey at first, where she worked at a sweater factory. In 2014, she moved to Boston, where she lives today.

A self-described busybody, Olga hates wasting time. She would much rather use her time to improve herself. Now, in Boston, when she's not knitting or working as a seamstress at David's Bridal, she's crocheting, reading, or watching the news on television.


When Olga overheard these women, she had been looking for a place to take English classes for a long time. She marched over to them and asked about the classes, which they said were being offered for free at Rosie's Place in downtown Boston.

Image by Rosie's Place, used with permission.

Rosie's Place was founded in 1974 as the self-described "first women's shelter in the U.S." They help homeless and low-income women find opportunities to better their lives.

"Just tell me where it's located, and I'll find it," Olga says she told the women.

She immediately walked out of the store and headed to Harrison Avenue in downtown Boston. She says she missed the shelter at first, almost walking into a CVS instead. But when she did walk through the doors at Rosie's Place, she was instantly excited. She was told she qualified for their English courses and was given instructions to attend the next class. She hasn't stopped going back since.

These classes aren't just any classes, and that's where the story gets good.

Olga found out that she wouldn't be completing a typical "This is how you say 'dog,'" lecture type course. Instead, her classes would be designed by Berklee College of Music students. These students would be trying out new and exciting approaches that help people retain information through music.

Kevin Leong is one of those students. He's a graduate student at Berklee College of Music and an international student. Kevin has helped run and structure this program for the past year. Essentially, the program uses a specific tool — music, and songwriting in particular — to empower women, teaching them conversational English.

For the past semester, 10 to 15 women (including Olga) have committed to learning a new language with the help of these dedicated students. Kevin says there's an 82-year-old woman from China who inspires him because she refuses to take "no" for an answer. He says she said, "I don’t speak English, but it’s never too late to learn a new language.”

Most people learn faster with music because it's a powerful mnemonic tool. Songwriting and singing are memory aids.

For example, think of the alphabet song. The letters aren't linked to one another, but it's the music that binds the syllables together to give the song meaning.

That's why using songwriting helps students like Olga pick up English a little more quickly. By having them repeat the words in a song, it helps them practice articulation and better remember the words themselves.

Kevin Leong. Image from Berklee Graduate Studies Department, used with permission.

Kevin says the women in his class feel validated and thankful because they have a place to share their stories from the past while learning a new language. Through their collective songwriting, they've come to learn that one woman was a psychologist in her home country, another a hydraulic engineer, and another, a physician.

“To see some women travel from an hour and a half outside of Boston just to come to class to learn English ... is really inspiring," Kevin says. "To be able to be a part of that, and to make it interesting for them, and to see it being effective ... is extremely gratifying.”

For Olga, this class has made all the difference.

For one, she says she's never received so much loving attention as she has in these classes at Rosie's Place. She feels she's learned a lot in just four months and loves the way they teach. She also lives alone, so she looks forward to attending every class.

"All the women I meet, I encourage them by saying, 'Go! Go! This class is very interesting, very important," she says. "Besides, they teach us with lots of love.'"

And second, Olga almost didn't get her job because she didn't speak much English. Now, she's excelling: She says she can better understand the people around her, and she can also contribute to the conversations at work too.

Now, when she attends class at Rosie's Place and one of her teachers greets her with "Good morning, Olga," she feels extremely proud that she's able to reply with "How are you?"

"You know when you’re older, sometimes it’s more difficult to comprehend new things, but here, I’ve learned a lot," Olga says. "I can understand some English now — not a lot — but I’ve accomplished a whole lot.”

The semester will be over soon, but Olga has plans to tackle a writing class in the fall.

Image by Rosie's Place, used with permission.

At a time when a lot of people are questioning whether the all-mighty "American dream" is alive and well, Olga is proof that it is.

The American dream is all about being given the opportunity to reach for your goals. And while Olga came to America with little, she has slowly but surely found a way to carve out a positive path for herself.

In a time when it feels as though things may be moving backward in America, especially for immigrants, this program should give us hope.

Olga and Kevin are a beautiful testament to the fact that these dreams still exist, and that good people are working to make America a welcoming, successful place for immigrants.

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Marine veteran Paul Coppola is a wonderful example of the transformational power of service dogs.

Ten years ago, he was rocked by two explosions in an attack that took the lives of 17 Marines in Afghanistan. The attack left Coppola with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and an injured back.

Coppola didn't think his struggles warranted a service dog but after prodding from his wife, he was paired with Dobby, a four-year-old black Lab mix trained by veteran organization Operation Delta Dog.

Dobby and Paul soon became best friends and partners in life.

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Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande duked it out on Jimmy Fallon's 'The Tonight Show.'

There are pop stars, and then there are singers. While recording studio technology can make people sound like amazing singers, the proof is in their live performances.

Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande took it a whole step further on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," delivering not only a jaw-dropping live performance but doing so in the form of revolving pop diva hits in an "impossible karaoke" showdown. In less than five minutes, they showed off their combined ability to nail pretty much anything, from imitating iconic singers' styles to belting out well-known songs with their own vocal stylings.

Watch this and try not to be impressed:

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via © Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021 and © Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Two of the winners of the Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

A few weeks ago, Upworthy shared the hilarious winners of the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards and the winner was a well-timed shot of a monkey who appears to have hurt the family jewels on a suspension wire. (Don't worry folks, no monkeys were harmed for the awards.)

The awards were created six years ago by Tom Sullam and Paul Joynson-Hicks to promote positive awareness of animal welfare issues. The competition has been so successful, the duo decided to branch out and create the Comedy Pet Photo Awards, where photographers can submit pictures of their furry friends for a £2,000 ($2650) prize.

Donations generated by the competition go to Animal Support Angels, an animal welfare charity in the UK.

This year's winner is Zoe Ross for "Whizz Pop," a photo of her labrador puppy Pepper who appears to be tooting bubbles.

“We never ever thought that we would win but entered the competition because we loved the idea of helping a charity just by sending in a funny photo of Pepper," Ross said in a statement. "She is such a little monkey, and very proud of herself, bringing in items from the garden and parading past you until you notice her. She is the happiest puppy we’ve ever known and completely loved to pieces.”

Here are the rest of the winners of the 2021 Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

Overall Winner: Zoe Ross "Whizz Pop," Penkridge, UK

© Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Did this puppy swallow a bubble?

Best Dog Category: Carmen Cromer "Jurassic Bark," Pittsboro, North Carolina

© Carmen Cromer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"My golden retriever, Clementine, loves to stick her face in front of the hose while I water the plants. Her expression in this photo made me think of a tyrannosaurus rex, hence the title, "Jurassic Bark." Duh nuh nuuuh nuhnuh, duh nuh nuuuh nuh nuh, dun duh duuuh nuh nuh nuh nUUUUUUhhhh," Carmen Cromer.

Best Cat Category: Kathrynn Trott "Photobomb," Ystradgynlais, UK

© Kathrynn Trott/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Jeff stealing the limelight from his brother Jaffa.

Best Horse Category: Mary Ellis, "I said 'Good Morning," Platte River State Park, Nebraska

© Mary Ellis/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I like to visit the stable horses before I begin my hike at the State Park. This is the reply I received when I said 'Good morning,'" Mary Ellis.

All Other Creatures Category: Sophie Bonnefoi, "The Eureka Moment," Oxford, UK

© Sophie Bonnefoi/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Cutie and Speedy are two chicks hatched from eggs placed in an incubator at home in August 2020. They spent their first few weeks indoors. In the photo, they are just over two weeks old. They were curious about everything. This is the day they discovered their own shadow. It was hilarious to see them wondering and exploring that 'dark thing' that was moving with them!" Sophie Bonnefoi.

Junior Category: Suzi Lonergan, "Sit!" Pacific Palisades, California

© Suzi Lonergan/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Our granddaughter gave the command to sit. Beau is very obedient," Suzi Lonergan.

Pets Who Look Like Their Owners Category: Jakub Gojda, "That Was a Good One!" Czech Republic

© Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This photo was taken by accident during the photography of my ex-girlfriend with her beloved mare. For this cheerful moment, I thank the fly that sat on the horse's nose and he instinctively shook his head," Jakub Gojda.

Highly Commended: Chloe Beck, "Hugo the Photobomber," Walsall, UK

© Chloe Beck/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is my best friend Faith, her husband Alex, and their cheeky Sproodle, Hugo. Faith wanted a photograph to mark a special occasion—her first outing after shielding at home for 14 months. Hugo jumped into the frame at just the right moment!" Chloe Beck.

Highly Commended: Luke O'Brien, "Mumford and Chum," Coventry, UK

© Luke O'Brien/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

​"Losing the opportunity to play with my human bandmates during lockdown, Flint, my rescue dog, soon taught me that we didn't just have sharp bones in common, but musical ones, too. He soon became the perfect substitute for a collaborative stomp up at home, so much so that we felt we deserved our own band name (Muttford and Chum). With my camera set up remotely during this shoot, I think it's fair to say that the image is proof that his conviction as a performer matches my own," Luke O'Brien.

Highly Commended: Kathryn Clark, "Wine Time," Clichester, UK

© Kathryn Clark/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"It's that time of day again! Little Blue enjoys it almost as much as me," Kathryn Clark.

Highly Commended: Diana Jill Mehner, "Crazy in Love with Fall," Paderborn, Germany

© Diana Jill Mehner/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

This is Leia. As you can see, she definitely loves playing with all the leaves in autumn. It was really tricky to take this picture because you never know what the dog is going to do next," Diana Jill Mehner.

Highly Commended: Christine Johnson, "Boing," Crosby Beach, UK

© Christine Johnson/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I was busy playing with my dog on the beach and this dog came to play. I liked the shapes he was making in the air," Christine Johnson

Highly Commended: Manel Subirats Ferrer, "Ostrich Style," Platja del Prat de Llobregat, Spain

© Manel Subirats Ferrer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Nuka playing hide and seek at the beach.

Highly Commended: Colin Doyle, "Nosey Nieghbor," Bromsgrove, UK

© Colin Doyle/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

​"According to Ozzy, we need a new fence panel ASAP. He is fed up with Chester our nosy next door neighbor spying on him every time he has a meal," Colin Doyle.

Highly Commended: Corey Seeman, "A Warm Spot on a Cold Day," Michigan

© Corey Seeman/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Two of the morning regulars at the dog park are Gary (hound mix with the jacket) and Kona, one of the most chill dogs ever," Corey Seeman.

Highly Commended: Lucy Slater, "So What?" San Diego, California

© Lucy Slater/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is how I like to sit!" Vincent the cat.

Highly Commended: Mollie Cheary, "Photobomb," Poole, UK

© Mollie Cheary/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Bailey was so excited to see her friends, she couldn't sit still for a photo!" Mollie Cheary.

via PixaBay and PixaBay

A cat sitting funny and a happy pug.

When my old dog Murray really wanted to tell me something and his barking or pawing didn’t get the job done, he would start making sounds that I swear mimicked human speech. Now, I’m not entirely sure that he was attempting to get through to me as a member of my own species would, but I don’t know how else to explain this quirky behavior.

It’s pretty amazing when we see our pets cross the imaginary line that separates the species by exhibiting human-like behaviors. But if you were to try to explain them to someone who’s never had a dog or cat (or parrot you will soon see) most of them would probably just shrug it off.

So, I never really talked to anyone about my dog’s strange but funny human impersonation.

Reddit user DMLorance created a safe space for pet owners to share their stories that no one believes on the AskReddit subforum.

“Pet owners of Reddit. What quirk does your pet (past or present) do that nobody believes when you tell them?”

Here are 16 of the best responses.


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