How to Learn a Second Language

Welcome to 2021! You may be juggling half a dozen New Year’s Resolutions already, but may I add one more to your list? Start learning a new language. Here’s why. 

Why Learn a Language

There are so many reasons to pursue language learning. If you’re looking to sharpen intellectual skills, learning a language will help you improve your memory, as well as problem solving and critical thinking skills. If you’re seeking a new career or promotion, learning a second language is a highly desired skill. It will also get you ready for video conferencing calls with clients and colleagues who speak other languages. Learning another language now will prepare you for future travels, whether they be for business or for pleasure. Closer to home, it may surprise you, but the more you practice another language, the more words you will learn in your native tongue. 

Learning a new language will also take you beyond book smarts; studies show that learning a new language boosts your ability to empathize with others. This is because being exposed to other languages can enhance your ability to parse out another person’s intentions, take another person’s perspective, and patiently work through ambiguity. In addition, every language has abstract concepts and notions that are very difficult to translate into another language. This is because those hard-to-translate words or phrases hold deep cultural meaning. Learning those words and phrases gives us a peek into another culture — those peeks add up and help contribute to greater empathy.

How to Get Started

JMRL offers two language learning programs: Rocket Languages and Transparent Language. Each platform operates in a different style and has its own strengths. Check out this short video to help you choose which program to try first.

Learn More

In doing my deep-dive I learned a LOT about these two databases, and there are some nifty tips, tricks, and important caveats I wasn’t able to go over in this brief overview video. For example, what about each database’s ability to review the work you’ve completed? Which database has a better mobile experience? Which database is right for me if I want to learn English? What about KidSpeak, offered by Transparent Language? What about setting goals, earning points, leaderboards, forums, and the like? If you’d like any of those questions answered, or would like to learn more about a different aspect of either these databases, sign up for our upcoming zoom program. During the program, I’ll answer any questions you have, and offer more information that is tailored to your needs.

As always, we’d also love to answer your questions over email, text, or chat. If you’d like to connect that way, email the reference staff at, text us at 434-236-8611, or chat us using this link: 

Borrowing Digital Titles 101

Although JMRL is currently offering curbside pickup for physical items (see more details in this blog post), now is still a great time to consider borrowing a downloadable ebook or audiobook. Take advantage of JMRL’s digital collections and explore thousands of titles all from the comfort of your own home. Don’t know where to start? No problem! The following is an overview of JMRL’s digital collections and links for getting started. 

JMRL’s eLibrary consists of several digital collections that are available anywhere, anytime with a JMRL library card. The three most popular collections are Overdrive/Libby, RBdigital, and Freading.


overdrivelibbyiconOverdrive contains both ebooks and audiobooks that are compatible with many different devices. Libby is the updated and user-friendly version of the Overdrive app that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet from your device’s app store. Whether you are browsing for titles from the Libby app or, you will sign in using your library card number. Note that Overdrive/Libby recently introduced an “Instant Digital Card” feature, but we encourage you to use your existing JMRL card number to sign in and borrow titles.

For step-by-step instructions on getting started, visit Overdrive’s Getting Started page. You will also find detailed instructions for specific devices, including Androids, Kindles, Kobos, Macs, and Windows devices. Detailed instructions on borrowing, downloading, returning, and other actions in the Libby app are available here.


logo_RBdigital_verticalLike Overdrive/Libby, RBdigital contains downloadable books and audiobooks, but also houses magazines and comic books. There is an app version of RBdigital that is compatible with different devices so you can listen or read on your phone or tablet. Unlike Overdrive/Libby that only requires a JMRL card to sign-in, new RBdigital users will need to register and create an account with a username and password. Although the app is not quite as user-friendly as Libby, RBdigital is used less frequently so there may be shorter waiting periods for titles.

For help on getting started or troubleshooting, visit RBdigital’s Help page for step-by-step instructions and video tutorials. 


dl-freadingLast but not least, Freading contains a selection of ebooks that, unlike Overdrive/Libby or RBdigtial, are available at all times with no wait lists and can be accessed through the Freading app or on a computer. Like RBdigital, new Freading users will need to register to create an account. Freading is also unique in that their ebooks are wrapped in Adobe software so users will need to take the additional step of downloading Adobe Digital Editions on their device and creating an Adobe ID. For more information on using Freading, visit their FAQ page.

While JMRL branches are currently closed to the public, Reference staff are working remotely and are available to answer any questions you may have about borrowing digital titles. Visit the eLibrary page on the JMRL website and look under the Need Assistance? section for ways to reach out to staff via chat, email, or text. 

Happy Reading!

Job Seeking & Unemployment Resources

If you or someone you know is currently out of work, we’ve conducted a Q&A with Virginia Career Works and compiled a list of resources to help you prepare for and navigate the job search process.


Q&A with Virginia Career Works

Thomas Gillette with Virginia Career Works answers some questions concerning unemployment and job seeking while in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Q: Who is eligible for your services/help? 

A:  We don’t turn people away. We may have to refer them to other people/agencies, but we try to answer people wherever they’re from.  

Q :How do we access your services while your doors are closed? 

A:  The state website offers a lot:

Here you can build a resume and access information on employers, look for job openings, etc.  

Another site that’s helpful is

There are on-line classes and a lot of other resources listed that should be helpful. 

The local Virginia Employment Commission is currently slammed with calls and emails from folks trying to access the Unemployment system, make changes in their claims, and a lot of other things.   

Folks can email me at   If there’s something I can help with, I will.   If I end up with too many requests, it might take a while to respond.  A lot of us who are still working are working harder (and trying to work smarter). Appreciate patience.    

Q: What makes you eligible for unemployment? 

A:  Did you work in the last 18 months? Very flexible.   If in doubt, apply. You have nothing to lose but the time it takes you to apply.  

Q: How do you apply for unemployment in Virginia? 

A:  The best way if you have a computer and internet access is at the website: The instructions are pretty clear on the first page.  

Or folks can call:

For initial claims, call between 8:15am and 4:30pm, Monday – Friday, and between 9am and 1pm on Saturday (closed state holidays): 1-866-832-2363.    This system has a considerable wait involved,  but still the only choice for some people. Recommend they call at 8:15am.  

There is a good video at  that describes the process.  This can be very helpful to review for those who are anxious about applying.  

A couple of things to know:   

  • During this crisis, you don’t have to have your PIN number before making your weekly calls.   Since there is a delay in getting the PIN number mailed to an applicant, an applicant can start making their weekly calls starting the Sunday after their last day of work.  
  • You will get unemployment compensation for the week immediately following your last day of work (or reduction in hours.).  In the past, there has been a “dead week” that you didn’t get compensation for that first week of unemployment.  
  • Once you make your weekly call, you should receive payment in about three business days.  
  • When applying, you can provide your checking account routing numbers, or you can request the state to provide you a debit card.  Either works.  

Q: Can you explain the automated reminder system?

A:  That’s new.  The VEC is now issuing automated reminders to claimants through text message and automated voice calling in regards to their claims and weekly filing. Very helpful.   If you don’t make the weekly call to let them know you are “ready and available for work”, and have “no work available” for you, you receive no money for that week. If you are working part-time,  you just report what you worked that week. That’s a partial unemployment claim. In either case, make the calls.  

Q: Are any businesses hiring right now? 

A:  Actually, there are a lot of employers hiring right now.  I have a list I can share that a team is working on.  

Q: What are some other resources you’d recommend to job seekers?

A:  There are a lot of resources out there.  I recommend that job-seekers do some research.   Think about what kind of training they might need to enhance their own career—or start a new one.  Resources are available. For example, I understand that PVCC and other community colleges will be offering a 40-hour healthcare course (mostly online) that will prepare them to work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and some homecare agencies.   There is great need for new people in these career positions.    

Additional Resources

JMRL resources

State and Local Resources (assistance may be temporarily limited due to the COVID-19 crisis)