Gettin’ the Lingo

The official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas recently acted on an long-term resolution to become better at speaking the language of many of our neighbors. After all, our city of residence is not Saint Joseph.

To pursue this goal, she has subscribed to Duolingo, an online language-learning application. She has been sure to put in a little time on the project every day, often combining it with time on our exercise machine. Buffing up brain and body at the same time!

When she went to the payment section of the portal, she discovered that a family pack didn’t cost that much more than an individual license, and she knew full-well that there were several family members who have been wanting to learn one language or another.

So now I’m signed up, too. I will be learning Spanish too, but first I wanted to get a start on remembering what little Czech I once knew. I have family members who speak Czech, so it makes sense. I figure a month to show progress with the Czech before I add in Spanish sessions as well.

It’s pretty exciting, but when the program tested my current level of Czech proficiency, it politely said, “let’s start at the beginning.” So I’m starting at the beginning, but when they throw a new word at me, there’s a pretty good chance I already know it.

Is Duolingo better than other language-learning software? Honestly I don’t know, and I’m not sure how much that even matters. What matters is devoting a little time each day to add a new phrase or two. Beyond the actual lessons, Duolingo devotes enormous energy to rewarding consistency, and bestowing worthless cartoon trinkets for taking an extra lesson in a session. I got my five-day-straight pat on the back today.

2 thoughts on “Gettin’ the Lingo

  1. I have a stack of “People en Español” (why is this simply not called “Gente”?), comic books in Spanish, a TeleNovela for Spanish learners, etc. if you or the sweetie want any resources. I’ve used Duolingo, and while I don’t think it’s good for actually learning a language deeply, it’s great for getting up to speed on a new language quickly, e.g. if you’re going to visit a country that speaks a language you have no exposure to, and you just want to survive in not-English.

    • I think the experience you get with Duolingo varies by language and by platform. I’ve been working on Czech, and when I discovered that the Web-based version of Dualongo had an entire extra layer of instruction that is missing in the mobile version, I heard angels singing and the sun shone a little brighter.

      But even with that, it is not shocking to learn that the Spanish instruction is deeper and richer. It’s about demand, after all.

      And then there’s the fact that Czech has an incredibly steep beginners curve, and vocabulary has to take a back seat to grammar in a formal course. “Just learn words.” was my brother’s advice to me, but I’ve always been a herd-ass about grammar. So rather than just speak Czech baby-talk, I have to get the proper accusative plural masculine inanimate form of the adverb. Duolingo is all about that.

      From where I sit, Sam seems to be getting pretty good at Spanish. Written conversational, if not oral (untested in these times). I regret not diving into Spanish with her (a night on the couch watching a telenovela with remote in hand is appealing), but I thought I’d they to honor my Czech-speaking family members.

      Also, I thought I’d be doing much better at ti.

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