Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Category: Languages (Page 1 of 2)

1001 Days

I’ve used Duolingo for 1001 days. I started my Duolingo odyssey to brush up on my high school German and college Russian in prep for a Baltic cruise that would start in Germany and stop in St Petersburg. Then the pandemic happened and our cruise was canceled.

I kept going. I eventually added Spanish, Ukrainian, and Scottish Gaelic. I had some Spanish in high school. It’s a useful language to know in Tucson. I started Ukrainian because of Russia’s invasion and I wanted to see how closely related and mutually intelligible they were. And to show my support for Ukraine. I learned Scottish Gaelic on my own 18 years ago and started a self-studies group in Tulsa. I decided to brush up on it too and see how good Duolingo is for it.

I chose 1001 days as a milestone as a nod to 1001 Arabian Nights. I’m not fluent in any of the languages and I’m not ready to converse in any of them, but my German comprehension is much better.

Of course Duolingo celebrates 1000 days as a milestone.

Bloody Hell

So you hear that English use the word ‘bloody’ as an expletive all the time. I just learned the German word blöde which translates as stupid. It sounds a bit like the English bloody and is similar in meaning. It’s an intensifier in German but not as intense as it is in British English. Americans don’t use the word bloody the way the Brits do.

Wikipedia tries to explain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody

I think it’s time to look up the etymology of the word blood to see if their is a connection. I’ll leave that as a homework assignment as I’m too tired to continue expositing on the words. I just happened to notice the similarity.

 

Duocon 2021 (and my language goals)

Duolingo just hosted Duocon (virtually). It’s an event they’ve started doing two years ago. You could think of it as one long infomercial. Duolingo is a great way to get you started learning a language, but you won’t achieve fluency with it if that is your goal. You’ll eventually need to find other material and tutors to get you there.

You can watch all the talks here. Patton Oswalt kicks it off.

So the video at the top is all of Duocon and watching it reminds me so much of the HBO series Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper.

It is interesting. I wasn’t aware of Duolingo’s English Test which actually seems to be a good and affordable service available to the public for foreign students wanting to get into universities that require such a test.

I’ve been watching the full Duocon video a little bit at a time and it’s more impressive, interesting, and enjoyable than I thought it’d be. At the same time it reminds me more and more of Pied Piper from HBO’s Silicon Valley. The most surprising thing is the use of AI for the voices. They use voice actors, but then they manipulate the voices for the characters for the lessons.

What’s interesting they align their lessons with CERF. Their goal is to get people to B2, but if you get to level 5 of a language it’s equivalent to A2.

I started off with German for the first six months and then I added in Russian. A few months ago after I finished the German tree I started Spanish. German keeps adding stories, so I go back to those. Spanish also has stories and podcasts. Russian doesn’t have either feature. I do have some background in all 3 languages. I took 1 year of Spanish and 2 years of German in high school. I have a minor in Russian from college. I am not fluent in any of these languages yet. I’ve forgotten most of my Russian, but I can still read and pronounce it. I’ve been doing Duolingo for 18 months now, but I haven’t done it exclusively. I added in reading, listening, and video material mostly to German. My goal is to be fluent in one language before tackling another. I should say tackling fluency in another language. I probably shouldn’t be juggling three languages.

Here’s a list of languages in chronological order of starting to learn more of and how much I’ve learned if I can quantify it.

Spanish  1 year in high school, Duolingo for 6 months
German 2 years in high school, Duolingo for 1.5 years, lots of German language YouTube videos, German graded readers.
Russian 3 years in college, Duolingo for 9 months
Japanese 1 semester in college
Gaelic 4 years of self-study + immersions (and a few weeks of Irish because it’s a closely related language)
French 3 months of self-study
Cherokee 1 month of self-study + 2 sessions

I’ve decided that I have no real interest wanting to learn more French at this time, but really want to be able to speak German well. Considering how much time I invested in Russian I feel I ought to achieve a level of fluency in it as well, but that could be the sunk cost fallacy. I was going to have an opportunity to speak Russian on our now cancelled 2020 Baltic cruise which is the reason I started using Duolingo along with German. I knew more Russian so I didn’t feel like I had to brush up as much to be a tourist as I did for Germany. There may also be a bit of a sunk cost fallacy in learning Gaelic too, though I am quite proud it was the first language I learned mostly on my own.

I want to speak Spanish better because it’s such a practical language to know living in Tucson and being so close to Mexico (though I don’t want to visit while their murderous drug wars continue). German was and is my first foreign language love. I have German ancestry. I also want to learn Cherokee because I have Cherokee ancestry and I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I want to learn Gaelic because I love Scotland. It’s the one language I actually had a short conversation in.

I won’t start a fourth Duolingo language until I’ve completed the tree of at least one other language. That would be Russian because I’ve done more and it has less material than Spanish.

There are a few other languages I’m interested in. Latin, Greek, and American Sign Language. Here are my current languages I want to learn and in order of importance:

German
Gaelic
Cherokee
Spanish
Russian
Japanese

Spanish is probably the most practical of all the languages. The one I’m likely to use most in my daily life or that I could use. I don’t plan to seriously tackle other languages until I’m satisfied with my progress in German.

Ich lerne Deutsch

I am using Duolingo to brush up and learn more German. It’s fun and I am learning but it is not an end in it self. I need other tools. I’ve started watching Babylon Berlin with German subtitles (watching with English subtitles is not conducive to learning the language). It’s amazing how much you can follow the story without knowing the language.

If you are a fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will recognize this reference. And now you know how to say it in German:

Die Antwort is zweiundvierzig. Was ist die Frage?

 

Ich mag Duolingo. Es ist sehr gut.


I like learning languages. I actually have a minor in Russian, but I’ve forgotten most of it (Я забыл как говорить по русски). I can still read it. I studied both Spanish and German in high school. I preferred German but was talked into taking a little Spanish. I also took a semester of Japanese at a community college. Other languages I have studied on my own: Scottish Gaelic and French.  I am not fluent in any of these. However, now is as good as time as any to become fluent in one of them. And German was my first (language) love. Ich habe Deutsch in meinem herzen. My second love is Scottish Gaelic. ‘S toigh leam Gaidhlig.

The Squirrel/Eichhörnchen Divide

A few years ago with some German acquaintances we saw an Irish comedian at the Kansas City Irish Festival. I forget his name and I’m too lazy to look him up. Anyway he talked about an English word Germans had difficulty pronouncing. The comedian said the German word first, Eichhörnchen, correctly. Then asked a German in the audience to say the English translation, squirrel. And there was much laughter. It’s true Germans do have a difficult time saying the word squirrel, but you know what? Americans have a more difficult time saying the German word, Eichhörnchen.

Do I have a point? Nein.

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