Sunday, June 26, 2016

¡Buenos días!

spanish 37% Duolingo 160626

Maybe some of you will remember (at least if I remind you!) that around six weeks ago, I happened to hear about the language app Duolingo, got curious about it, and decided (quite on a whim) “to try a bit of Spanish”, to see how far that method of learning would take me, in, for example, a month or two. I did not set my goal very high – I actually only expected to play with the app for perhaps 30 minutes a day. But in reality, most days during these six weeks I probably ended up spending at least 1-2 hours with it (not all in one go, but for a little while now and then, several times a day).

I also found an old Spanish primer and grammar in my bookcase. My memory has been deceiving me for years to believe that those must have belonged to my mum, who (I thought) might have wanted to learn a few phrases before we went to Spain on a family holiday back in 1967. (I was eleven going on twelve at the time, and all I recall learning back then was to count to ten or twenty - so that I could buy paper dolls in the little shop in the street where we were staying.)

However, when taking a closer look at these books, I found that they were from 1974, so not connected to that holiday. Moreover, it’s definitely my handwriting (and not mum’s) in the ejercisios in the first three chapters of the primer, belonging to a TV/radio distance course. So even though I remember nothing at all about it, I must conclude that I started out with good intentions, but soon gave it up! (1974 was the year when I graduated from senior high and then took a “gap year” working in an office, while still living at home. It was also the year when I got my driving license, and I suspect I found other ways of spending my evenings…)

Now, 40+ years later, I’m happy to report that this time I stuck at it a little bit longer. Still remains to be seen how much further, of course! But in these six weeks, I managed to work my way through all the 14 levels of the Duolingo app (+ quite a lot of repetition in between), and reached “37% fluency”. Have to admit I’m feeling quite proud of myself - even if I do realize that most of my progress has been in passive understanding rather than in active use of the language. (And as for grammar… I think one probably does need some extra time with a grammar book besides Duolingo, to grasp some things properly…)

To celebrate my 40 days introduction, I am now giving myself a serious test of the “understanding” part, though. Yesterday and today I have read the first two chapters of a book which I found free for Kindle in both Spanish and English: Rise of the Dragons / El Despertar de los Dragones by Morgan Rice.

Product DetailsProduct Details

Rice is an American author of fantasy novels, not Spanish - but never mind! The main idea was to find a book (preferably for free) that I could read in both languages, so that  1/ I can compare, and 2/ if I feel I get stuck, I can still finish the book... I also invested a few dollars in a proper Spanish-English dictionary for Kindle (only need to point at a word on the screen and the English translation / explanation comes up).

So far I’m actually getting along rather well, even if  at a very slow pace … What I did was to read the whole first chapter in Spanish (and really making efforts to understand); and then the same chapter in English. Same procedure with the second chapter today. Of course there were details I missed or got a little bit wrong. But on the whole, I am surprised (and encouraged!) at how much I actually do manage to understand – and also at how much of the vocabulary learned from Duolingo came in useful.

After having gone through all the levels of Spanish, I have also (the last few days) tried a bit of French (which I did learn for five years at school back in my teens but have hardly used since). I’m not sure whether it’s me or the app, but so far I’m finding the French version more boring than the Spanish one. Not because I’m sailing through it (rather the opposite – I’m a bit shocked at how much I’ve forgotten) but because of the content. Seriously: I’ve never been to France. But if anyone reading this has more intimate knowledge of that country, can you please tell me: How many Frenchmen nowadays have a pig? And how many of those who do happen to have one, carries it around with them? And if so – why? Because they only seem to lose it, and then have to go looking for it, and… (…)

So, getting a bit bored with French pigs, I switched to Welsh, just out of curiosity, because I’ve always been fascinated with it (ever since family holidays in Britain in the 1970s) and thinking that it must be such a hard language to learn. I still suspect that it is. But I do quite like the introductory approach Duolingo is taking to it. If ever I go to Wales again I’ll be able to say: Draig dw i (I am a dragon)! 

Flag of Wales 2.svg
(National flag of Wales)

24 comments:

  1. I think it takes a person who is very smart and has an aptitude to be able to learn all these languages. And it gets harder as we get older! You amaze me, and are now labeled a genius in my book. I can't even remember to make calls or eat some days! Now, what is this about French Pigs? i like pigs, and people have them as pets around here; especially the little pot-bellied ones.

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    1. Thanks Ginny. Actually the supposition that it gets harder to learn as we get older was one of the things that challenged me to try and see if I could still learn something new :) What I'm now thinking is that while it may be true that our short term memory tends to deteriorate, we should not underestimate the value of the things stored in our more long term memory, and the brain's ability to match new information with what is already there! (There are lots of words in Spanish that have roots in common with the other languages I already know.)

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    2. As for the French pigs, Ginny... I just sometimes really wonder why certain words and phrases are chosen to be repeated over and over in language exercises. If I were to go to France on holiday, I find it highly unlikely that I'd need to tell someone that I lost my pig...

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  2. I remember your post about this app and the interesting discussion about languages that ensued very well. Congratulations, Monica!
    Do you get Spanish TV channels? I have several - Spanish as well as Catalan ones - and sometimes I listen in a few minutes, just to see how much I still remember. Also, I often find TV is a good way of keeping oneself up to date on current terms and expression in a language. And when you are watching a news program, you'll know more or less the context and from your own international news features and therefore will be able to follow even if you won't know each and every word.

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    1. No Meike, I don't have any Spanish TV channels. At present I only have a basic supply of 15 channels (and I'm not watching even all of those). We'll be switching to a new TV cable and digital box in the autumn though (in my building/area). I'm waiting to see what will be on offer then. I doubt Spanish is much in demand in Sweden though, so not sure that's likely to be included in any of the most common bundles. (Actually a German channel would be higher on my priority list!)

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  3. Well done, I have always struggled with English but remember whilst working in France I got a novel by Patricia Cornwall. The funniest thing I mis-translated was a dead toasted cheese sandwich riding a motor bike with an apple green petrol tank. I never lived it down amongst my fellow riggers. I was known thereafter as Croque Mort. It means Hells Angel not dead toastie.

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    1. PS. it would be worth going to Wales just to say Draig dw i. The Welsh would laugh and laugh. they have a great sense of humour they elected Stephen Kinnock.

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    2. I'm afraid I've not been keeping up-to-date with Welsh politics, Adrian. (That translates: "Stephen Who? and could you give me a quick summary about what's happened since King Arthur?"...)

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    3. No I know nothing of Welsh politics but for the fact that Uffa built a wall. I don't know whether it was to keep the English out or the Welsh in but either way it seems a good idea.

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    4. Had to look that up as well! Hadrian I know (I've even seen his wall), but not Offa...

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  4. Good for you. I'm still plugging along on my German, making good progress except for the der, die, das, those drive me crazy, Spanish el, la,los, las are so much easier.

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    1. I'm all too familiar with the der-die-das headache, Janet. :)

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    2. Don't know what the problem is :-D

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  5. you are amazing... i know how this is because i downloaded it when you did your post and i used it 3 times and uninstalled it. i agree with Ginny, it takes someone smart to do this... you go girl...

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    1. Thanks Sandra. I think the main thing it takes is an interest, this gives me a similar kick like you get from all the photo editing apps you're clever at playing with :) (+ see my reply to Ginny)

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  6. about the not remembering thing from way back when, i have told people i have never gone by Sandy, i hate the name and want to be Sandra... a few weeks ago, i found a diary from when i was about 10 or 12 and i signed each page with the name Sandy... how could i forget that

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    1. That's the snag about memory - it's hard to remember what we forgot! (or perhaps chose to forget) I'm thinking at some point you changed your opinion about the nickname and decided (successfully) to get rid of it!

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  7. it is always an especial feeling of joy when you find something which makes you relate to your olden days
    you must be proud of you for such achievement dear

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  8. Well done. I am a mature age university student and so is my husband. It is a bit harder than when I was young, but I have other skills like resilience and persistence. Take your studies to the next level. You have another 30 years - more than enough to become really fluent in four or five more languages.

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    1. Thanks for the confidence, Louise ;) Even if I doubt I'll be setting my goals quite that high, I do think it's good exercise for the brain to try and keep on learning new things (whatever it may be)

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  9. When I was hors de combat with my knee and unable to drive I did the French one whilst doing my exercises and found it pretty easy and boring so far as I got. What I find is that I know far more French than I am able to use other than as a tourist because my mind just doesn't translate quickly enough in 'real life'.

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    1. That's pretty much how I feel with the French Duolingo as well. Spanish has been a much more stimulating experience, because with a new language, everything one manages to get right means progress! :)

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