Monday, 4 January 2021


 Most of you (dear readers) are probably familiar with a quote often wrongly attributed to Mark Twain (who in turn wrongly attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli - who according to the omniscient Wikipedia doesn't deserve the credit either):

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Whoever said it first, this still tends to be repeated a lot, and it came to mind for me once again when I looked at some of my own statistics from 2020.



On my computer, I keep a database list of books I've read, going back to 2002. Usually at the end of a year it tells me that I've been reading about one book per week (including printed books, e-books and audio books). That was also my conclusion when printing out my list for 2020: 51 titles.

However,  I also received some statistics from Audible, which is where I keep most of my audio books. According to them, I listened to 58 titles (for a total of 703 hours).

As on my own book list I've only marked 22 titles as Audible books, their statistics surprised me. I know there are some titles I've listened to that I did not enter on my own list as they were lectures or drama rather than books. There are are also some books I've listened to partly, but have not finished (so also did not get added to my own list). The total number of hours spent listening may perhaps be right, considering all the times I've fallen asleep listening and have had to rewind and re-listen. (I usually set a sleep timer, but it happens that I miss that, and some books have been talking away all through the night...)  But that I should have listened to as many as 58 different titles in one year still seems very unlikely (or a statistic lie!), however I count.

Ah well - never mind... I'm just curious about how they're counting!

The official 2020 Postcrossing statistics are probably more correct:

However, those statistics do not include all the postcards exchanged with friends... 



 Then there is Duolingo. They sent me their figures already back in October, claiming that...


Sounds impressive, doesn't it? (counting minutes and words...) They also claim I earned 23560 "XP" (points) and 431 "crowns" (to do with finishing levels within courses) and advanced to Diamond League (whatever that means).  I am very sure that "studying" a word is not the same as memorizing it, though... (There's an awful lot of forgetting and repeating and wild guessing involved in trying to learn multiple languages...) 

Spanish is indeed the Duolingo language I still spend the most time on; and having started from zero some 4½ years ago, I have definitely made progress - but Spanish is also their main course, which they keep updating and adding new lessons to all the time. 

Finnish is my latest added course - it was introduced last summer (2020), still in beta version. There are a lot of people of Finnish origin living in Sweden, and back in my childhood they were the dominant group of labour immigrants. So nearly all my life I've always heard a lot of Finnish spoken (but never understood a word...) Even learning just a few words and a teeny tiny bit of the most basic grammar (very different from Swedish) feels like progress.

Well. At least when I ask myself what I do with my time, I have some statistics!


  1. lies, damed lies and statistics. the thing is all lies are lies, all lies are damn lies and statistics can be and often are lies.. i am not a statistic keeper or reader of ones kept without my knowledge.. numbers make me crazy.. i do watch the statistics of covid 19 and ponder which are lies and which are true.. it depends on who is keeping them or telling us about them... i have confused myself. I will close I am impressed at all you do learning new languages, you may remember I tryed it for about 1/2 hour and gave up

    1. Sandra, yes, I'm afraid learning a foreign language does take a bit longer than half an hour ;) As for my own list of books that I read, I keep that mostly in order to be able to go back and check if and when I read a certain book or author (and if I own it or borrowed it or what...)

  2. It doesn't just sound impressive, Monica, it IS impressive!! I wish I had your knack for languages (not that I'm not a tiny bit above average in that area myself) AND the time to pursue them. I keep telling myself that one day, when I retire, I shall start learning Russian, then Arabic, then... ;-)
    Funny about the audio books statistics. I have now a mental image of your flat, all quiet and dark for the night, with the exception of a book being read aloud, and your soft sleep-breathing in the background.

    1. Meike, the Audible statistics remains a mystery. I wish they had specified the titles...

  3. It's a good job that I read Meike's comment. I was about to start my comment with the same words. I am someone with a serious inability to master any language other than English despite my early attempts at French at School and German when I used to stay in Berlin. When I used to be asked what I would wish for if I had three wishes 'multi-lingual ability' was always on my list. Even now when I use my limited Italian I have to check even words I use almost daily so poor is my confidence.

    1. Graham, one advantage of communicating chiefly in writing is that readers don't really know how many words and expressions I keep checking before posting, even in English. Surprisingly often I also find that it may be for example common household objects that I don't know the name for in other languages. Or it may be hidden so far back in my memory that it's quicker to look it up. Blogging (and reading blogs) in English for over a decade now I think has helped quite a lot with those "everyday" kind of things, though! (Not suggesting that you should try blogging in Italian, mind! /lol/ For a while, I had someone commenting in Turkish on my blog. In spite of my efforts to learn a bit of that on Duolingo, I had to use Google translate every time just to try to grasp whether it was likely to be a genuine comment or spam...)


Communication is what makes blogging fun :)
... but all spam or suspected spam will be deleted.

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