Is language learning becoming a tool for bragging?
I noticed that these days people learn many languages just to list them and brag about the number of them, without any interest in these languages. I have always thought that that's not the purpose of learning a language, do you agree?, also I'm sorry if that offends anyone,and I don't mean on duolingo only,in real-life too.
Honestly, I don't see a problem with this. If someone wants to learn only to brag, that's kind of sad for them but you never know, it might actually be the start of a love for learning, and that person may even find those bits and pieces useful at some point.
It doesn't affect me or my learning if someone else has the 'wrong' motives to learn. If there's a point at which it's important for a person to actually know a language, if they haven't actually learned properly it'll come out pretty quick. And no matter what someone else's reasons for learning are, it doesn't change anything for me.
It's like those people who cheat to quickly get to level 25 or get to higher tiers in immersion. It's sad and it's silly and I think it's kinda pathetic, but at the end of the day, it doesn't affect me, it isn't stopping me from learning, it isn't even stopping me from getting XP honestly, it really doesn't matter all that much.
If someone cheating to get to higher levels, they are only really cheating themselves - wasting their own time when they could be doing something productive.
If someone is doing the beginnings of fistfuls of courses and then claiming more ability than is actually true, they're just making themselves look kind of silly the second someone competent comes along.
If someone is bragging about language skills they don't actually possess, that's pretty sad... and it's pretty much their problem.
At the end of the day, it bothers me no more than a buzzing fly, because while occasionally it might annoy me, it doesn't actually stop me from studying and improving and doing something worthwhile with my time. And if someone is doing it for dubious reasons, it doesn't preclude the possibility that they will fall in love with a language/languages in general/learning, and then you have a positive outcome by any yardstick.
I like your attitude! :) I pretty much am of the same view here--there are super competitive people here, and people who cheat, but they have never affected my own learning or my priorities. I've said many times here in discussions that these people are punishing themselves by using all this time and energy over misplaced motivation. Let them. Maybe they will learn, maybe they won't. But it's their life and let them have it. Go live yours instead.
I used to be part of a very different language learning community, more academically oriented and brimming with Western (and mostly white and economically privileged), hyper-competitive, pseudo-intellectual, dilettantish, ultra-peevish (translation: ultra-insecure) academic types. Boy, lemme tell you...there were definitely people there who would learn a language just to prove something. "Oh, so you're just starting Latin? Well, I studied Latin for 5 years until I was so advanced everything bored me, so then I studied Old English, but that was too easy. Pfft! Now I'm working on Tocharian. Kuchean to be exact." Talk about insufferable. And that kind of environment, I learned, can be really toxic because of the kind of sick tunnel vision about why we are learning languages that it encourages. But Duolingo is very different--you have a very diverse user base, there are people from all kind of cultural, economic and educational backgrounds and who can have very different reasons and motivations for learning a language (or several). It allows you to choose what kind of people you include in your learning experience and ignore (and even block--heh) people you feel are not helpful or would make you not want to be here.
And I admit I do brag. I've earned the right. I have have persevered through some seriously discouraging periods and events along the way, and many more minor ones too. I have quit Duo more times than I remember, and I'm sure I'll quit a few times more. I have gotten burnt out on my languages. I have gotten overwhelmed and have questioned whether it's worth. I have gotten frustrated over how my life circumstances limit a lot of my learning opportunities. But this is about my own personal learning journey--I've toughed it out and I have made genuine progress. I get to be proud of that. But it doesn't matter if this about one or 12 languages. It's about learning.
Is it wrong of me to be a little fascinated by that snooty language learning community you mention...? :-p
One of the few reasons I would have to learn Latin would be that many people who did learn Latin at school (especially in countries where learning Latin is commonplace in good schools, not so much where I'm from where hardly anyone studies Latin) tend to be a bit snobbish about it, regardless of how much they actually picked up in those lessons. For example, they might get upset if you as a non-learner of Latin are better at spelling Latin expressions used in other languages than they are... I even read a detective story recently where the whole clue was that the identity of a main character was linked to whether that person was the one who had studied Latin at school or another person -- as if learning Latin later would be somehow impossible!
So if I would ever get around to learning Latin, I would make a point of being "that nice, non-snooty person who knows Latin"... :-) For now, I guess I take some pride in being the only person I know (or can think of) who knows the combination of languages I do -- I don't think I've found anyone else fluent in Dutch and semi-fluent in Estonian yet. :-p Whatever makes one happy, eh?
I am trying to process what you say about Latin here. I'm coming to the suspicion it might help if I'd spent more than 45 minutes of my life in the UK... :)
I spend a lot of time with friends with a certain degree of knowledge of Latin (I am not really one), but inasmuch as our activities would function all the better with a much more comprehensive knowledge, which they then lack, overall it seems to have a feel of humility about it.
From this I extract the following lesson: the snooty Latin dilettantes must be dragged into a realm of much more Latin! One would hope putting on airs about the timing of one's de minimis (see what I did there :P Kapow!) Latin study wouldn't hold much water against a fluent speaker of perhaps humbler origins (don't know what it says about me that I share my social network with such people...)!
Oh, I wasn't even thinking about the UK! Although it's true that there are some posh (floppy-haired, politically high-flying...) people in the UK who use their Latin knowledge to try to establish their superiority over others. None of the people in the UK I know personally went to the kinds of schools were you pick up those habits! :-)
I've experienced this in other European countries, such as Belgium (both among Flemish and French-speaking people) and Germany. The book I mentioned was a Flemish one.
I'm suddenly starting to feel a tiny bit of an urge to learn Latin... Oh dear... 8-) Well, as long as it isn't available on Duolingo, I know the urge won't grow out of hand.
Well, it does give them an edge: https://www.theonion.com/report-students-who-take-latin-have-better-chance-of-s-1829686631
Beyond a point, I certainly would question anyone who straight up claims to be fluent in a whole bunch of languages. Fluency takes so much work and time and you can't possibly be claiming to be fluent unless you're actually using the language, talking to people, writing in it, etc.
I mean I have an extremely bright and successful friend who was Syrian born, got out before things got bad and moved to the US at about 12. He's now a Fulbright Scholar and has studied in Germany and knows I think four languages quite well. But I still remember in college (where we met) before he went to go take the test in Arabic to try and test out. This was his native language and whenever I heard him on the phone with his mom they would dip in and out of Arabic with ease. And still this guy claimed his Arabic wasn't very good and was so worried he wouldn't pass the exam! He's not the only immigrant I've heard have that opinion about their native language or their English. And these are people who have had their lives uprooted and had to learn new languages to survive, to live.
For that matter I also have a friend who is an ESL teacher who works daily with Mexican Americans. She went to a top notch college and studied Spanish extensively. She would claim fluency if pushed and she helped me out when i was studying Spanish but she's so modest. Shes been around the language enough to know she doesn't know it all and can't compare to a native speaker. I think it's often the people who have never had true immersion in their languages or who aren't interacting with them much, who are arrogant enough to boast they're so great at a language, let alone to claim such fluency in handfuls or more!
Now that isnt to say we shouldn't be proud. I've studied Hebrew on and off for years, in university, in synagogue, with Israelis, on my own, now here at Duo. I lost a lot because I got sick and couldn't finish my degree (Hebrew study was part of my degree program) and frankly spent the last five or six years just trying to survive. I found one of my old Hebrew textbooks and a final exam that wae pressed inside it and i was amazed. It was terrible! I'm doing much better now because I want to learn it and itw my primary focus versus trying to learn a language and do full time university and everything else. Plus I'm just older and more mature and being sick has taught me a whole lot about fighting and working hard. I'm a long way from fluency though that's of course my goal. I'd love to go back to school if I can, love to maybe get back to my goal of working in middle East policy and/or moving to Israel. But if nothing else, after all the things my life has been through, I'm definitely proud of how I am doing. And i know everyone has their own story and hardships. It isn't easy to be qn adult learner of anything, especially perhaps foreign languages. So be proud, but don't oversell yourself. The real competition should be with yourself, you should be trying to better yourself, push yourself further, learn more each day or week. That's the real goal.
I can attest to what your ESL teacher friend is saying. In working with Spanish speaking students the first thing I tell my kiddos is that I am not always going to know what they are saying right away, I will forget words, and I will sometimes say things in a weird way. They really enjoy teaching the teacher! I can specifically remember spending a ridiculous amount of time with one of my kids because she was trying to get me to pronounce arándanos correctly. I will never consider myself "fluent" and I am okay with that.
That's why I deleted courses in languages I had no intention pursuing further: Hebrew, Turkish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Italian. I don't need two lines of flags, thank you very much.
And French sits there at lvl 3, because I keep telling myself: "maybe in the future..."
I'm going to give Korean, Czech, Romanian and Hindi a whirl when they come out, but I expect I'll drop them pretty quickly too. Which means removing the flag in shame.
There is a very fine line between bragging and feeling proud. One can probably make the distinction when looking at the motivation(s) of the person in context (though they will rarely explicitly share them, a lot of people want attention online, for example, but will not readily admit to that, and others just want to share their happiness with people they care about, which can be motivational in itself), and of course, their actual results in relation to acknowledged expertise in the field being discussed.
I completely agree with this. There is definitely a high need among some people in the forums to assign meaning to other people's words that aren't there. No matter how far they have to twist them to get there.
From what I have seen most of the people in these forums who are really learning tend to be helpful and informative. The people in here doing nothing but posting about their levels and trees tend to stand out as putting bragging over learning.
"There is definitely a high need among some people in the forums to assign meaning to other people's words that aren't there. No matter how far they have to twist them to get there."
To be fair one massive problem with online communication in general is how easy it is to miscommunicate and misinterpret. I have certainly had misunderstandings with even my closest friends or family because online you don't have the tone or facial expressions. It's easy to misinterpret. Now I get you're likely referring to a certain type of person who tends to cause a lot of drama but those sorts are everywhere and sometimes it is worth double checking or trying to understand how your words may have come across differently to someone. I know I've said totally innocent things, or jokes especially, only to look back and realize oh, now I see why someone might be upset. On the other end though, is the troll types who will find a reason to pick apart literally anything though. The internet is a very strange place sometimes!
I agree with those who mention that "bragging" to one person may not sound like bragging to another. I remember as a kid, my classmates thought I was bragging when I used "big words," when really I just spent a lot of time reading books and I had no clue that other kids didn't know the words I did. I had to dumb down my speech to avoid criticism, which was kinda sad.
It may seem like bragging to other people if I list the languages I speak. For me it's a confession of how much time I've spent on language learning when I should have been doing other things ;-) Although, I do feel proud when I set and meet my language learning goals!
I wondered why I was doing all this work. Thanks for clearing that up:)) I had better make the most of this opportunity then hadn't I?
I just finished my Polish tree in 40 days. Language number 15. Tree number 28.
Typing that was so worth all the effort involved!! The high from it will make me walk on air for days....
It is actually impossible to know a person's "real" level in a given language only looking at Duolingo flags and levels.
In fact there are several users with many "level 25 flags" that don't know a single word in any of those languages (they didn't even finish the first skill of the trees).
The only way to know (at least approximately) the "real" level here on Duolingo is looking at how the person in question writes here on the forums and/or streams (and even that is highly misleading).
I wouldn't necessarily want to be too quick to judge. Fluency can legitimately mean many different things. And sometimes it is the most basic things that are toughest. Slavic language natives, for example, have only the tiniest chance of ever reliably avoiding extraordinarily obvious errors with articles. Non Slavic natives have only the tiniest chance of ever reliably avoiding extraordinarily obvious errors with verbal aspect. And then there's what sometimes passed for English among the (certainly fluent in English) French folk I once stayed with in New York City. But then, yeah, I'd probably judge such a forum boaster anyway...
The level 25ers (i.e. not the cheating ones) without a grasp of basic concepts. Yeah, get yourselves somewhere other than the forward tree. Clearly something's not working for you. But then I remember my Spanish friend who's been living in the U.S. for four years now and we still often have trouble understanding. And usage errors in even the most basic structures still happen. And he's a super sharp guy: science PhD student, with a social network of entirely English natives, so it's not like he just lacks exposure.
The vagaries of human experience are vast. But sometimes you just can't help but wonder...
I'd definitely argue spelling and grammar can be so tough even for people with years of study in a language, especially as you sort of said, depending on how different it is from their native language. A person could be reasonably fluent in speaking and listening but then again, I strongly doubt they're would've gotten that from just using DuoLingo since those are Duos weakest spots. So yeah, take what some people say with a grain of salt but as you said, definitely different ways in which a person might be claiming or even legitimately fluent.
Yeah, I've been a college writing course instructor, with many non-native speakers of English. I've talked with them for 45 minutes in office hours, with only a handful or less of the most minor divergences from standard usage, only to have them submit nearly unreadable prose. The world is a wide and wonderful place.
Couldn't reply directly to vytah but I disagree about spelling and stand by what I said though the caveat would be, it depends on the language. Obviously I'm studying Hebrew where in quite a few cases several letters sound exactly the same. It's easy to misspell and duo will even mark it as almost correct instead of wrong when you use a letter with the same sound. Honestly my university Hebrew professor would as well. There are other issues with Hebrew since vowels aren't used and some debate on how to spell some words even for native speakers. Or look at English where you've got so many words that sound the same but are used differently or mean different things. There's also so many English words that are not spelled the way they sound. So eh, the spelling thing really depends on the language.
I certainly hope not! I wouldn't want to attempt to learn languages just to brag. On the contrary, if you ask me in person how many languages I speak I will probably say English and Esperanto. Now, my mom on the other hand? She'll list every language I even looked at a book in. lol.
Ha! Yeah, my mom is convinced I can learn any language in two weeks. She remembers how swiftly I picked up my first language, German...when I was twelve and had a young brain that wasn't totally stressed out about adult responsibilities and life and stuff.
Yup! I mean, I'm pretty nifty at the very basics - I have please, thank you, yes, no, hello, goodbye, excuse me etc down in a generous fistful of languages; I was always the designated translator on family holidays for that reason. Regardless of how poor I was at the local lingo, I'd still be way better than the rest of my family!
However, I don't have a super duper clever language brain like some people do, I don't pick up grammar or vocab that easily, and even as a kid I was good at languages but by no means a genius. There are languages I studied for years where I still make the most ridiculous errors imaginable.
And yet, there are languages I've never studied or only studied very briefly (for example Spanish: two thirds of a year one lesson a week almost twenty years ago, and Italian: almost everything I know in Italian I learned from musical scores) where my mum, bless her heart, honestly thinks it's reasonable to ask for a quick translation of some random piece of text LOL Occasionally I can take a guess, because having a reasonably wide breadth of knowledge = a huge leg up in intelligent guesswork, but seriously 8-o
But it's also kind of nice, so I'm not really complaining ❤️ ;D
Definitely. Just being interested and confident enough to have a go is a good start.
I think it's something that's probably somewhat exacerbated in anglophone countries where to even have reasonable proficiency in one foreign language is fairly exceptional. I know fistfuls of people who would be fazed simply by yes/no, please/thank you, hello/goodbye. It's bizarre to me to go to any foreign country and not at least get half a dozen words or phrases under my belt, but people do it all the time.
I am pretty good with grammar. I'm not big grammar nerd like some people but it's not hard for me. However, I feel I'm terrible at vocabulary. I don't even force myself to work on it specifically--it's just something I have to pick up from using it and exposing myself to the language regularly. I rely a lot on picking out things from context and letting myself be lost and figuring things out on my own--this just works for me better than flash cards and vocab drills. This is especially true with pronunciation. I have gotten snappy with a few Gaelic study partners over the years who insisted on correcting my every mistake and I'd have to go, "Please, I'm bad at this, I will have to bad at it for a while before I get good at it. I know I'm making mistakes. Just let me get there at my own pace."
And studies show that if you let yourself struggle a little, you learn things better.
(Also I'm a classically trained musician so I did learn a lot of Italian that way too!)
Now, my mom on the other hand? She'll list every language I even looked at a book in. lol.
Aww, moms... :-)
Also, it's very hard for someone who doesn't know the language you are learning to judge how much you've learned: If it's all gobbledigook to them, while you can at least discern the topic and the main points, it must seem like you're a genius!
You sure can impress the heck out of those people though. "Can you say something in Welsh?" "Draig dw i. Ydy hi'n wyth o'r gloch eto? Dw i eisiau mynd i'r dafern." "Oh wow! That sounds so cool!" LOL.
Lol, my mom does this to me. She'll hand me something like a video or sentence on her tablet and go "do you know what this is?" and I'll be like "um, mom, I don't know." Then she'll insist I would know something and then I'll say something either obviously dumb ("My wild guess is x language") or honest but not that useful ("It's obviously a Slavic language because x" or "It sounds like this so it must be x language"). And then she brags about my "talent" in linguistics.
Talk to a person in a language that he/she understands, and the message will go into his/her mind. Talk to a person in its own language and it will go right to his/her heart. - Nelson Mandela. [I don't know the exact quote, I read it in Spanish before and translated it].
Personally I don't really bother about people cheating to get higher levels or bragging about their knowledge. Many people that know me may thik that I am obnoxious for this amount of learning. I like movies, really like them, my father taught me to, since my childhood I saw a lot of movies in English (native Spanish speaker), even some in Italian and French. I don't know when I started to study languages just for love to the art of learning itself. It started with English,mandatory in schools, and all of those movies gave me a great advantege among my schoolmates. French was a language I saw as misterious and funny because ist simility with Spanish (also Italian and Portuguese). I had the opportunity to take a few lessons in the university and then Duolingo came in into my life, and started the whole thing. Italian and movies like La vita è bella, Cinema Paradiso, La sconosciuta gave me one reason to start with Italian. Songs like the ones from Roberto Carlos (Não se afaste de mim), or those like Lembranças de amor - Victor e Leo or the so famous Lambada push me to start Portuguese. German?? Rammstein of course, and later, a little interest in the Nietzsche works. Esperanto? I heard about it in the TV series "Malcom in the middle", then read about it in Wikipedia and its propedeutic use in language learning, started on Lernu.net and finally duolingo released Esperanto. Russian? Just for fun, and their accent. Hebrew?, well, the strange alphabets attract me, and also by the cultural inheritance. Polish, I have an uncle (husband of my aunt) from Poland, It is in the queue list for the moment, Irish and Dutch, queue list also, just to know more about different cultures.
So, of course, everybody has own reasons, I have facility and Duolingo is a great site, with many users that native or not, can give you a lot of resources in other pages for a better learning experience. (Doulingo itself, Lingolia, About.com, Duden, Lernu, Fisica.Ru, Forvo, and the Wiktionay itself, which I did not even know before starting on duolingo).
- -Try to connect with people - learning their language is a great start.
I don't know anyone who brags about the languages they've learnt. Competition is healthy as long as it's kept under control, anything done to the extreme can be unhelpful and unhealthy. I wouldn't worry about what other people are doing but rather concentrate on your progress and why you choose to learn languages. This is your life to better and you only get one. :)
Language learing, as you've probably realized, is a TON of work! And even more work to be "fluent" (especially if you don't live somewhere where that language is commonly spoken). Although I see what you're saying, and definitely think people brag about the languages they learn (which is an admirable brag!), I don't think most people learn the language just so that they can brag about it since it requires so much work. I think most people ether have an interest in that culture, require it for a job, have a family history of it, or were taught it as a very young child from family members. That's what I think anyways.
A lot of people I see bragging are also trying to make a career out of teaching languages/being an expert on languages, so they feel they have to be convincing about their knowledge.
I list the languages I speak a lot but it's only because people ask me a lot. I try not to bring up the fact I speak other languages unless I'm asked about it (or unless there's an opportunity to practice one!), and then I specify that I only speak them at "get by at a dinner party" level, which like others have said, seems more impressive to them than it actually is because they haven't learned another language before.
I don't like bragging, but on the other hand, I've worked hard to get to my level of French and I don't mind people being impressed by my level. It helps offset all the frustrations I have about how far I have yet to go.
I also can't stomach a language if I'm not at least moderately interested in either the language or the culture. I could probably learn Italian much more easily and quickly than Irish, and thus make my list bigger and more impressive, but as I don't have an interest, I can't make myself do it. The people learning languages to show off must be extremely motivated by bragging rights; for me that's not enough motivation to make myself spend that many hours on a project.
I can really empathise with the whole "if I was doing this for the bragging rights, I'd do things differently" idea: I've read so many great things about the Norwegian tree here, that I sometimes feel really tempted to do it.
But as a Swedish speaker who has had some exposure to Norwegian and therefore speaks a decent Scandinavian mishmash and can read Norwegian (and, I'll brag about this: was once asked by a Norwegian in Norway which part of Norway I was from), it just doesn't feel like a sensible use of my language learning time, since I would still have to spend some non-negligible time figuring out the intricacies of the spelling, etc.
I'd rather spend that time banging my head against the wall that is Russian (without getting very much further in that limited time), instead of picking a low-hanging fruit like Norwegian.
"Knowledge without purpose makes man a more clever devil." I think that quote in one of my most favorites for many reasons. If you want to learn just because it's open to you, it does seem appealing to brag about it because "hey, look, I can learn this thing. What about you?" People brag to try to make others feel guilty, and of course this type of vanity seems to make them more of a devil. So I don't agree about learning a language just because you can, I think there has to be a reason that will help you become a better person. It's sad to see that people do this kind of bragging, however there are many other people learning something for a reasonable purpose. No matter if it's personal heritage or desire to connect with a larger world. Really what it boils down to is trying to look cool verses actually trying to do something you enjoy or want to use. I always walked towards the latter. And only brag if I can show off my talent really well. If you want to brag, proof makes it amazing. Just make it good proof. Plain statements are laughable without a back-up to support it.
Fun is perfectly a valid purpose, I agree. I'm talking mostly those who don't even care if it's fun, they just want to get noticed just because they can do something, so they do it just to get attention and find fun basking in the spotlight and not in the actual learning part of it. I have met quite a few people like that both on the internet and real life, on Duolingo and elsewhere. I honestly doubt half of those people even know what they consider "fun", which is the saddest part of all. Of course, many of them quit before they actually get anywhere close to the goal and move on to something else, for better or worse.
When it comes to those folks, I figure they're not doing me any harm, they may pick up something useful, and there's the possibility (however small) that they may get the bug and discover language learning is valid and interesting in its own right. Of all the things they could be boasting about, at least Duolingo is fairly harmless and potentially beneficial! :)
I suppose I may have had a concern related to this earlier in my time here: I wanted to have as few flags as possible showing up. Maybe it was mostly out of desire be cagey about what languages I really knew. Maybe a strong desire not to have to have a flag for my native language showing up. Or just a strong aversion to "clutter". Don't really know. Eventually it became more and more impractical and I kind of got over it, I guess.
But I still try to keep a little, maybe. I'm trying to keep myself focused on the languages that really need help and not spend time perfecting ones that, while they could certainly use help, too, don't provide anywhere near the same potential for growth. So not even beginning course / having relevant flags in those cases maybe serves an additional useful purpose for me—besides not "showing off".
It's interesting how religion and politics used to be very important just a few decades ago (talking about the West here), but people nowadays are rarely very passionate about this.
But the sudden spike in interest in race-relations, gender equality, or diet is very interesting. I think that we are witnessing a shift in what we value as something to identify with. Social status is still very much a matter of what the prestige level of your job is, but there is also still-present (and perhaps increasing) yearning for something that is unique, something that we do just for the sake of doing it. Hence the weird niche interests that typifies the 'hipster' movement, with its obsession with everything that is authentic, not main-stream, and non-corporate.
The recent information-explosion that is the Internet allows us to find new ways of expressing our individuality. Learning as many languages as we can is just another means. And for a good deal of people, saying that they are learning a language is just as good as actually learning it.
You are making some really good points! At least where I live, being in shape (even more than merely "doing sports") has become like a new religion, with people spending an ever-increasing amount of time, money, and attention on going to the gym and defining themselves through that.
I sometimes think about the shape I'd be in if I spent as much time in the gym as I currently spend on learning languages, but (at least for now) I like languages too much to find out! X-)
Language learning seems to have gone through a bit of a fad phase. That tends to attract more people who want to appear fashionable so they will pick up a couple of phrases, interject them randomly in places, and think that makes them impressive.
Personally, I like learning languages and about them. I like discussing them with relatively few people who I know really are interested in languages. I could care less about telling people who are not interested in languages about it.
I see that some people have accomplished a lot here and are genuinely proud of what they have done. I'm happy for the people really are learning and are proud of their accomplishments. The ones who are just bragging about having a flag next to their name (or a level, tier or XP amount) are just sad.
So I am obviously one of these people with two rows of flags mentioned earlier in the post but I would never claim to know most of them well and am very up front with anyone who asks that I am a dabbler. I have a few languages that I am more deeply into but really I just like words and I like to see what different languages are like. Duolingo is great for that!
I always wondered how or why people did so many languages at once. Seema like you'd get them all jumbled up (took Spanish in a summer semester after a year of Hebrew and before the exams I'd get all freaked out because I'd start confusing languages and Spanish and Hebrew are obviously quite different!)
So I appreciate your explanation of how you do it and your motivation. Kind of cool that you dabble and compare and contrast and all.
I saw your post, and came here to write pretty much exactly what I then read written by piguy3: What is shown in someone's flags is really only a very narrow and skewed view of what their particular "language reality" is like.
Obviously you won't have learned a lot of a language here if the level shown by your flag is something like a 5. It doesn't mean you haven't learned more of that language elsewhere (in the case of my Catalan, I haven't -- I only dabbled for a few days to see what it was like, and am not sure I will get back to it but also can't be bothered to delete that progress).
On the other hand, you can get through a course, depending on which one it is and how "mature" (well-developed) it is, in about 10 or 11 levels: I did the Swedish course the very night it came out, in a couple of hours, since I'm a native speaker and it was a pretty good course to start with (only relatively few correct alternative translations were missing).
I know languages that aren't reflected in my profile (for example because they're not available on Duolingo), whereas I'm definitely still a beginner in Russian, although it's one of my higher flags. And as you can imagine, most of us writing in English here every day, but showing American flags, have been doing a reverse course, for example English for French speakers to practice French, rather than doing it to practice our English... :-)
In general, the more languages you learn (especially if you learn them well), the easier language n+1 becomes to learn, even if it wouldn't be related to the ones you know already. You can always draw some parallels and use mnemonics because something sounds like something funny in another language. And the people who end up not just learning one language on Duolingo but hanging around for years and doing one course after another tend to be people who know and use various languages outside of Duolingo as well.
It can be useful to remember (definitely something only becoming clearer to me after months here) that all those flags might be correlated with a lifetime's worth of effort, to say nothing of spaced out effort of perhaps years active on Duolingo, more than what they happening to be working on at any given moment here. You'll probably find a good deal more functional tri/quadra/pentalinguals hanging out actively in the Duolingo forums than you would in a more general locale, certainly if you live in an Anglophone country. And if one happens to have shown up here speaking three languages, Duo can probably turn you into someone who at least reads 5 or 6 a lot easier than was possible before! (oh, and Duo has a way of inducing this cross-linguistic curiosity, exploration that might well have even been more difficult, for lack of a standardized, familiar platform)
What worked well for me learning Spanish was to do the Spanish for French speakers course. That way, I was always comparing and contrasting the two, and could use the similarities to my benefit without getting (too) confused. Had I tried to study both from English it would have been a lot harder to keep them apart.
And yes, two completely different languages mostly compete for your time and attention, rather than interfering with each other as such.
But it's probably always a good idea to get a bit beyond the basics (say, about A2 or even B1) before starting another language.
I would really love to see Slavic language courses from other Slavic languages for this very reason. I know doing the Ukrainian tree, it felt rather weird to be translating to English - it would have been oddly more natural and definitely more beneficial for me, as a (non-native) Russian speaker, to be able to study Ukrainian through Russian so I could directly see both the similarities and differences.
I have, somewhat unexpectedly, found learning Catalan through Spanish intermittently infuriating. It is literally easy to forget which language I'm even reading, to say nothing of supposed to be writing in. This caused me to avoid the Portuguese/Spanish trees and go with French/Portuguese instead since I want my Portuguese to not be just Portuñol, which is what it long has been, and it's hard to find a way for it not to be [there are literally so many similarities it's hard to remember/learn the differences since just Portuguezing Spanish words works ever so often]. I suppose when the time for Ukrainian comes, I will have my fears about falling into суржик as well, which seems not unlikely.
Maybe I should track down some Spanish/Portuguese immersion stuff and see how that feels compared to the English/Portuguese, which I've appreciated for helping Portuguese develop its own discrete part of my brain.
I don't know too much about Catalan. I believe it's closer to Portuguese pronunciation though and not that phonetic like Spanish. It'd be transformaysho (phonetic spelling) instead of transformayshun (phonetic spelling as well).
I would also say that learning one language through another is a bad idea. You have to remember, they're different languages for a reason. Unless they are mutually intelligible, I wouldn't do it. It's up to you though. I wish you luck in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Catalan, and whatever else you tackle.
@81 Cheney: On the contrary - learning one language via another can be very useful. It gives you a chance to practise two languages at once, it exposes you to vocabulary and grammar that may not be in the "from English" course, and if anything it tends to help differentiate languages from one another,
@piguy3 I had the same concern when I started the Ukrainian tree, since my Russian is/was very out of practice when the tree came out - I started it very tentatively, with a weather eye on stopping the course if I felt for one moment that it would mess with my Russian. (I started the Ukrainian course the day it came out, so long before the Russian course was available.)
To my surprise and delight, I actually found that I started to remember bits of Russian I thought I'd forgotten! Unfortunately it had the side effect of my occasionally typing my responses in Russian instead of English ;-p which was a little confusing (both for me and for Duolingo...), but on the whole it didn't bother me at all.
I will say that I never really had the intention or aim of fluency in Ukrainian, but rather wanted to get an overview, improve my comprehension (I've always found that I understand some Ukrainian just from Russian and other Slavic languages), and see how the languages differ. If they ever extend the tree I will certainly do the additional skills, and getting my Ukrainian tree solidly gold is one of my current aims, but I don't know if my experience would've been different if my intention was to reach fluency. FWIW, though, I didn't find that it was eroding my Russian.
(Ukrainian was a really fun tree for me. Did it in three days, which I don't necessarily recommend for long term retention, but after struggling badly with Turkish, it was reassuring that I hadn't entirely lost my ability to absorb a language!
There's a fair bit of different vocab, and some other things work differently, but there's a lot that'll be familiar.
For example, the Ukrainian equivalent of иметь (мати) is used interchangeably with the Ukrainian equivalent of у меня есть (у мене є), and doesn't imply a different register, but the actual pattern is very familiar. До свидания = до побачення - different verb, бачити, but the construction is familiar. That's a common theme with Slavic languages, in my experience. There are things they don't have in common, like using the instrumental for speaking a language, but IMO anyway it was overwhelmingly filled with stuff that I could understand and pick up. Even if the vocabulary is unfamiliar, the way the words fit together is very comfortable.
So FWIW, I found the UK tree a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I wouldn't claim to be able to speak it in any way fluently, and I know they glossed over a few areas (it's one of the shortest trees on the site), but it was a good overview, and very accessible for a speaker of a Slavic language.
I think shady_arc actually did rather a good "Ukrainain for Russian speakers" cheat-sheet, which I'm sure must still be around somewhere, which compared the two languages in a very helpful manner. Worth checking out. I can't tell you offhand what it was called, but maybe someone on the forum will have a link.)
@flootzavut Thank you for these wonderfully useful comments. I think what I meant by "falling into суржик" was unwittingly producing mixed up Russo-Ukrainian without really realizing it. Hadn't even really considered back-interference, but it's a worry I'd have had, I suppose, had I'd ever thought about it more. Thanks for preempting it. I know my Russian isn't at the level of yours, but I'm comforted, actually, to learn of the vocab differences. By this point, I'm almost willing to state that I've found learning "good Portuguese" more difficult than "good Spanish". B/c even thought Spanish is a good deal further from French, the language I knew first, than Portuguese is from Spanish—basically all the grammar and constructions work, but you do have to learn the words separately—in Portuguese I don't know what I don't actually know. In Spanish if I didn't know a word, I knew I didn't know it. Sounds like Ukrainian, for which I suppose I share your goals of some general understanding and exploration of the East Slavic family, over some kind of fluency, might be more like learning Spanish (with the advantage of French in the background in my brain). But given my perhaps more humble goals, maybe I'll be wishing it were more like Portuguese! And I suppose there is an important communicative difference: speaking Russian to a Ukrainian is probably speaking to them in a language they speak. Speaking Spanish to a Brazilian, they may well understand by happenstance, but they also may well be befuddled. And you can't predict which!
You raise an interesting point but really you should have known that such a question was always going to raise the hackles of folks with lots of flags after their names! It’s impossible to second guess the motives of Duolingo users but I have no doubt at all that most are here because of genuine love of language and learning. I have also no doubt that there are some (only!) who have reached level 25 in multiple languages who would struggle to hold an extended, if simple, conversation in any of them and for whom it’s the “game score” that is their criterion for achievement. And there is nothing wrong with that! For my own part I confess to being envious of those who have so much free time for their devotion to language learning!