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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Seanchai35

The many faces of online language learning

Duolingo is like a proud parent: "Almost correct! What the heck, it counts. Way to go, you know all the words! How did you get so smart?!"

Memrise is that teacher who was very patient with you but clearly thought you were performing below your potential: "Well, I see what you were trying to type, but that's definitely not the right word. Try again. No, not that either. That's not right. Okay, that's the right word, but you still didn't spell it correctly. Now the accent is in the wrong place. Seriously, we're going to sit here until you can spell this. Yes, the accents count - without the accents, it's not the right word."

Lang-8 is that book you thought you could read after half a year of your target language at school. The one you cracked open with relish and then did a double-take and sighed, "Wait, how long is this book? This is going to take forever..."

Online radio/tv streaming in your target language is that time when you spent a week perfecting all of your conversational phrases and vocabulary in preparation for speaking to native speakers, and you were feeling pretty proud of yourself and ready to dip your toe in.... and then as soon as you got to your destination, your parent/uncle/friend/acquaintance blew your cover and said "Oh, so-and-so speaks your language! Go ahead, talk to them!" and the native speaker that got roped into this asked you something that you should have known, but that suddenly sounded like it must be written in Wingdings.

I'm having one of those "one step forward, six steps back" moments, so this is my attempt at finding the humour in it till it passes. Feel free to comment with any other real-life parallels that come to mind.

November 29, 2016

19 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/widle

Books or news in simplified language are your friends who think it's so cool how much you can do. Their praise is flattering, but sometimes exasperating too, because they don't understand there's still so much work ahead of you.

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Seanchai35

So true! Much like Duolingo, in a way. :)

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DuoFaber

Movies and tv shows are kind of like that doctor that tells you, "Oh, nice to see you! How are you feeling today? ...I'm sorry, what's that? You don't understand a word I'm saying? Oh wow, the situation is a lot worse than I thought, you should have come see me a lot sooner. You've spent too much time on Memrise, haven't you?"

Anyway, since you're having one of those moments, let's stay positive and talk about fluency. It doesn't happen overnight, but eventually there's this beautiful eureka moment, in which you say: "Wow, I'm fluent! This is great! The language is no longer a mystery to me, I can understand everything! This is so exciting!", so then you decide to start reading a novel in your beautiful new language, full of confidence. It's the perfect day, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you can't wait to enjoy the result of all your hard work... so you open the book, and you read the first sentence: "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed". Wait, "plump"? "stairhead"? "lather"? What is the meaning of this...? Oh, F#@!%.

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Seanchai35

LOL! Well said. Whenever I get particularly frustrated with Irish, I remind myself that as a native English speaker who has studied English fairly extensively, it still took me about twelve tries to make it through Ulysses. Understanding it was a whole other matter!

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LuchairF

You express your frustration really well! This post made my day... I have just finished my Memrise session for the day and had to rewrite feidhmchlar umpteen times, having clearly developed some sort of a mental block when it comes to this word. BUT, the important thing is we are still here, we are still showing up despite the six steps back moments, and that is something.

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Seanchai35

This post was indeed inspired by a punishing Irish Memrise session, lol. We'll get there!

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

I have nothing to add, but would just like to mention that this post and its replies have made my day! :-)

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Deb1134

So you ratchet things down a bit and decide to listen to a song with subtitles. As you listen and read you say to yourself, how does that sound like that? Where are all the syllables? How will I ever understand native speakers if they all talk like they mixed their words in a milk shake and dumped it out for me to drink in all at once.

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

Rosetta Stone The painfully overpriced restaurant with mediocre, repititive offerings where you brought the only booster seat that your kid will ever sit quietly in, but they prohibit you from using it, making the meal impossible (I'm looking at you, weird Rosetta Stone Russian phonetic keyboard!) and the waiters are on you with a scowl as soon as the smallest particle of food drops on the floor (ergh, infuriating lack of adequate typo-robustness, brought on by said keyboard!)

lingvist That weird friend who makes both a lot of threats (charge someday?) and promises (more languages other than by volunteering as beta tester and then waiting), but takes forever to come through on either, or maybe never does.

November 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

RS: SO ACCURATE.

November 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

And I thought you kind of, sort of liked Rosetta Stone!

December 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Nope, not at all. I gave it another chance recently, but got grammatically dodgy Hebrew, and was bored out of my mind very quickly. I did pick up some new vocab, but the effort (and time!) to result ratio is horrible. If I had money to burn and/or someone gave it to me for free, I'd use the app for practice offline when I couldn't get to DL and similar, but that's it.

(I assume it expects you to write at some point in Hebrew, but I went through large chunks of it without ever having to write except the odd fill in the letter exercise. I don't know if it just takes a longer while with Hebrew because of the more opaque writing system?)

I got it on a cheap deal and thought I'd give it the 30 days to impress me. If the actual real-person lessons had worked, then I might have thought it slightly better value, but apparently you need a much better internet connection than I have otherwise they won't even let you take one!

Suffice to say, at well over 50% off, I still returned it for a refund.

December 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

Yeah, I forgot to include in my little "write up" just how slow-paced and draggy it is! I had a very brief notion of seeing if I could polish off the entirety of Russian, thinking I'd get whatever vocab I could from it. But it became obvoius almost immediately that the results to time spent proposition was just not there at all.

December 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

I think I probably could've worked through most of the program in that 30 days if I hadn't got so bored. I started just skipping to the core lessons and not bothering with the in between lessons, because they were so. so. dull. and even then I was rapidly bored.

Basically, the service in this restaurant is painfully slow.

Together with the expense and the dodgy language use, alongside the aspects which were possibly more useful not being available to me... it was a no-brainer to send it back.

December 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Seanchai35

Agreed on all counts. A friend got me Irish Rosetta Stone during one of their particularly steep "discounts" (because everyone's a little Irish on St. Patrick's Day, scuse me while I vomit, corporate America), and the first thing I noticed was how absolutely glacial the pace was... it's ridiculous. Add that to the many moments of "bwha?.... I'm 90% sure that's not remotely correct, but okay..." and I didn't last long, either.

December 1, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnnaGuaGua

Ive been studying Italian in school and on duolingo in combination of 5 years. I like to call myself "fairly decent." I went on a cruise this summer and the captain of the ship was Italian, and my mom said "oooh talk to him in Italian." I couldn't think of anything to say other than basic introductions and we kind of started at each other awkwardly for a minute.... I just get nervous because I think I might make a mistake and insult someone lol

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

Mondly (in my experience) is someone who speaks a slightly archaic/weird version of the language, and insists that there's one way and one way only to say any given phrase. And also insists on giving male and female versions of any given phrase at the same time...

(And your characterisation of Memrise is so painfully accurate...)

November 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rappelke

If it's Lesson 39, sentence 1 and you know it must be "Where's the nearest gas station" in whatever language you're in a the moment, it's Book2. If it's an infinity of words, phrases, lessons, podcasts and you have no idea how you got where you are and where you are (should be) heading, it's x-pod101. If the price seems to awfully high for watching video ads, it's FluentU. If the moderator is more interested in his learning than yours, it's (fill in the blank, depending on what blogs you're reading).

November 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dani4Amy

Very good post, soooo true!! Thanks :D

November 29, 2016
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