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

An Open Letter to "Oppressed" Language Students

I have been away from the forums for many months. When I left, there were common topics, and now that I have returned there are new ones. The main type of post that catches my eye today is the one that shows a Duolingo user expressing frustration that they are being ridiculed for learning a new language. Many of these users I have been reading have also written that they feel like quitting it all, or hiding it. So, I have decided to write something for all of you who are reading and have experienced this or are currently experiencing this.

By learning a new language, you (yes, the student) are showing an interest in a culture besides your own, people besides your own, and a whole world of information besides your own. It isn't about verbs, it's about communication; it's about new friends, new places, and a bigger world than the one you're limited to as a monolingual (until someone learns your own language). You are discovering new films and music, learning someone else's history, and learning other ways of life and how they are different. Maybe you are learning to appreciate the nuances of a foreigner you meet now or already knew in a totally different way. This means a lot, by itself. The outside environment is becoming less scary, vacations are becoming less isolated... If someone is making fun of you for learning anything you wish to learn, including languages, they are being short-sighted in more ways than one. This, however, is not your concern. As you are expanding your knowledge, others might be jealous of your commitment or excitement about something. To me, this is also an opportunity to share something that has made your world bigger with them. Some people don't know what they are missing! In my country, overachievers (kids who study wars outside of school, kids who study languages, kids who do more than the average, etc.) are often joked about or disliked in school. Thankfully, I have been out of this toxic environment for a long time, but I also experienced it first-hand. I remember actually believing that they had a reason to make fun of "nerds" (including me) at some point...your life, career, and dreams are so much more important than what someone else thinks right now. The knowledge is and will be yours! The benefits are yours! Take them, enjoy them. Become a better listener, a better communicator, and be proud of whatever you choose to accomplish. You can do it!

May 11, 2019

70 Comments


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

The main type of post that catches my eye today is the one that shows a Duolingo user expressing frustration that they are being ridiculed for learning a new language. Many of these users I have been reading have also written that they feel like quitting it all, or hiding it.

It is no surprise that these topics have multiplied. The first person who wrote a post like this got several hundred lingots in support. This has caused a number of other users trying to “cash in” on the same story, sometimes more or less verbatim copied and just slightly adjusted. So there is nothing to worry about. DL users are not all of sudden being bullied by their classmates or quitting DL in droves.

If people would only provide verbal support for this kind of stories (and the being bullied or ridiculed story is just the latest of a recent series of variations) instead of lingots, we would not be swamped by wave after wave of these lingot scamming schemes.

The worst is that well-meaning people again and again spend their valuable time “helping” someone who just wants lingots, not their advice, and that the more frequently this happens, the more likely it becomes that somebody who really could use some support won’t get it.

Therefore, please, everyone: Do provide verbal support whenever you think it is needed, but refrain from giving that person lingots. And hopefully, the incentive to post/copy this kind of topics will disappear.

May 12, 2019

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

What exactly are a whole pile of lingots good for anyway?

May 12, 2019

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

People that have been using DL for a while all know that. Lingot beggars are usually beginners that don’t know that yet and/or cannot wait to buy the more advanced bonus skills, even if they just started a week or so ago.

And for some, I’m afraid, it’s just the challenge to get as many lingots as possible from other users, no matter how.

May 12, 2019

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

People that have been using DL for a while all know that.

Right. I see it as kind of a system flaw with lingots in general. I would say that after doing a certain number of skills, people could unlock instead of buy. Then we could avoid the issue altogether and I and so many other users wouldn't be stuck with thousands of unused "gems"...just my take.

May 12, 2019

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

I don't see it as a flaw in the system. I think the beginners need more motivators than people with lengthy streaks. If earning/saving lingots are a motivator for some, it might help them stick around long enough to develop a habit that doesn't need the lingots to sustain.

May 12, 2019

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

you, my friend, deserve a lingot for that.

May 13, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Stardust103158

I agree. If you could buy a flag for your newly received owl, or buy additional skills with them, then they would be useful. I'm just happy if I like a post well enough that I can give the silly things away. I don't even pay attention to them anymore. I loved being able to buy the flirting and idioms skills, but other than that they have been pointless for me.

May 13, 2019

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

Some languages don't even have the optional extras to buy! Dutch still doesn't, and German still only has two.

May 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/redda18

If I test out of a skill level on the App I'm charged 5 lingots. Is this an A/B test? Or does everyone have it? I actually resent it, especially when I'm marked wrong for correct answers because my tree was totally golden until it was updated, and now I feel compelled to make it gold again.

May 14, 2019

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

It's only on iOS and it won't happen if you use Duolingo with mobile web browser instead.

May 16, 2019

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

I think that there may be teachers that expect the kids to earn a certain number of lingots perhaps, or so I heard long ago.

May 14, 2019

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

Thanks for that insight. That could explain begging, because of bad planning, not knowing how things work, or some combination.

May 14, 2019

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

Jileha, thank you for your insight. My friend Nuno has noted this. I do think, also, that people are mistaking ridicule of Duolingo itself and the game of it all for ridicule of them personally for their "nerd factor." When a type of post becomes popular, of course people follow suit. It is natural. :) I do think, however, that it is an actual issue I have experienced and seen that the "dorks" do indeed get needlessly grenades at times for being more than average. So, I wrote this to maybe encourage the people who are in a place I was also in, 3 or 4 years ago. Learning should never be discouraged in any form, knowledge is power, and the pen is mightier than the sword.

Cheers to you, and thank you very much for this comment!

May 12, 2019

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

Ah yes thanks, I understand that some people are particularly sensitive, but I mean I told several people of my class that i'm learning german through Duolingo and I didn't get bullied, at worst they just seemed to don't care ... should I write a post about it to make it rain ?

May 13, 2019

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

We don't know someone's motives. We don't know if someone is really being bullied. Given that, I would much rather make sure I support anyone who says they are being bullied, than withhold a vote or a lingot because they might not be telling the truth. (In my experience, bullying is usually underreported, not overreported.) As for giving votes and withholding lingots, I don't care, I have so many anyway.

May 13, 2019

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

What support does one or more lingots offer that cannot be much better expressed in words? If somebody has a problem or a question of any kind, they need verbal feedback, not lingots.

And nobody is against providing verbal support for people who might need it. On the contrary!

May 13, 2019

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

Good point.

May 12, 2019

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

Just a thought: Perhaps the post touched an answering chord in other users. When people begin something, they are often excited enough to tell everyone hence they might encounter more discouragement, then when they are further into something, and people either start respecting their language skills or are used to the nerdity. Or people get used to the bullying.

May 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Camilla-danesa

welcome back, and what a beautiful statement!

May 11, 2019

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

Camilla, I have missed you and your great attitude. Thank you :)

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Camilla-danesa

wow, thank you

May 12, 2019

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

That's such a lovely, encouraging post. We live in a strange world indeed where the desire to learn is mocked. Life evolves in part because we are a creature which is curious. All young animals have to have curiosity about their environment or they will perish. It is so sad when humans lose their curiosity and, worse, try to stifle the curiosity of others who still want to explore the world. And, of course, many problems in human history are the result of us closing down a desire to understand and communicate with people who are 'not like us' Learning a language means learning to think a little differently, to listen a little differently, to connect to 'the other' a little more

May 12, 2019

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

Fifimittens, this is a beautiful comment. As my friend Paul says, "nerds rule the world." At this point in life, I am more interested in watching my documentaries and learning ethical hacking than going to a club. I just had to find some people who were also like me, and we keep each other company and find many good topics to discuss. Everyone needs a tribe. :)

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Cymas86

Honestly if often boils down to "crabs in a bucket" syndrome. When people see others around them trying to better themselves, it makes them feel inferior and brings up whatever personal insecurities they may have. So in order to make themselves feel better they drag others down with them using the force of their negativity any way they can.

Luckily just like real crabs, they pinch but the pain is fleeting and soon forgotten.

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Camilla-danesa

I've never understood the expression, "crabs in a bucket" – but now I get it! thanks!

May 12, 2019

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

Me neither! Thank you, Cymas. I am grateful for your comment. So, I think here is not the time to "shoot back" but to maybe invite these people to learn with us...:)

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Christian762105

Similarly, it's equally painful when people are made fun of for languages they already know and speak. I have a friend who speaks Telugu fluently but she is often embarrassed about it and rarely speaks it even when we (especially me, the language nut of the group) want to hear it. It's because people have joked about it before. It astounds me--how on earth is speaking a language a ground for making fun of people? I've told her often that they have no right to make fun of her language, and no ground considering that really, it's an advantage she has over them and they're probably jealous. I believe she's more comfortable speaking it around her friends now, but among strangers she still feels uncomfortable. It pains and angers me that something as simple as the language one speaks can be ridiculed by some in society for being different.

May 12, 2019

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

Christian, I could not agree more. I never understood when foreigners were made fun of for speaking their native language or having an accent in another. Anyone making the effort to speak another language should be applauded. For most of us, it isn't easy and it shows a level of awareness that not everyone has. I love my foreign friends more than I can say and respect them for every effort they make in English. :)

May 12, 2019

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

Not everyone can speak two languages. Even with some mistakes, it is still amazing to me when people know more than one.

May 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/buck72

Well said and it's nice to see you active on the Forums again. :)

May 11, 2019

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

You too!

May 12, 2019

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

A much needed post for many members in our community! Lingot 4 u.

May 11, 2019

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

Thank you!

May 12, 2019

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

In some cases it is about verbs or about syntax or about semantics, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just as valid to be interested in linguistics as it is to be interested in literature or culture. I personally fall in the second camp as well, but occasionally I take pleasure in a random etymology click or an idiom or the way a certain pattern works.

I agree with everything else you've said, though.

May 12, 2019

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

Irivian, right! Well, I guess what I meant was that we don't learn languages for the toil but for the rewards we get for it and the accomplishment after pushing through it. Those who think our time is wasted on the "boring" things aren't seeing the results later for which we do these things. And of course there is always room for linguists :) thank you so much for your comment!

May 12, 2019

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

Very nice. But I have found, most non english speakers near me dislike when I speak to them in their native language. Being oppressed is more than just being ridiculed, its being openly cut.

May 12, 2019

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

I actually found the opposite. Russian speakers tend to open up a can of fluent Russian and fall over each other(1) to educate me ....leaving me stunned, overwhelmed and not understanding a thing. But also with a very warm feeling of support.

I don't know, but maybe you're not correctly approaching the people ? It's just a hunch, though. Try to find out how to be subtle in the culture(s) you're trying to learn a language from. ...unless it's Dutch, I suppose. Then better to be blunt! hahahha

(1) The Russian cultural variety of this. Though I do keep finding people from all over suddenly pop up in interest when they find out I'm learning their native tongue/ L2.

May 12, 2019

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

WinterSoldier, where did you experience this? I have never had a native speaker ridicule me. And, I am not that great at speaking in Russian (which is what I try most of the time). They are always super friendly, patient, and willing to help. Cruddy people exist, indeed, but you need to find a safe space.

May 12, 2019

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

@Lauriana, dollar general, dollar tree, walmart, a spanish church, mainly with spanish speaker. I think they thought I was a Border Patrol agent ;) so they didn't want to talk to me, at least some of them, but that didn't make any sense since most of them were from Puerto Rico.

May 12, 2019

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

A French man working at the Paris airport actually wouldn’t let me pass without using my almost forgotten French. He simply acted as if he wouldn’t understand English, but clearly understood my question because he gave me tiny hints. But a simple question-answer exchange turned into a 5 minute “interrogation” while I was slightly panicking at the thought of missing my connecting flight in the most chaotic internation airport I’ve ever experienced.

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisadude11361

I love this! I personally have never been insulted or made fun of because I am learning a language. In fact, many of my friends are also learning languages, and it's a great way to bond. We're not learning the same languages, but it's fun to tell each other weird words or phrases we found in our language. I don't understand why anyone would make fun of that!

May 12, 2019

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

lisadude11361, you are lucky to have found some good like-minded friends! Stick with it...you're all in the same boat. :)

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/swduolingo2

Welcome back! That was a great post!

May 11, 2019

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

Thank you for the welcome, Sophia :)

May 12, 2019

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

When I think back about my school years, I absolutely do not recall anyone being called a "nerd" for learning English. It had some kind of free pass no other skill (calculus, history, geography...) had. Reading the LOTR or Harry Potter books in original English version was seen as absolutely cool, and if you wanted to redicule someone you called them some ugly name in English, so they wouldn't ever understand. English was swag back then in little Polish school.

May 13, 2019

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

Oh I love this attitude...when people are encouraged, they excel. That is just sweet! Dziękuję <3

May 13, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheNecromancer10

I remember actually believing that they had a reason to make fun of "nerds" (including me) at some point

Interesting. What was that reason?

May 12, 2019

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

TheNecromancer10, I believed it because of youth, personal insecurity, and because of the general (to be honest, flipped and backward) social culture that exists in school. It didn't take long to realize that the kids with the good grades weren't sick or dorky, rather more mature and dedicated. I am proud to be one of those "nerds." :)

May 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwbrand1

LaurianaB, A very insightful post. Thanks for sharing this.

May 12, 2019

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

Thank you for reading, mwbrand1!

May 12, 2019

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

Excellent point! Some Duo users are even opressed by their own language teachers, which is quite odd.

May 13, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/baekayeon22

I learn Japanese at school, and my teacher has refused to explain some things to me because they're above the level of the other students.

May 16, 2019

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

Where you 'been? Haven't seen you for ages, but don't hang out much on the forums anymore. ({})

May 14, 2019

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

Hello, Corinne!! I missed you. Well, life has (frankly) sucked...it's alright though, I smashed a couple of uni exams, got a few new practice partners, and I'm finding new things to learn to take my mind off the worse things. You?

May 14, 2019

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

Life's rough and tough at present. Started translating the Bible, gotten further down my tree and started trying to write to someone in Hebrew though!

May 14, 2019

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

Wonderful! It seems we are in the same boat. Corinne, if you are able to chat outside of Duolingo just hit me up :)

May 14, 2019

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

Thanks! :)

May 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tony979198

What a wonderful post! Thank you for taking the time to write this. What you say is so true!

May 14, 2019

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

Thank you for reading, Tony. :)

May 14, 2019

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

I have personally never seen bullying for learning a language with the exception of Japanese learners who can easily get branded as "weeaboos". Haven't experienced this on Duolingo however. Everyone here is trying to learn a language for one reason or another.

May 14, 2019

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

(Nearly) my entire school is bilingual, and all of my friends are. Yet they keep on insulting me for trying to learn a new heritage. This really helped me. Thanks. Now take your lingot.

May 15, 2019

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

I would also like to point out that sometimes people have "experiences" with people who speak different languages that are less than savory. Take my uncles experience with a spanish speaker "Yes, I speak spanish, no I don't pay taxes, yes my son has some rare illness, yes it is contagious, no I claimed asylum, yes I am on food stamps, no I don't pay taxes, yes all of the money I make I send to my friends down south, no America doesn't mean a lot, I am just here because my own country isn't that good" He was SHOCKED when I said I was learning spanish, now compare that with my experience with spanish speakers "Yes I am from Puerto Rico! Yes I have a job! Oh yeah I came here 5 years ago! I really enjoy my job! Of course I pay taxes, no I have never been on food stamps, I work really hard, I like America a lot, I am active in the housing business." Compare the two, you can see why my image of Spanish differs from my uncles. Often times first impressions can be harmful. See, my experience was good, while my uncles was bad, so his opinion differs.

May 12, 2019

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

Become a better listener, a better communicator, and be proud of whatever you choose to accomplish.

I promise. I ... promise ...

May 13, 2019

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

ArpsTnd, you are one of my learning "idols"...I have no doubt you can do whatever it is to which you commit yourself :)

May 13, 2019

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

Oh btw, @Lauriana, are you going to start on your quest for a 1,000 day streak again?

May 13, 2019

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

@WinterSoldier, I confess to not being a huge fan of Duolingo itself compared to other methods I tried (for me at least) and will likely never pursue a streak again...I was too attached to it and not learning new material. Right now I'm more a fan of voice chatting with natives :)

May 13, 2019

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

@Lauriana, ahh I see, I use duolingo to mainly learn new vocab

May 13, 2019
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