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I am addicted .....

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 27 Apr 2022, 19:34

.... to duolingo.

I started practising Russian and Chinese last year on duolingo last year.  These are both languages I have studied before (in the 1980s) and I lived in China from 1986 to 1988 and Russia from 1989.  Duoloingo provides a good chance to practise for free and I think I do benefit to some extent although the practise is very decontextualised.

For any readers unfamiliar with Duolingo (https://www.duolingo.com/), the basic version is free.  A large number of languages are available but there are several gaps (eg Bulgarian).  There are a large (but finite) number of short "lessons" in each language taught - they are more like tests than lessons, though, in most cases.  The user starts with five "hearts" that are needed to access the lessons.  Each time they make a mistake, they lose a heart and when all are lost, they either have to do a practice lesson or wait for a period of up to four hours.  There are also "gems" that are needed to access some content and they are added as rewards for some achievements.

Users are put into groups who are encouraged to compete.  Users get messages that they might be relegated or that someone has overtaken them.  It is interesting how seriously I take not being relegated although it does not affect my learning at all (I get no change in what is available for me).  My wife and brother who also use the app are also anxious not to get relegated.

There are also frustrations.  Sometimes I write a translation that seems reasonable but the app rejects it.  It is possible to report this with a menu item "My answer should have been accepted" and sometimes I get emails saying my suggestion has been accepted but I still lose "hearts" which means that I cannot continue for a period of time. 

Another problem is sometimes the app crashes and I lose hearts and/or gems through no fault of my own.

I have more or less finished the Chinese course.  I have done the basic lessons and only have some lessons to get "legendary status" (legendary for who? 😀) left to do.  I have done some of these but I have to preserve my gems to access these.  It is interesting that there is some fairly key vocabulary not taught.  Despite several lessons on food, the words "soy sauce", "vinegar" "leek" and garlic" (fundamental ingredients) have not been mentioned.  There is a very difficult lesson on "net slang" that features "otaka" (the app seems to think this is an English word - it seems to mean a person who plays computer games all day).

I am well through the Russian course and I recently started Norweigan as a new language - I decided on this because I am interested in the writer Knausgaard but I imagine it will be a long time before I can read him in the original.

Does any of this give me insights for my own work as a teacher?  I think the ability to do short periods of learning is useful for students and is something I should emphasise to students of language.  My choices of language show that outside factors such as interest in cultures are important.  I do feel frustrated by the lack of context.  Sometimes the sentences taught raise questions it would be interesting to discuss (eg one question taught was "Which presents should not be given to Chinese people".  I know partial answers (eg I have been told clocks are unsuitable for retirement) but it would be interesting to have more.

The example of Duolingo is discussed in L161 so it is useful to have experience of it as a "consumer".




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A language awareness quiz

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This is an intriguing quiz on Open Learn.

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/could-you-be-super-linguist

I got all parts correct apart from one although a few were guesses.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021, 17:39)
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An interesting brief talk on translating brand names into Chinese

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 15:15

I found this talk on translating brand names into Chinese interesting:

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/chinese/chinese-the-tip-your-tongue-how-do-you-translate-brand-names?in_menu=349360

It shows how creative translators need to be if the translation is to be effective.  In some cases, as in the example of "mini", there is a "lucky" coincidence of sounds that matchg the original and a positive meaning (although, this new meaning rather changes the connotation of the original).  In some cases, there has been more of a focus on the meaning and the original sound is lost and someone not speaking Chinese will not know what car is being referred to - as in the translation for Land Rover.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 1 Jun 2016, 12:37)
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Minority languages and dialects

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 12:00

I recently revisted two places and I had contrasting impressions of the ways that minority languages were/were not being maintained.

The first place was Guangzhou, which I had first visited in 1987.  At that time, it seemed very much dominated by Guangzhou dialect rather than Putonghua.  Now, it seems that the Guangzhou dialect is heard less although it is common in some contexts like restaurants.

The second place was Toulouse where I was struck by the use of dual dialect road signs and underground announcements althhough I did not hear much dialect use in the streets.  Perhaps my experience was too limited as I doubt there would be such a promotion if there was not much use of or interest in the language.

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