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I am addicted .....

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 12 Jan 2022, 18:20

.... 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 playes 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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Russian as the language of space travel

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It is interesting to listen to Helen Sharman at about 58 minutes of this programme describing how the first few months of her training to go into space were devoted to learning Russian and physcal fitness.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y1xkr

She seemed very matter of fact about the need to learn it.

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Briton in space, multlingualism and intercultural competence

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015, 17:44

I suppose I am showing my age if I state how interested I have always been by space exploration.  So, I have been very interested in newspaper coverage and television coverage of Tim Peake's flight.

One of the aspects that drew my attention was his need to study Russian during his training,  This was not surprising as he is traveling in a Russian craft and the Star Gazing programme last night mentioned how Russian is naturally the working language for the Soyuz flights although English will be used on the ISS.  The international nature of the ISS also presumably means there would need to be a high degree of intercultural competence on the part of the cosmo/astronauts.

Probably most viewers would have been aware of his physical, psychological and scientific skills but linguistic and intercultural competence must also be vital for these cosmo/astronauts.

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