sol Discusses: Studying Languages

So recently I found out about this pretty neat app called, Duolingo. In case the name itself didn’t give you any ideas about what it’s for, it’s an app that helps you learn different languages. They have a pretty nice selection, and I think they’re still adding some languages as they just added Japanese about a week ago, or so I heard. It’s completely free and I heard about it from one of my mother’s co-workers, who heard that I was currently studying Japanese independently and was looking into buying Rosetta Stone as an efficient learning method.

I’m not 100% sure how well this app will teach me in depth about sentence structure, grammar, etc., but I’m loving it thus far and it’s doing pretty well. I’m not that far in, just learning the hiragana portion (which I already know the majority of myself), so it’s too soon to say.

The way Duolingo is set up is like a game. You have a streak that you’re supposed to keep and you get awarded medals for keeping that streak, as well as others medals for other accomplishments. It basically does a good job at motivating you, especially if you’re competitive, just like me. The gaming method aside, it does pronounce the words to you, which is helpful. And they break down everything into sections/categories. For example, with Japanese you start with learning the basic hiragana characters:

あ – a    い – i    う – u    え – e    お – o

Of course there are plenty more, but those are the really basic ones to learn out of them. Right now the only downside I have found is that it doesn’t teach you how to write the characters, which if you ask me would help to implant the character into your memory if you were to practice writing it, apart from obviously teaching you how to write in Japanese. At least a part of the game aspect of this app has you matching the characters with the vowels/particles, and so it’s got a bit of a “memory game,” which does help to learn the character. You’re pretty much just learning how to read Japanese and translate it. Which is a step to learning it, but we need to learn how to write it too. But even so, I’m just beginning and they did just add the language, so I’m not too sure what’s in store for the later lessons and if they’ll add things later. I also haven’t tried other languages to see how these go… so, meh. If you’re really are serious about learning Japanese and you try this app, I suggest going through each section a few times at first, and then go through it again while taking notes. Of course, even after that, keep going through them each (or every other) day to refresh. The note part is just a means of studying. When you take notes, things tend to stick with you a bit more because you’re taking the time to write things out and think about them.

Really, I am obsessed with this app and I fiddle with it EVERY day. It is a pretty neat and effective independent way to learning Japanese, as it has helped me out quite a lot. I actually pulled up a raw manga chapter, just to test myself with reading some of the basic hiragana used in the script, and I was able to read the characters pretty well. So with that progress in mind, I think it is something that will be very effective the more I stick with it! But really, the important part is how addictive and fun it is. It makes learning fun and actually MAKES you want to learn. And let’s face it, nine times out of ten, when we are learning, we don’t want to learn. Or perhaps, to re-word that: it’s boring. Just think back to those times when you were in class gazing out the window, looking at the ceiling, twiddling your thumbs, counting the wrinkles on your teacher’s face, before finally face-planting into your desk and falling asleep… yeah that kind of boring. But when you want to learn, you feel more motivated and as a result the material tends to stick with you more. I for one, hate studying. To be honest, I never really had to study for anything before, unless it was trigonometry related… fuck trigonometry. But even though becoming fluent in Japanese is pretty high on my bucket list, I haven’t pursued it as much as I should have, mainly because studying it seemed like such a pain and so difficult on my own. But with Duolingo, it’s making it easy and fun, and I actually enjoy studying Japanese to the point, it’s all I want to do. Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about being obsessed with this damn app. Do keep in mind though that with this app, you’re still basically trying to learn a language, so remember to keep things slow, don’t rush things by trying to complete every lesson one after the other immediately. Take your time and make sure you learn the material of each lesson and know it before moving on to the next.

After learning Japanese, I actually intend on using it to learn other languages as well. Maybe I’ll learn German next, so I actually feel like the two classes of German I took in high school actually had an affect. Man, I’m not even kidding, had I had this app back then, I wouldn’t have failed miserably on our tests. My German class had the most annoying test and our method of learning was reading out of a book. I’m sorry, but that textbook we had was not efficient at all. When it came to our homework, I ended up relying on Google Translate when I gave up on trying to figure things out myself. When it came to our tests, we had a verbal portion where our teacher would say something in English and then he would have us translate it to German… and he didn’t give us much time in between sentences. So if you were like me, and couldn’t for the life of you remember not only how to spell German words, but how German grammar goes… you were screwed. Die, Sie, Der, Dein… which one do I use for this sentence? I don’t remember much German, but like Japanese, there’s also gender pronouns/nouns and basically different ways to say the same word, but changes depending on the sentence or something… like I said, I don’t remember much German at all. I’m not as interested in it as Japanese, so it just never stuck with me. I only want to learn it so I can look back at those tests and be like… Back up, I got this! ヾ(⌐■_■)ノ

Actually, a bit of a fun fact, there is only one sentence I know in German: Sie um die ecke (They’re around the corner). That’s the first sentence the teacher taught us in German. That aside, the rest I know are only swears, naturally. Come on, don’t all the good foreign language teachers teach these?! My teacher didn’t seem to care when it came to teaching us bad words in German. My favorite is Scheiße (Shit), and I am not kidding when I say that both me and my mother have grown to use it. Stub your toe on a door? Scheiße! Fall down the stairs? Scheiße! I see that co-worker of mine that’s about 14 years older than me and likes me? Sche- you get the gist. So before this blog becomes overrun by foreign swears, I’m moving the topic along. Those that don’t know German… it shouldn’t matter, but if you know/are German… I’m sorry for all the scheiße that went down above. ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌ ᔆᵒʳʳᵞ

My German teacher was a pretty funny old man. He loved to tell jokes, and they were pretty amusing. He also wore a shirt with “Keep your fantasies to yourself” written in German on the back. We also watched a lot of German movies in class, most of which were… mature. He had a giant lid to a tub container with “Technical Difficulties” written on the top of it in sharpie marker that he’d hold up in front of the TV after muting it when something came up. I do remember this one movie that was just so… stupid. That’s the only word I can use to sum it up: Run Lola Run. Google it. I looked up movie reviews on it, and honestly, I don’t see how they are good. We all hated it to the point that if you asked us what the worst movie we’ve ever seen was, Run Lola Run would be our answer. My favorite movie we watched though was about this girl who pursues music and has deaf parents, her dad not being particularly supportive of her dream. I don’t remember the name or much of it to actually tell you what it was about, but I do remember thinking it was a pretty good movie. Apart from my German teacher’s humor and the movies, some of which I genuinely liked because they were pretty good movies, I really hated that class.

The only reason I took German was because on the second day of the second semester, one of my friends was bummed about not having a single friend taking German with her for the last period. She asked me if I could transfer in before it was too late to do so and I decided, what the hell, why not? I wasn’t liking the class I was taking anyway for that period and I needed to take a language course, so it worked out. German I was fine, but only because I had her in that class with me, sitting right behind me as well, so we were able to help each other out. But German II, nope! It was pretty much full of people I didn’t like and I was too shy to talk to the others I didn’t know. So, yeah that sucked.

So, given that you’re typically required to have two foreign language courses in high school, you may have wondered if I already decided on which foreign language I was planning on taking before my friend asked me to take German with her. No? Okay, well I’ll talk about it anyway. I was actually planning on taking French. I was pretty serious about it and one of my mother’s co-workers who was French and had recently moved back to France sent me a book in French to practice. Yeah… me taking French obviously didn’t happen. So why French? Well I love the sound of the language for one. And my only other options were German and Spanish. I remember taking a Spanish class in junior high, and I really didn’t like it, so I didn’t want to take it in high school two more times. I wasn’t really planning on taking German until my friend asked me to. The reason I didn’t consider it before wasn’t because I disliked the language, but rather I was neutral to it and I thought I had my mind made up to take French. But the idea of a friend taking it with me just made me think that it’d be easier and so that’s why I ultimately went with German, so I could have someone to help me practice the language. Oh, and get this! After I finished my two classes of German, they add a Japanese class!  ( ̄~ ̄) …  ┻━┻ ︵ \(  ̄ヘ ̄)/ ︵ ┻━┻

I’m just so done. Stay frosty, minna-san. Until next time…

(P.S. Yes, I’m still salty over the Japanese class.)


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