Consistency of Habit

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The above picture is a screenshot from my phone of Duolingo, the language app that I have used to learn Spanish and now Italian. I have another app, Elevate that I use for grammar, math, and short-term memory exercises. I do both of them every day. And according to this snapshot, I have been doing them both every day for a year straight.

When I started this streak, I didn’t honestly think it would last this long. I was just happy to be learning something and not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs when not watching movies or playing computer games or reading or doing the occasional household chore. Being on disability seems like it might be all fun and games, but let me assure you, having no schedule and little to keep you busy gets very old, very fast.

I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m so happy to be going to college after all this time. It gives me some structure and some short- and long-term goals to work towards. The short-term goal is this semester, and the long-term, of course, is the degree.

Speaking of college, I got word today that I’d gained a spot in both classes that I had waitlisted for, and I accepted a spot in one of them. The other begins ten minutes after the first one ends on another campus, leaving me no possible way to get from one to the other in time.

The part that makes me happiest about this is that it means that I’m only going to miss one day of classes when I go to California next month on vacation. One day is going to be fairly easy to catch up from, especially with the syllabuses in hand. It also gives me five days a week that will be class-free, time that I can spend studying or keeping up with my chores or taking time for myself.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m glad that it worked out that I could only take two classes this semester. I would have hated to get back into the habit of going to class and studying with a full class load. I can save that pleasure for later semesters, when I’ll need to keep up with the program.

I’m worried that my checklist items will fall by the wayside given the more pressing use of my time, but I feel confident that I can keep at least most of my checklist going even while in school.

Seven more days to wait.

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This Is Interesting

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Regular readers of this blog know about my daily checklist, the 21 items that I try to complete every day to both ensure that I take care of myself medically (medications, recording blood glucose and blood pressure, eating meals, etc.) and that I try to achieve a few items each day. A daily entry in this blog is one of those achievement items, another is my learning.

I define my learning as completing daily exercises in two smartphone apps, Elevate (a math- and language-based “brain training” app) and Duolingo (an app that teaches foreign language basics). To complete Elevate, I complete three games daily. A day’s worth of Duolingo now consists of at least two Italian lessons (if a module needs refreshing, I complete it, plus at least one new lesson each day) and all the Spanish modules that need strengthening, regardless of number. That number can wildly vary. At minimum, that’s only two Italian lessons, if Spanish is all maxed out. Yesterday, it was five Italian lessons and five Spanish.

I was mentioning to my wife how long my current streak is, and I realized something pretty cool.

My current streak is 292 days long. The streak I had before that was 119 days. That means that I’ve only missed one day since April 24, 2016. I’m strangely proud of that.

In the broad scheme of things, it’s not really that big a deal, I know. But it’s a measure of consistency for me, and I do value consistency.

I’ll keep you guys posted as I close in on the one year anniversary of this streak.

Nearing The End (Of This Course)

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So, as I mention somewhat regularly on here, I’m currently learning Spanish from Duolingo. It’s an immersive learning experience somewhat similar to what you receive from the Rosetta Stone, only the app is free and admittedly doesn’t go into quite the detail available for hundreds of dollars through Rosetta Stone. (There is an excellent comparison of the two learning programs on lifehacker.com here.)

I’m nearing the end of my course. Spanish in Duolingo has 59 subjects to choose from, all taught in a specific order as one lesson will build on the ones previous, which makes perfect sense. Most subjects have as many as 10 lessons in it, so there are hundreds of individual lessons to learn. Starting tomorrow, I’ll start subject 54, Verbs: Modal. There are only two lessons in this particular subject, and then I’ll move on to unlock two more subjects.

I’m finding that it does lack the pure immersiveness of Rosetta Stone, as many of the lessons will repeat certain phrases which my phone has learned through its autosuggest feature, and Rosetta Stone starts teaching you the language in a way to make you think in that language pretty much right off the bat. But I am finding that I can read much more Spanish than I could when I first started the program, and that on occasion I can catch a snippet of conversation in passing. I’m still not up to carrying on a conversation in Spanish – I’m very shy of what I have and haven’t learned – but hopefully one day I’ll become more conversational. At this point, I’m happy that I can at least read some Spanish and can suss out the occasional new word from context. It might not lead to true fluency, but it is a start, and you can’t beat the price tag.

Would I recommend Duolingo to others? Well, that depends. If you’re mission is fluency, I would sink the money into Rosetta Stone. If your interest is more casual, Duolingo is a perfect option to become acquainted with a language. I’ve been happy with it and I’m looking forward to trying out another of the 21 languages Duolingo offers once I’m done with Spanish.