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.

Scares and Streaks

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Shortly after four this morning, my wife and I were awakened by the tell-tale sound of the smoke detector going off. It sounded three times – and then quit. We both thoroughly checked out the apartment, there was no smoke or reason for it to go off. It didn’t chirp like a detector would if it were low on battery (the detectors here are wired into the building to ensure they’re always functional, but they have battery backups for times when the power is out), and we didn’t hear it again. We’re still not even certain that it was the smoke detector, or that it was sounding from inside the apartment. Back to bed we went, but it took me a solid thirty minutes to get back to sleep.

I’m sorry I haven’t written lately, but I’ve just been too much in a meh mood to really think of anything worth writing down. (Yeah, I know, “meh” is worth recording too.) What I can say is that 80 days ago, I started using my phone as a learning and health tool again, and every day from then to today, I have logged my food intake, done my brain games (I use the Elevate app), and studied my Spanish on Duolingo. I’m proud that no matter what has happened, no matter how blah I’ve felt, I’ve managed to get those things done.

Bits and Pieces

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This is going to be disjointed because I have a lot on my mind today and none of it really connects with anything else, so this is going to be a bit of a brain purge. Sorry for the choppiness of today’s post.


I’ve been lethargic all morning long. Woke up, did my new morning habit from The Fabulous app (found out that it’s actually called that, even though everything in the Google Play Store says just “Fabulous”), did the rest of my morning ritual, ate breakfast, and went back to bed. Woke up about an hour later, still tired, and basically forced myself to start in on my checklist items for the morning. Now I’ve got a headache that’s making me feel even worse. Yay.


I’ve been having weird dreams at an increased rate. I’ve also been remembering a good deal of them, which is highly unusual for me. Not sure what this means; also not sure if it means anything. There’s not been a change in my medication to trigger it, so I don’t know what’s causing the weirdness. I just wish it would stop; a lot of them are disconcertingly, wake-me-up weird, and I dislike that feeling.


My birthday is in a week, and for the first time my wife has told me “you have plans” and won’t tell me what they are. I’m very confused by this, since my birthday falls squarely in the middle of her transition week from weekly temp pay to biweekly permanent pay and money is extremely scarce right now, so I have no clue what’s up her sleeve.


According to Duolingo, I’m 47% fluent in Spanish now. I really don’t feel anywhere hear that fluent. Part of that is the long break that i took before restarting the program recently; part of that is that I’m not thinking in Spanish, so I’m not getting any practice outside of answering the questions (mostly) correctly and going from there.

Los Biblioteca Es Muy Macho!

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So, I figured it’s time to focus on one of the items on my checklist, that being “learn.” Right now I define that as completing the default daily goals in both Duolingo, a language learning program, and Elevate, a brain training app similar in purpose to the better-known Lumosity website. Both of these are on my phone, and so for about fifteen minutes a day I’m doing a small part to improve my mental skills and to learn another language.

Duolingo guides you through the basics in a teaching model similar to what Rosetta Stone uses, with an immersive learning experience that help you to figure out correct answers on your own with no prior teaching. As you progress, the app considers your aptitude in each one of many different areas of learning the language. In Spanish, the language I’m currently working on, Basics 1 leads to Phrases leads to Basics 2, and so on. Each area of learning has multiple days’ worth of lessons to cover, and lessons give experience points, similar to role-playing games, with the default daily goal set at 20 XP. (Most lessons will give 10 XP on your first completion.) Spanish is exceptionally thorough, with 64 discrete areas of study to complete the course.

However, if you don’t keep at it, your competency fades in certain areas, and you need to take refresher courses in your weakest words in an area of study in order to re-establish full competency in that area. Even with consistent use, the occasional refresher on certain areas the app recommends is common.

I’ve been away from Duolingo for almost two months, so my recent study in this area has all been old material I’ve been regaining competency in. I should finish with that in the next day or two and start in on new material after that.

I can tell you it helps. Living in Texas, there’s a fair amount of Spanish signage around, and I’m starting to understand more and more of what I read in my everyday life. It’s a cool feeling, and I hope that I can be conversational in the language once I’ve completed the full course. Still have a long, long ways to go, however.

Incidentally, the title of today’s blog post translates to “the library is very manly.” It was one of two Spanish phrases that my wife’s high school friend taught her, the other (Spanish since forgotten) is “your mother is under the table.” The first goal of this education is to be able to turn to her and tell her what the Spanish is from my own learning, and not from Google Translate. Because I’m mature like that.