Russian to learn another language
– Columns –
After nearly a year of neglect, I got back on the horse. Or, should I say, the owl.
I started practicing Russian again, using the Duolingo app. For those who don’t know, Duolingo is a program for a phone (or computer) meant to teach languages. It is set up similar to a game, complete with a little green owl, aptly named Duo, to cheer you on.
The app encourages you to keep a streak going, where you practice daily, and it counts it for you. There are rewards if you reach a certain number of practice days in a row. Right now, I have practiced 15 days in a row. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
The game also has fake money you earn by completing lessons. The fake money can be used to buy fake prizes. Some of the prizes are admittedly more useful than others. There are streak freezes, to keep your streak alive if you miss a day of practice. Hearts are also available for purchase, to keep you learning when you make too many mistakes.
The best fake things to buy, in my opinion, are the outfits for Duo. The bird is adorable anyway, but when you put him in a tux, champagne tracksuit (made with 24carat gold silk!), or the most adorable superhero costume ever, he somehow gets cuter. As cute as the outfits are, they really gain you nothing other than a smile.
I got the tux and tracksuit for Duo previous times I had worked on my Russian, but the superhero costume was new. My goal instantly was set. My fake pet owl needs a superhero costume.
Within a few days, I managed to win the costume. I guess my new goal is just completing the lessons and maintaining my streak.
And let me tell you, Duo is a persistent little bird. If Duo has even the slightest inkling that you may miss a day of lessons, you will hear about it. First, the owl sends you reminders, via notifications on your phone and emails. Then, he tries to guilt you into lessons, reminding you that daily practice is required to learn a language.
There are jokes online about the aggressiveness of the app. They are hilarious. One of the better memes I’ve seen is simply a social media post from Duo that says, “It’s simple, Spanish or vanish.”
While the aggressiveness of the app is exaggerated in the online jokes, I know doing daily practice will save me a lot of emails and notifications.
Russian came back to me faster than I thought it would, which is good, because I realized I didn’t remember much of it at all. The basics were definitely there. I could have come up with phrases like, “My name is Julia” or, “I am a student.”
I probably also could have even come up with, “There is a bear in the park,” because Duolingo seems to have deemed that phrase important to know and hammered it into my little brain. I can honestly say I never once used that phrase during the three and a half months I was in Russia, and that the only bears I saw, were in the zoo. I was a little disappointed by that.
In the meantime, I’m just looking forward to whatever ridiculous phrases I’ll be expected to learn next.