Duolingo language learning

Use this board for general non-cycling-related chat, or to introduce yourself to the forum.
User avatar
al_yrpal
Posts: 8865
Joined: 25 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Location: Cully
Contact:

Duolingo language learning

Postby al_yrpal » 30 Jun 2016, 5:40pm

A few weeks ago I was in France with some friends one of whom is a British fluent French speaker who had lived in France for more than ten years. In order to improve my French we spoke exclusively in French for the duration of our walking holiday. I learned quite a lot and my friend said that I should be able to improve my French to a reasonable standard quite easily if I kept at it. I learned French at school back in the 50's but failed the GCE and since then I have been to a few classes and spasmodically tried to improve with tapes etc. I am not a natural with languages.
On my return I looked on the web for a language course and discovered Duolingo. I started from scratch about 3 weeks ago and I am really impressed. Duolingo is a project started by an American University, you can choose from a couple of dozen languages (including Klingon!) and its completely free. It sends you a daily email and asks that you do 15 minutes or more that includes written and verbal exercises. Its free, and on my Chromebook at least Ad free. At present I am 31% fluent in French having done 26 exercises with another 50 odd to go which will take some months. Duolingo is personalised tuition. I dont know how it works but I am very encouraged by my progress. I am also hoping it will help to prevent my brain atrophying in old age! :D As well as the version I use which runs in a browser there are versions that run in Android and iPad too I believe.

Understanding and being able to converse in another language is a very useful skill for the touring cyclist. And for those Brits living abroad it could help their language skills. Take a look at http://www.duolingo.com

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Psamathe
Posts: 11576
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Psamathe » 30 Jun 2016, 6:09pm

I am (and have been) trying to learn Spanish for several years, I keep stopping, starting, going back to start.

When I moved to France with only mid-grade O level from 40 years previously (with no other immigrants in the area) I decided that the question "Do you speak English" would NEVER pass my lips. And it never did and it helped me massively - largely because all the locals appreciated my efforts, were happy when I destroyed their loved language because I was making the effort and they helped me a lot, were never critical, restricted their "correction" (e.g. at dog agility club through an afternoon I might get corrected max 3 times and they overlooked all the other mistakes. And the mistakes were taken in good humour (e.g. When I was looking for a 2nd puppy which in French is "chiot" the dictionary did not tell me not to pronounce the "C" !! (but I was eventually told politely that "if you pronounce the "C" it is actually a rude word not the word for puppy).

I have Duolingo and use it occasionally and am unsure about it. My main study is BBC Active course (CDs) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Talk-Spanish-Course-Absolute-Beginners/dp/0563520132/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467305924&sr=8-1&keywords=bbc+active+spanish (they do a Frecnh version I've not seen so no idea about https://www.amazon.co.uk/Talk-French-Isabelle-Fournier/dp/0563520094/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467305941&sr=8-1&keywords=bbc+active+french). The course is both CDs AND books and you need both (books without CD useless and CD without books useless). There is also a grammar book to supplement the course which is very useful.

BBC have quite a lot of online language learning stuff on their web site as well.

I did evening classes a few years ago which used the above books/CDs which were OK but rather slow and I felt quite expensive. And since then I've seen that the number of local courses has dramatically reduced and the prices increased (cuts I guess). They also were not great social things. what didn't help were a few people who were there for free because they get the courses free if they are on certain benefits so they had no motivation ...

I don't know if it helps but I normally eave the radio on when I go to sleep and I've changed to leaving the CD audio on from the courses I've been through.

One thing I have been told about languages is that is you look at the audio from somebody speaking it is virtually a continual audio signal, words merging with words and no discrete gap. It is the brain that splits that continuous signal into discrete words and a large part of learning a language is the brain becoming familiar with the real spoken language so it get to learn about breaking the signal into discrete words (i.e. so it recognises the words and splits them correctly). So I've also been using internet radio on my phone/laptop to listen to real Spanish radio (I'm using RNE5 which seems a bit like Radio 4). I understand very little but I listen, pick out words I do understand and I think it helps. I do seem to be recognising increasing numbers of words. I'm sure there are equivalent French radio stations on the internet.

Ian

andymiller
Posts: 1716
Joined: 8 Dec 2007, 10:26am

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby andymiller » 30 Jun 2016, 6:23pm

The BBC courses are very good, so are the Michel Thomas courses. I've not really used Duolingo but the apps and so on are useful. But I don't think there's any substitute for going to the country concerned and signing up for a proper, structured, language course. A couple of weeks is good, a month if you can.

I'm sceptical about the passive listening approach - yes kids learn languages by listening to what others say, but they also have personal tutors (usually known as 'mothers') who teach them and correct their mistakes.

Psamathe
Posts: 11576
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Psamathe » 2 Jul 2016, 11:11am

An additional thought. If you are using your smartphone, I find having a dictionary loaded on the phone very useful and fa far faster than a printed dictionary. Both the one I have use pre-downloaded dictionaries (i.e. work fully offline)

1. There is dict.cc which is free (or there is a free version, the paid for version has a few small extras like test lists using some special educational technique where correct answers are retested less often and incorrect answers tested more often). The free version provides a straight work lookup/dictionary function. The translation/dictionary is created in the same public domain manner as e.g. Wikipedia.
IMG_0342.PNG
Has loads of different languages and after you download the app you chose which dictionaries you want to download (you can download and run several at the same time). I find this dictionary not as good at finding the infinitive from an entered conjugation(?). But it still gives a lot of useful stuff for what you entered.

2. I have also purchased a smartphone Collins Complete Spanish dictionary https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/collins-spanish-dictionary/id359584396?mt=8 (I appreciate you are learning French and don't use an iPhone). This is excellent (and expensive). But I find I use it a lot. It seems to cope with misspellings well, enter any form of a verb and it finds the infinative and press a button and get all the conjugations, get common uses of the word, etc. (again, it's a completely pre-loaded system that works fully offline)

e.g.
IMG_0340.PNG
IMG_0341.PNG


I tried several other dictionary and phrase book apps and found them useless - there seems a fair amount of rubbish out there and a few excellent ones.

Ian

Vorpal
Moderator
Posts: 18486
Joined: 19 Jan 2009, 3:34pm
Location: Not there ;)

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Vorpal » 6 Jul 2016, 3:43pm

The best way to learn a language is to use it.

I grew up in a multilingual household, but didn't really use anything but English from the time I was around 8 years old until I was an adult, except for taking Latin in school.

I brushed up on French as an adult, using L'Alliance Francaise discussion groups and a couple of courses.

I also learned Italian to a conversational level with a ouple of courses, a private tutor, and travel to Italy.

Living now in Norway, I've tried 3 different on-line courses, a tutor, and self-study with various techniques.

Of the on-line courses, I like Babel the best because it has reasonably effective voice recognition.

The most effective approach for me, however has been
1) read a little each day-- I began with children's books and am now up to newspapers and comic books
2) get a decent grammar book and refer to it when needed, read it from time to time when ready to progress to a new grammar topic
3) speak it as much as possible; use it with neighbors, shopping ,etc.

Point 3 is a little harder in Norway than many other places because Norwegians are quite good at English, proud of their capability, and also impatient / time efficient.

So I am quite stubborn about it sometimes, struggling to explain something in Norwegian, even after I've told a couple of times that it's okay to switch to English. :lol:
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

User avatar
[XAP]Bob
Posts: 17887
Joined: 26 Sep 2008, 4:12pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby [XAP]Bob » 6 Jul 2016, 4:08pm

I was grateful for the Finns facility with the english language.

I was only ever visiting - and I learnt a few words (Thank You, Sorry, Please etc) and that was enough to convince them that English was the preferable language.

It was a very careful 'minimum to at least show willing' effort - because I'm not great with languages...
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

User avatar
al_yrpal
Posts: 8865
Joined: 25 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Location: Cully
Contact:

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby al_yrpal » 6 Jul 2016, 4:15pm

I know what you mean about using it, its difficult having English as your native language because so many people speak it abroad often denying you the chance to practice. We have a French conversation group in the local town but they specifically exclude anyone learning, its obviously for French Ex Pats or fluent French speakers only. I hadn't thought of children's books, good idea. Duolingo has done wonders for my vocabulary, now 34% fluent according to their progress measurements. There is a lot of spoken content, it listens to you and corrects you if you get it wrong. Excellent for a freebie.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Patrick Gray
Posts: 3
Joined: 4 Jul 2016, 9:56pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Patrick Gray » 8 Jul 2016, 11:34pm

I can vouch for children's books -- der Struwwelpeter and Grimm's Kinder und Hausmaerchen as well as the beautiful and devoutly Catholic Kinderlegenden have really helped my German. I also recommend parsing, going through a text line by line identifying the case, number,gender, conjugation (delete as appropriate). It really improves your knowledge. There's also sheer memory work with verb tables and lists of exceptions, excellent fun on a walk with the dog!

I have heard great things of the language websites, there is a wonderful one with grammar exercises the name of which eludes me.

God bless
Patrick Gray

millimole
Posts: 635
Joined: 18 Feb 2007, 5:41pm
Location: Leicester

Duolingo language learning

Postby millimole » 9 Jul 2016, 9:03am

I'm currently trying to learn a little German for a forthcoming holiday- I don't need to be fluent, just polite.
I'm unimpressed with Memrise which is a cross-platform app that aims to increase vocabulary. I might have another look at Duolingo (I gave up on that when I tried Spanish a few years ago).
I get frustrated when language learning - I failed French O level three times in the 70s, but went to France on my own, on my bike, two years running on the basis of 'speak French or starve' - since then I was able to get by on the basics in French, but a few years ago I got it into my head that I wanted to 'validate' my ability in French - so I did a degree in French (with Art History) which gave me a huge boost. But, my (now fading) French competency (and the societal insights I gained) make me frustrated at any little progress I make in other languages!


I'm a trendy consumer. Just look at my wobbly bog brush using hovercraft full of eels
Leicester; Riding my Hetchins since 1971; Audaxing on my Dawes; Riding to work on a Decathlon Hoprider

User avatar
al_yrpal
Posts: 8865
Joined: 25 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Location: Cully
Contact:

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby al_yrpal » 9 Jul 2016, 9:18am

I think we have to face up to the fact that some folk have more language learning ability than others. Its as simple as that. I realise I am not a natural, progress is quite slow. No need to beat yourself up. :D

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Psamathe
Posts: 11576
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Psamathe » 9 Jul 2016, 9:37am

Vorpal wrote:The best way to learn a language is to use it.

...
3) speak it as much as possible; use it with neighbors, shopping ,etc.

Point 3 is a little harder in Norway than many other places because Norwegians are quite good at English, proud of their capability, and also impatient / time efficient.

So I am quite stubborn about it sometimes, struggling to explain something in Norwegian, even after I've told a couple of times that it's okay to switch to English. :lol:

I had the same problem when I lived/worked in the Netherlands. I had classes (a voluntary group who gave one on one lessons to people in the evenings - they used a local hall with loads of meeting rooms). I'd end-up in everyday life having weird bi-lingual conversations where I'd be (trying) to speak Dutch and they would be speaking English.

In France a local town (20 miles away) had voluntary English-French language sessions once a week. It was for English speakers who wanted to learn French AND French speakers who wanted to learn English. The idea was to have conversations in both languages so French help English speakers improve and english help French speakers improve. Good idea that did not work in practice as the British ex-pats treated it as a expat social afternoon (there were only about 5 of them). I stuck at it for a few months but I was not interested in being social in ex-pats who live a far distance away from me anyway and had a very different outlook on life (i.e. not the type of people I would socialise with normally).

Ian

Vorpal
Moderator
Posts: 18486
Joined: 19 Jan 2009, 3:34pm
Location: Not there ;)

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Vorpal » 9 Jul 2016, 12:02pm

al_yrpal wrote:I think we have to face up to the fact that some folk have more language learning ability than others. Its as simple as that. I realise I am not a natural, progress is quite slow. No need to beat yourself up. :D

Al

Mr. V really struggles with it. He can't distinguish between many non-English sounds and consequently can't say them either. He's taken two basic introductory courses been told by both instructors that he hadn't done well enough to progress to the next course.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

User avatar
al_yrpal
Posts: 8865
Joined: 25 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Location: Cully
Contact:

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby al_yrpal » 9 Jul 2016, 12:28pm

We have some friends who lived in the South of France. After 5 years even with my poor grasp of French on visits I was still having to translate for them at the Bricolage and in shops and markets. They seemed to make little effort to mix with the locals or absorb French Culture. Neither of them were any good at French. They eventually returned to Blighty with their lives in ruins as French property price hadnt kept pace with British ones.
Feel very sorry for the ex pats complaining about their decreasing pension incomes on Money Box this morning.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Psamathe
Posts: 11576
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Psamathe » 9 Jul 2016, 12:46pm

al_yrpal wrote:....
Feel very sorry for the ex pats complaining about their decreasing pension incomes on Money Box this morning.

Bit off-topic and I didn't see the Money Box this morning. But assuming it was about "the usual" issue raised where people retiring to some countries do not get inflation adjusted state pension. On that assumption, beyond EEA countries it is decided on reciprocal agreements with each country. When people decide to move to and retire to any given country they will be able to find out the status regarding inflation adjusted state pensions - and with that information they will be able to make their decision about moving to their chosen country. They have the information, they make the decision.

If the UK does things like leave the EEA then they may lose that inflation adjusting. That is one of the risks of retiring overseas and forms part of the balance of factors. Similarly, inflation in their chosen country might end-up significantly higher than the UK and again, even with inflation adjustments they would be in a difficult position. Or the other way round and they would be in an advantageous position. Retiring overseas has greater risks than retiring in the UK - but it has advantages as well. To retire overseas you need to make sure you have those "risks covered" (when I retired to France I had to do a lot of Excel spreadsheets to check out all sorts of possibilities). But there are risks in the UK (like your private pension fund might "have interesting times" as things disrupt "normal financial situations").

(But maybe there are other aspects as I did not hear the program).

Ian

Elizabeth_S
Posts: 209
Joined: 27 May 2013, 3:18pm
Location: Dunblane

Re: Duolingo language learning

Postby Elizabeth_S » 9 Jul 2016, 3:32pm

Vorpal wrote:T
The most effective approach for me, however has been
1) read a little each day-- I began with children's books and am now up to newspapers and comic books
2) get a decent grammar book and refer to it when needed, read it from time to time when ready to progress to a new grammar topic
3) speak it as much as possible; use it with neighbors, shopping ,etc.


I had the same problems living in Germany of sorts, where people would say 'it's okay, I speak English' then speak worse English than I spoke German. Now my Norwegian is coming on okay but slowly helped by a great teacher and class, and my written work is okay, but I'm slower at speaking. I'm getting there though. Teacher is from Bergen, so I'm best at understanding that accent, not Oslo!