1. I downloaded Duolingo on New Year’s Day because the App Store told me it would make me a better person, and to learn Dutch for my impending trip to the Netherlands (by “impending” I mean “extremely hypothetical, but hopefully in the spring of 2017, provided I don’t talk myself out of it, and/or blow my entire Netherlands travel budget on physical therapy. Again.”).
I’ve learned some useful vocabulary up to this point. Man. Woman. Boy. Girl. Child. Orange. Sandwich. Chicken. Juice. Milk. Wine. You know, the standard collection of random nouns you’d expect out of an introduction to a language. But then there are situations like this:
that make me question the usefulness of this app. Is this a phrase I’m likely to need to know, on vacation or literally at any point in my life? Is this something the Dutch say routinely? Is there a hidden meaning here I’m missing? Is Duolingo messing with me?
(In case you’re wondering, the translation is “Pardon, ik ben een appel.” You can keep that one in your back pocket free of charge, along with my personal favorite sentence, “Wil je een koekje?” which, as I’m sure you know, is Dutch for “Would you like a cookie?”)
Aside from my occasional concerns about content relevance, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed Duolingo. I’m interested in the pedagogy behind it, because its approach to teaching you language is much different than your standard classroom setting (which is the only way I’ve learned language, other than English, of course). I feel like I’ve learned more using Duolingo than I did in a semester of Dutch in college, and I can usually do a decent job with translating in the app, but I wonder how I’d be if I actually had to speak Dutch. The app does talk to you so you know what words sound like, and occasionally says sentences to you in Dutch that you have to then type in Dutch, so the listening aspect isn’t entirely absent. I’m just curious how effective language instruction can be without an oral component.
I haven’t done it yet, but I’m also curious how I’d perform on their Spanish instruction, given that I have eight years of classroom Spanish under my belt (though it’s been a while since I’ve spoken/written Spanish).
2. While we’re on the topic of the Dutch language, I would like to say–nay, proclaim–that I am personally offended by Wendy’s Bacon Gouda Cheeseburger ad. Behold:
OHHHHHHHHHHH SURE. We can pronounce “gruyere” correctly. No problem. After all, that’s a French word! Obviously it’s pronounced fancily! But that other “g” cheese? THERE ARE NO RULES!! ENGLISH 4EVA!!
My crusade to educate the masses on the correct pronunciation of “gouda” (IT’S “HOW-DUH,” PEOPLE. ALWAYS AND ONLY “HOW-DUH.”) continues.
3. Last Saturday, my marathon training group had our end of the season party (though can you really call it that three months after the marathon? At this point, it feels more like just a party), and a couple people in my group mentioned that they are attempting to do a dry January. Then on Tuesday, a girl in my dance class said she’s doing the same thing. What’s fascinated me is how much all of these people expect to struggle with not drinking for 31 days (and five weekends). I can’t fathom having trouble not drinking for a month. Asking me to give up alcohol for a month is the most minor of sacrifices. It’d be like asking me to dogsit a well-behaved, potty-trained, friendly cuddlebug of a dog–the literal opposite of a burden. I “didn’t drink” during marathon season, which was probably the easiest thing I did during marathon season (in the interest of full disclosure, I think I did have four total drinks during those 18 weeks, but saying I wasn’t drinking during marathon season was my default excuse whenever I didn’t want to drink–which was clearly the VAST majority of the time.)
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that giving up alcohol for most of those people is probably a lot like giving up sweets for me, which I have never been able to do successfully unless as a religious discipline during Lent (but that’s way less about health/personal challenges, and way more about keeping me aware of the season, so my motivation is different.). Everyone has their own weakness, I suppose, and just because something is (or isn’t) hard for you doesn’t mean it would be for other people. A good thing to keep in mind!
Can you speak any languages other than English?
Will you join me on my mission to educate all on the correct pronunciation of gouda? Hint: there is only one right answer to that question.