Not Fond of Mond(ly)

That was certainly a terrible attempt at making a pun.

I have no plans to become a reviewer of language apps. I just like to talk. What, eight years of this blog doesn’t make it obvious?

There are dozens, if not hundreds of language learning sites and apps out there. No shock. Reviews are good, but ultimately, the only person who can tell you what works best for you is you. I’m already partial to two particular sites, but I get curious and check out others too. Most recently, I started playing with one called Mondly.

It’s possible that despite I have absolutely no fluency in Spanish whatsoever, I’ve learned enough to not really be impressed with these apps anymore. I mentioned in my post about my feelings on Rose and Duo that I prefer it not to be a cute game. However, I find Mondly to be worse.

First and foremost, while not necessarily cute, Mondly looks more childish than DuoLingo. A description I read of it says it teaches language in a “Rosetta Stone like way”, but I really disagree. It’s worse than Duo when it comes to choosing difficulty because regardless of whether you choose “beginner”, “intermediate”, or “advanced”, you’ll start at “beginner”. Duo at least gives you a placement test and lets you skip over a certain number of lessons (although doesn’t put you at level 5 for them). Why bother with levels if there’s no effect on where you start?

There also seems to be an issue with the speech recognition. I did a few lessons that required it, but the task is marked correct, regardless of what you say… or if you say nothing! Technology is imperfect, but neither Duo nor RS are that bad. At the very least, you have to say something.

The lessons themselves feel like they’d fit right in with a kindergarten class. There’s a reason I despise flash cards and fill-in-the-blank, but it’s more than that. Even for a “beginner”, it’s ridiculous. The lessons – at least, the first ones of each category – treat the user like she/he is only now beginning to speak any language at all rather than a new one.

Much like Duo, Mondly feels more like it’s for playing than teaching. I use Duo to play games and RS to learn. I don’t need another game. I was doing one lesson in the category of “seasons and weather” that apparently attempted to teach me the order of months. No, I’m not kidding.

[Blank] is the first month of the year.

February is the [blank] month of the year.

March is the [blank] month of the year.

[Blank] is the fourth month of the year.

You get the idea. The sentence was in Spanish and you’d have to fill in the blank or translate the sentence. After I reached May, I realized it was going to go through all twelve months and I exited out. I know what order the months of the year go in. Make it a task to put them in order and be done with it!

Unlike DuoLingo, Mondly isn’t free. The most expensive package, a lifetime subscription to all forty-one languages they offer, costs $2,000! You can get it for $90 (95% off) through some affiliates like Mezzoguild for a period of time and it’s no wonder why. Supposedly, it’s their most popular subscription. Perhaps the normally exorbitant price explains why it’s hard to access any page for their pricing on the website itself. I can’t find a link to it for the life in me. There’s seemingly not even a link to their current sale – 90% off a yearly subscription for all languages (knocking the price from $480 to $48, the cost of subscribing to one language for one year). I only found it by adding “offer” after the hyperlink in an attempt to find regular pricing.

I freely admit I’m not a business expert, but if finding the cost of a service on the business’s own website is difficult, there’s probably something to hide or the designers really need more training.

There’s one thing I can say I do like about Mondly, and that’s that it gives the user a list of past, present, and future tenses when conjugating a verb if the user chooses to see that option. That’s it.

Also, their homepage claims (in bold letters!) 33 languages are available, but the subscriptions claim the number is 41. In fact, 41 is only seen on the site’s pricing for subscriptions. Every other page claims 33. Who’s keeping up with the website?

The same description that claimed Mondly teaches similar to Rosetta Stone also calls it “beautifully designed”. Mondly isn’t ugly, but I can’t agree with that. “Crammed” is the best word I can consider for it.

The Nostalgia Is Dead

Today, I found myself in my hometown.

I always thought revisiting the places I grew up in would overwhelm me with nostalgia, to the point I might get teary-eyed. Turns out my brain doesn’t care.

I was able to recognize several street names, I remember what the city looked like – I knew when I wasn’t in the town I work in anymore – and I could recall the inside of some buildings like the public library and the elementary school I attended. Some areas felt like they should be familiar, but I couldn’t place if I’d been there or not.

As strange as it sounds, I’m a little sad I didn’t have nostalgia. Ultimately, driving through my hometown didn’t feel much different than driving through other towns. The faint feeling of familiarity was the only difference.

Since I am nostalgic about some things from my childhood, I can’t help wondering why not even driving past my elementary school triggered feelings. Have too many years passed? Is it that I don’t remember most of my childhood? Is it because most of what I do remember is negative?

The things I’m nostalgic for are trivial; playing in the sandbox with my friends (whose full names I still remember) in kindergarten, cartoons and sitcoms I grew up watching that are off the air, playing on the playground without thinking it’s weird, my pet cat (I haven’t had another pet since he died), being able to climb and hoisting myself to the top of street signs, the many kid websites I used to play with (all but one – Neopets – no longer exist). The major things – like family and school – are experiences I’d prefer death to reliving. In fact, as I passed the other end of the sidewalk the school is on, I had one such thought: “Oh, there are the bushes my grandmother used to break switches off and beat me with.”

As I type that, another memory that immediately comes to my mind is my mother screaming at me “Have you been acting like that” and smacking me with a belt.

With those thoughts, maybe it isn’t so surprising nostalgia didn’t happen. Maybe the lack of nostalgia is my mind’s way of being protective. My very first childhood memory is a traumatic event. Maybe that shaped a part of me.

In my own mind, my life started at age four. The second memory after that first one is walking into preschool. I have more memories from kindergarten, but regardless, it’s hard to believe that small girl is now a centimeter shy of 5’4″. Though I can recall fragments of my childhood, I cannot recall being so small. I don’t feel like I was, despite I know I was.

Even my high school years have mostly faded from my mind, though again, I wonder if it’s a self-conscious protection because I hated my school years.

It’s said nostalgia makes the past seem better than it was. Perhaps that why I didn’t have any nostalgic feelings as I drove through my hometown. Because although I truly miss some things, I know the past was not better than the present, and nostalgia is not enough to filter it.

Or maybe it’s that nothing is really there for me anymore. I don’t have friends or family there to visit, I don’t work there, and any travel there would merely be passing through. Maybe I moved on without noticing. Maybe it’s that adulthood has uncovered family secrets I didn’t know during childhood.

Am I thinking too much about this? Most likely. I can’t say the past doesn’t matter because it built me into who I am. That past is part of why, for example, I don’t want to be a parent (although the present certainly tops the list of reasons!). The present is depressing and I believe the near and far future is dim. I’m unsure what does matter.

But since my attempts to part with this world never saw light outside of my head, my only choice is to see it.

It seems I will.