Learning Priorities

I seem to continually forget something: This is my blog.

I shouldn’t be shy here. This is my space to express my feelings and my thoughts. Yes, it’s public and people can give their opinions in return, but I control what’s here. Of all internet spaces, I should never be uncomfortable. So long as I keep in line with WordPress’s policy, I should never feel it’s unsafe or embarrassing to write something here.

So, I won’t.

Lately, I have talked about my goals. While I have never enjoyed school, I enjoy learning (I can’t get over the irony of a place intended to support learning destroying the love of it), and I want to learn several subjects. Human languages, programming languages, science, math, design. The list goes on, but those are at the top. However, I’ve realized there is such a thing as too much learning. Or at least, too much in a short amount of time.

My 29th birthday is this year and I can’t get over this mental/emotional crisis that I am “late”. However, overwhelming myself won’t slow down time or help my mental stability. A new friend who is helping me learn a certain subject advised me to prioritize what I want to learn that will help me now versus later. My fiance and a different friend also gave me this advice. I can’t say I disagree with them. However, I have decided only on two priorities, and am struggling to choose a third.

What I decided so far:

  • Spanish. I’m not dumb enough to think I can advance my skills to almost native-like in one year. I couldn’t do in twenty-two years, despite exposure to the language, so it certainly won’t happen in one! But at the bare minimum, I want to become conversational. This is mostly because my (future) in-laws are Hispanic and some do not speak English (or not do not speak it well enough to be understood). I also want to avoid embarrassing myself. I tried to tell my fiance’s mom I loved her Christmas dinner by saying “Yo lo amo (I love it)”. Not only is this not linguistically correct (it should be “Me lo encanta”), but my pronunciation utterly sucked and she may have heard it as “Yo te amo”, which means “I love you”. I do love her as my (future) mother-in-law, but that was not what I wanted to say! I’d say “awkward” in Spanish, but I don’t remember that and I will not look it up right now (“embarazada” means “pregnant”, not “embarrassed”!).
  • JavaScript. Since I want to be a front-end developer, and I can’t seem to learn much more from HTML and CSS, I want to advance my very minimal skills in JavaScript. I am taking a boot camp that focuses on front-end development, so I will need to prioritize this anyway. Now, those aren’t the only languages used front-end. Some others are React, Angular, Vue, jQuery, and Swift. JavaScript can also be used for back-end. But it HTML, CSS, and JavaScript seem to be the main “trifecta”.

I want to say the third priority is Java. However, my only reason for learning at this time is for software development boot camp my job offers. If not for that, I would have never bothered to learn this language for the time being. Java is more commonly used for back-end development and mobile development, and I want to eventually learn the latter (which will probably go hand-in-hand with the former), it’s not my focus right now. If I don’t choose Java, my choice would be math. Specifically, pre-calculus since I plan to pursue a degree in computer science some years down the road. Of course, I can always change priorities.

In the end, my ultimate goal at the end of 2023 is to not be in the same position at work I am currently in. I want to prioritize whatever will get me out the fastest.

Not Old (Yet), Not Young

I’m 28. Maybe that isn’t old, but it certainly isn’t young either. Really, I stopped being honest about my age offline after I turned 26.

I talked a little before about teaching myself coding. The good news is there are a lot of community spaces for learners and newbies. The discouraging news is I find myself very outmatched in age. It seems in so many, if not all, of these spaces, everyone started coding at the age I was still carrying around a teddy bear.

Yes, yes, I know. “You’re never too old.” But figures of speech are just that. Figures of speech. I can never stop being reminded I wasted my youthful years doing… whatever I was doing that is wildly insignificant now. If God is real, when I die, I will ask why he didn’t give me better intuition as a small child. Seriously, why did I miss out on the intuition to build a necessary skill? Probably because I was stupid and wanted to build blocks, and adults let me so I would shut up and stop crying. *sigh*

Eh. Maybe that’s harsh (probably not), but if I had a child, I would absolutely get them started on coding and programming at as early an age as possible so they avoid this problem. Even if they grew to not want a career related to IT, they’d have a skill they can fall back on. That’s the one thing I miss about not having a child. I won’t have the pleasure of watching my child have a better and brighter future than I do. Granted, I’m fantasizing, but I know I do that a lot. I’m beginning to understand why some parents live through their kids. It’s tough to admit you don’t have the capacity/capability to reach your dreams, and your kid has better chances than you via youth. That’s a terrible thing to do to a kid, but I think I understand it.

Truthfully, I don’t think I am capable of learning because coding is such a humongous field, and IT never stops evolving. There will always be things to catch up on, so I have no idea at what point I could consider myself employable, if that point can arrive. Supposedly, it’s not about memorization, but I want to see how that holds up in an actual job. I feel like it doesn’t. But I’ve also known for a long time I’m not good at anything, so why am I talking like this is surprising? It’s not, but you get my drift. I mean, I’m good at finishing coursework, but so are kindergartners, so who cares? I want a skill most tiny children don’t have, not one most do.

Well, this quickly delved into a post of self-loathing. But it’s really honesty and trying to humor myself. I remember being asked what’s unique about me, and I answered I don’t know because I don’t know. Professionally, there is nothing unique about me. I work in a warehouse, I worked in retail, and I finished coursework. By the way, roughly 39% of the US population has a bachelor’s (not associate’s, which is what mine will be) degree, and it can still not be enough to qualify for anything. It really is little more than a piece of paper to bypass filters. Part of me feels like I’m getting it solely to prove I’m not a total idiot (of course, the two are not mutually exclusive).

Do I have any positivity to add to this post? I really don’t. I’m painfully aware my thirtieth birthday is coming sooner than I would like, and I’m simply glad there is no upcoming high school reunion.

Well, I can always achieve my dreams through fictitious means. And really, my only dream was financial stability. I didn’t even reach for the sky and I still fell flat. Ouch.

Acorns vs Stash

A friend introduced me to investing last year, and I started in March. Not exactly consistently, but curious me did some searching. There are a ton of investing apps out there: WeBull, Robinhood, Betterment, SoFi. I don’t need a dozen brokerage accounts, though.

My friend uses Acorns and Stash, so I went with those too. I downloaded M1 Finance because I wanted to check that out too, but that requires a minimum of a $25 deposit, so that needs to wait. Acorns and Stash require only $5, and Cash App (of all apps!) requires only a minimum of $1. I had too much fun with that.

From what I read, Acorns’s biggest feature is its round-up, which lets you invest tiny amounts of money. Ultimately, a “set it and forget it” concept. You invest without thinking about it. This is great if you like automatic transfers…

…which I don’t. I’ve never used this feature. In fact, I disabled it after it would’ve invested money I needed at that moment. I don’t like anything that automatically deducts payments unless I choose to set it. “Set it and forget it” is a great way to overdraft. No.

Acorns is strictly a robo-investor, which I like, but not when it’s the only option. Recently, I discovered it takes a week for money deposited into their retirement account to be invested. That is patience I don’t possess. I also dislike there seems to be no option to turn off automatic re-investing. Not that my dividends are anything to brag about, but I’d still like the option.

In short, Acorns is becoming uninteresting to me. Then again, maybe it isn’t supposed to be interesting.

I came to prefer Stash solely for the fact it has more options than Acorns. Stash allows manual and robo-investing. I use both just because. Automatic re-investing can’t be disabled for the robot portfolios, but it’s optional for the personal one, so I keep it off. I get a little too much enjoyment out of reading ETFs and picking one. I’m weird.

I want to move out of Acorns, but unfortunately, taxes must be paid on anything withdrawn from a brokerage account. I hate taxes, so really, that money may just stay in Acorns, and I stop bothering with it. I’ll play around with M1 Finance, but I think I may settle on Stash and stick with it. It’s the one that’s working for me.

Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab are the most renowned investment tools. I already have Fidelity for my job’s 401K, so that’s covered.

Experimenting

DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, Mondly, Babbel, Busuu, and now, Memrise. I think I’m done!

In my last post on this topic, I said:

I don’t intend to continue paying for Busuu at the moment, so after my subscription expires, it seems I’ll return to Duo and RS.

My one-month subscription expired yesterday… so I paid for a 24-month subscription at a fifty percent discount.

I’m not good at sticking to my own words, I see. But out of all of these apps, I found Busuu to be the best for me, so I want to stick with it. I only sincerely dislike two of the apps and Busuu is not perfect (no app is), but to sum up my thoughts of each:

DuoLingo: Kids’ game. I keep up the streak with it. In other words, it’s semi-addictive for the sake of the streak, and that’s it.

Rosetta Stone: I actually like RS a lot, but I got lost after I finished all the plans. I like that while it’s not ugly, it’s also not cute. Plain is fine sometimes. I wish answers weren’t marked wrong for lack of accents, though.

Mondly: I don’t like this one at all. It’s too cluttered, and the difficulty levels don’t seem to be different. Tried it multiple times. I’m convinced I could do it in my sleep.

Babbel: I’m fine with Babbel, but their microphone/voice recognition is not good. I try it every so often and it’s still ridiculously finicky. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I prefer not to bother.

Busuu: Again, best one for me. I find it challenging, and the difficulty levels really are different. However, while it’s forgiving of misplaced or lack of accents, it’s not forgiving of typos.

Memrise: The other one I dislike. I paid for a one-month subscription to test it out, and I think, unlike Busuu, I will stop using this one after it expires. It’s not bad, I suppose, but if I didn’t already hate flash cards, I certainly would after this. It’s nothing more than memorizing a random collection of words and sentences. They have an “immerse” section, which is merely listening to short videos in Spanish with subtitles. Which is fine, but I can do that on YouTube and with music (which I do; for example, Mucho Más Allá (Into The Unknown), and Muéstrate (Show Yourself)). The words and sentences get harder, so there’s that, but it’s still endless matching and fill-in-the-blank. I chose “Spanish 7”, the last of the course, despite I’m nowhere near advanced and, yeah, I’m very bored. The voices aren’t bland, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.

To clarify, I don’t think any of these websites are bad. Different things work for different people. Memrise, for example, happens to be very popular and is considered a great resource, so long as the user understands it will not get them to fluency. Meanwhile, as I said, I don’t like it at all. I’m reminded of being four years old and playing with addition and subtraction flash cards.

As fun as it is to experiment with these apps, I think I’ll stick to what I have for now. I plan to buy a Kindle and order a few basic Spanish books (my town’s library is not open due to lockdown). In the meantime, Busuu and the beginner “how to learn Spanish” book I have are doing it for me. And DuoLingo once in a while.

I may try RS again, if only to complete some of the sections.

DuoLingo VS Busuu

I recently realized I’m spending more time fiddling with language learning apps than I am playing with my Sims games, despite I’m sticking solely to Spanish.

I have tried DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, Memrise, Babbel, Mondly, and the newest to my experiences, Busuu. Of them, DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, and Busuu are the only ones I stick consistently with, though Busuu replaced RS for me because I got a bit lost when I finished all the plans RS offers. Seems I prefer being led than being in a sandbox when it comes to learning.

I liked Babbel, but their voice recognition is awful. I tested with other apps. My phone isn’t the problem. Changing the sensitivity doesn’t help. Babbel‘s mic apparently finicky, and that’s it.

Annoyingly, Busuu is a paid learning site, as most of them are (this is one of the biggest reasons DuoLingo is extremely popular), so I purchased a monthly subscription ($10) to try it out, and cancelled so it won’t auto-renew. Price aside, I found it some conspicuous similarities to Duo. Leaderboards, scores, a daily goal, cuteness. However, it does something for DuoLingo doesn’t: challenge me.

A complaint I made in my last post about language apps is that DuoLingo isn’t hard for me, despite supposedly being on level 14 at the time. I’m now at level 24 and it’s still not difficult. Apparently, the levels are meaningless, and only in relation to how many XP points a user has collected. Level 25 is the highest and happens at thirty thousand points, which I’m very close to. At this point, I use Duo only to keep up my streak. I still learn some things, but it really is little more than a game for kids in my eyes.

Busuu, on the other hand, has shown me just how little I learned from Duo. Their placement test puts me at A2, which is apparently elementary school level and let me skip the first section (A1, beginner), yet I feel like I’m below that. While Busuu has text exercises, it seems to be more audio-based. You’re expected to listen to dialogue first, and answer questions about it, and there are very few hints. Mercifully, Busuu does not have a penalty system (hearts), so mistakes don’t frustrate me as much. It also seems to be more focused on giving examples that are applicable to everyday life versus the often silly sentences Duo uses.

However, I don’t intend to continue paying for Busuu at the moment, so after my subscription expires, it seems I’ll return to Duo and RS. While I like Busuu more than Duo, I don’t think any app or site is worth consistently paying money or a high price. Even as much as I like RS, I don’t think it was worth $200 (lifetime subscription). Of course, education in general is a business, but that’s a different subject entirely, and one I refuse to dive into.