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.

I Can’t Speak Spanish

I can read Spanish. I can write Spanish. I can understand Spanish if I’m spoken to slowly.

But I cannot speak Spanish. Nor will I ever.

Let me be more specific: I’m afraid to speak Spanish.

The farthest I go is a random phrase or term of endearment (mi amor) to my boyfriend. But I will not speak to him regularly. I refuse to let him hear me do lessons with the apps I use.

I am embarrassed.

I try. But I always forget:

  • Which conjugations are appropriate
  • The exceptions to the rules (and there are several)
  • Which order is appropriate
  • Which freaking word is appropriate for context
  • What the heck imperative, subjunctive, and preterite mean (Granted, I don’t know the difference between “past tense” and “part participle” either, but my native tongue is English, so I don’t need to)
  • If what I’m trying to say will come out as I intend it to
  • How to finish what I want to say (more than once, I’ve tried to say a sentence, only to realize I don’t know a word I need)

Ultimately, I spend more time thinking of how to say what I want to say than saying anything out loud. The person in front of me doesn’t have time to wait for the gears in my head to finish turning, so I speak English before my thought processes can finish.

Naturally, every time I think it’s right, it’s wrong.

I reached the conclusion fluency simply will not happen for me. I never needed it. My reason for picking it up again (after years away) was my boyfriend’s family’s background, but only his mom doesn’t speak English, so it was never a necessity so much as something I merely wanted to do (because my difficulties aside, I genuinely like learning languages; I suck at it, but I like it).

I will continue playing with apps – literacy and chat – because it’s fun, but “bilingual” won’t be on my resume at any point in my lifetime, and “polyglot” is reserved for my long forgotten fan fiction characters.