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.

 

Don’t Just “Learn To Code”

It seems “learn to code” is the replacement for “get a job”.

Yes, I know its origins, but as of late, it’s become a response to almost anyone who complains about their current job and options (or lack of), especially during 2020.

Here’s the problem: coding sucks.

At least, if it’s only a means to an end.

It’s a lot more than merely “learn to code”. A mere few months of playing on freecodecamp.org isn’t enough. Devoting a single hour every day isn’t enough. Heck, completing every single lesson on the website isn’t enough (you have dozens more websites, hundreds of books, and thousands of videos to go!).

Being self-taught and making that profitable will require years and thousands of hours.

Frankly, that’s patience I do not have. Same reason I despise gen ed courses from community college.

I don’t believe so much as basic coding is a necessity if you don’t plan to do some kind of work with it. I still haven’t met anyone who used algebra beyond high school if their field didn’t require it.

Code because you’re genuinely interested, because you’re in love with it, because you want a career out of it. Please don’t throw yourself into a humongous, frustrating world because a random person on Reddit told you.

I made this mistake when I attended community college for the first time. I never wanted to attend right after high school anyway, but since my family wouldn’t shut up, I picked a degree that was supposed to be lucrative.

I dropped by the next semester. As did several of my friends who were pressured by their families into college.

I toy around with coding when I am bored and Pokémon has stopped amusing me. Even then, I do it for an hour at most. The truth is I have no desire to stare at a screen for 8 – 10 hours a day. Really, I already do that, but at least it’s not every second of my shift.

Sure, you could argue most people don’t love their jobs (I certainly don’t!), but most people don’t commit years of their life to studying to get a job they hate. Some do, but certainly not most.

If someone believes they would like coding and wants to try, I’d absolutely encourage them. But if they discover they don’t like it – as I did – that’s okay. “Everyone can code” has the same context as “everyone can hold a pencil and scribble something”. I can use extremely basic HTML. That’s coding. That’s all I’ll ever be able to do, and some people can’t do that much (my boyfriend, for example, thinks the HTML to make stylized text like bold and underline looks complicated, despite I typed it right in front of him; he can’t comprehend it).

Learn to code… if you want to.

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.