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.

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.

Handwriting: Outdated Now?

When I was attending my second high school, one of the rules was handwritten homework isn’t allowed. Anyone who turned in handwritten work failed the assignment, regardless of if they would’ve passed otherwise. I always thought that was a strange rule, especially since we did most of the classwork with paper and pencil until the school gave students iPads during my second year.

I asked this in a Facebook group of mine and got this question in response: “Would you turn in handwritten work at a job?” My answer to that question was unless I was told otherwise, I would give handwritten work.

Apparently, that’s not a good idea. Handwritten work is seen as unprofessional (despite that writing takes more work than typing…), so it isn’t acceptable in jobs. That leads me to this question: why was handwriting ever taught to children in the first place?

Yes, that’s a serious question. If school is supposed to prepare children to hold jobs as adults, why was handwriting taught when I was growing up? My elementary school years were a decade ago, so not that long. Shouldn’t I have never been taught how to write in the first place if it’s unacceptable? And why is it still being taught today? I once read an article about how many recent high school graduates have poor reading and writing skills. I don’t know about the reading, but if handwriting is no longer acceptable, it makes why they’d have poor writing skills. They don’t need them.

I have to admit it’s something that makes me sad and little less optimistic about the future. In another decade, maybe less, handwriting will be an obsolete skill, if it isn’t already. That means there will someday be a whole generation that has never learned how to write or has never heard of handwriting. I understand why if it’s a needless skill, but I can’t say it doesn’t make me question my own early education years. Since I don’t plan to have kids, this isn’t I need to be concerned about. It’s merely me trying to adjust the world becoming more and more digitized. I was prepared for typing to be alongside handwriting, not its replacement.

I can’t find it right now, but I remember seeing a political (?) cartoon where two kids were in class and had books. One kid turned to his friend and asked what it was and how to turn it on. I initially rolled my eyes and scoffed at it, but maybe the artist of that cartoon isn’t so far off the mark. Sure, books are typed instead of handwritten, but I can see a kid looking at handwriting, perhaps finding a picture of it on the internet, and asking how they type it instead of how they write it.

Handwriting becoming obsolete also makes me understand giving very small children tablets. I always found that weird because tablets, even ones specifically designed for children, are expensive and small kids are gluttons are clumsiness and accidents. But if they’re going to type their work, whether it’s on an iPad or a computer, instead of writing on paper, little kids do need tablets. At the very least, they have to learn how to type somehow and somewhere.

Personally, I can’t imagine not knowing how to write and despite it becoming an unneeded skill, it’s one I don’t want to lose. At the same time, I suppose it doesn’t matter. If it’s not needed now, it certainly won’t be needed when I’m 30, 40, 55, and so on, assuming I live to those ages. I probably wouldn’t realize I’d lost the ability to write if I ever did, so maybe it’s something I shouldn’t be thinking about at all.

Technology marches on.

The Age Game

Apologies I continue bringing this up, but this isn’t solely about Winx Club. I promise!

A thought that just came to my mind is the person who told lies about me once said something along the lines of “Enchantix is younger than new viewers”, referring to children today who may like Winx Club. I saw the post because one of my friends reblogged it, so it appeared on my dashboard. Apparently, Enchantix, which came out in 2006, being younger than today’s generation is a reason it should be forgotten.

Maybe I was some kind of oddball child, but when I was a kid, I watched shows and movies that were older than me. In fact, my most favorite cartoon of all time is:

That’s right! Tom & Jerry! I grew up watching this hilarious show, but – get this – I was born in 1994! Tom & Jerry first premiered on February 10, 1940 and the classic collection ended in 1967, 27 years before I was born. How could this wonderful show have been a part of my childhood, the majority of which took place during the 00s decade, if it ended nearly 30 years before I was born? I certainly didn’t have a computer, let alone internet, when I was five years old, but I was so often laughing my little butt off at this show. And no, it wasn’t the new era of the show I was watching. Nope. I saw the classic series on Cartoon Network as a kid. That was the one I watched as I grew up and I still watch it. It runs on Boomerang every night from 12 to 1:30.

Let’s get into movies. My most favorite animation company is Disney. Right now, my most favorite film of theirs is Frozen, but before Queen Elsa and Princess Anna came along, I was obsessed with and adored a certain mermaid. What’s her name? Hmm. What’s the name of that gorgeous, redheaded mermaid with the most beautiful voice Disney created? Oh, right. Her name is…

…Ariel! The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, five years before I was born. I first saw it at the age of 12, when it came out on DVD in 2006, 17 years after its premiere. I watched this film so many times, it’s a wonder the DVD still works. Frozen was released in 2013, 7 years later. Now, how could this lovely mermaid-turned-human have been my favorite princess for 7 years when her film is older than me?

Now that I think about it, how could I have loved the Disney Princess franchise at all? Sure, the franchise didn’t start until 2000, but before 2009, all except two of the princesses’ films were older than me and the two that weren’t came out in 1995 and 1998. I was 1 in 1995 and 3 in 1998, and I had never watched any Disney Princess film until I saw The Little Mermaid in 2006. How would I even know the Disney Princess franchise exists? Ariel alone isn’t proof of that and I sure didn’t beg for everything else Disney simply because I liked Ariel. However, I did have a computer with internet access in 2006. So, can you guess what I did? I went online – gasp! – searched The Little Mermaid, and that search led me to the rest of the princess films and, consequentially, Disney. Voila! Films that are older than me. Watched every one of them online before I got them on DVD because my mother would’ve had my head on a platter if she bought something for me I asked for and I turned out not to like it. Luckily, I did like them and thus began my collection. Isn’t technology great?

Other shows I enjoyed as a kid that are older than me would be Rugrats (began in 1991), Captain Planet (1990), Doug (which started and ended before I was born!), and All That (4/16/94, eleven days before my birth). And yes, I did see the first episode of all of these shows on television. Not when they first premiered, obviously, but on TV.

In regards to Winx Club and today’s children being younger than Enchantix, guess what? Season 3, and Enchantix, is currently showing on the Nick Jr block. At the moment, it’s in the latter half of the season. Sure, it’s Nickelodeon’s dub, but it’s still season 3 with Enchantix. So, today’s kids, if they watch Winx Club, will see Enchantix.

Now, how is that possible if Enchantix first came around in 2006? How could I have seen the first episode of shows that began before I was born if I didn’t have the internet as a kid? Gee, I wonder…

They’re called reruns, people! 😆

Digitization

It goes without saying the world is moving more and more towards being digital. Video games, books, movies, even TV services can all be purchased and used online. Whenever I’d hear adults talking about technology “taking over”, I’ll roll my eyes and think they were stuck in the past, but I feel like I’m beginning to understand why they feel that way.

Someday, there will be no more libraries, no more video game stores, and no more DVDs on the shelves. All those businesses will eventually close because everything they sell will be purchasable online and companies will stop producing physical copies. Writing will become an ancient skill because everyone will type. Some schools have already stopped teaching children penmanship. Personally, I can’t imagine not knowing how to write and it’s a skill I never want to lose, but I understand why handwriting is becoming viewed as a needless skill now. By the time I was in high school, I didn’t have a single teacher who would accept handwritten homework assignments. If you didn’t type it out, you automatically failed, even if the work itself was satisfactory.

I’m well aware digital is more environmentally friendly above all, but knowing what will eventually happen to pastimes like writing and visiting the library depresses me. When I purchase a digital copy of something, I don’t feel like I own it because it’s not in my possession. I have three full shelves of books. I can easily look at them and say they’re mine. But a digital book? Whose is that? Yes, I paid for it, but I don’t have it. The company I bought it from has it. I don’t have any control over what happens to it. The only way someone can steal the physical books I have is by breaking into my home and taking them by force. And even then, it’s unlikely all of them would be stolen, as the shelf is too heavy to be carried safely anywhere while it’s full.

But how would I be protected against having my digital books stolen, if I bought any? Or what if the company pulls the books from their site or end up going out of business? I lose all of my books and I don’t get my money back. Thus, I’d have to buy the entire collection again rather than just the few I lost.

Progress can’t be stopped, so it’s not like I’m attempting to fight against it. I like technology very much. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a computer or any consoles or a cell phone. I’m far from a technophobe. At the same time, I don’t want technology to take over everything. I want to still read at library, shop for games and DVDs at the store, and buy pens and pencils to write in my diary. Yes, I understand these are sentimental reasons, but there are also sentimental reasons for going digital. Not having to leave your home, not having to use up space, and so on. For people who prefer that, the world going digital probably borders on feeling like a gift from the heavens.

I also wonder how far it’s going to go. I feel like it won’t stop at digital libraries and typing instead of handwriting. I’ve read that my generation is the last that regularly played outside. Now, I do still see children playing outside, but not often and not many. I used to find the idea ludicrous, but now I truly believe it’s possible technology will someday allow people to never need to leave their homes. That someday, playgrounds and parks will be torn down due to abandonment and games like tag and hide & seek will become unheard of because all children will know are digital games. I hope so much I’m wrong, but it’s no longer far-fetched for me. I can picture it happening.

I realize I’m probably being a hypocrite in coming out with all of this. I used to say people who hate technology were stuck in the past and yet, I now sound like I’m stuck in the past. I don’t hate technology, but the feeling is the same. Everything will eventually be digitized and I’m going to miss times before that occurred. As dramatic as it may sound, I almost hope I don’t live long enough to see that. Technology is amazing and I don’t want to live without it, but I also don’t want live without handwriting and hard copies of books, games, and shows. Progress isn’t leaving anyone a choice, however, so for those like me who aren’t so enthusiastic, we can only suck it up and hope for the best, whatever that could be.