The ups, downs and weirdness of learning a language online

Well – it’s been a week of ‘back to reality’ for me!  I made significantly less progress in my project this week, as expected, because I had less free time to focus!

The ‘Ups’

This week I was fairly consistent with listening to French radio, there were a few times my kids had to remind me to switch the station so they could listen to music!  I certainly noticed this week that I was able to ‘decode’ a lot more of what was happening in the radio conversations (I recognized a discussion of gas prices around the province, the daily forecast, and a conversation about a study-from PEW research centre I believe-that looked at the types of lunches people have while at work) so that was really a confidence booster (I’m getting somewhere!).  I was also able to have real life face to face conversations this week – which is helpful because I can have real time help when I am confused about words (or the order to use the words in!)

The second CBC Radio-Canada logo, adopted in 1958.
Thank goodness for French radio

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1773873

Another positive for the week – I received 5 new picture books en francais- I can’t wait to practice reading (and decoding) these books aloud!

The ‘Downs’

Well, my goal for the week was to continue to meet my Duolingo goal, and to supplement with Mango languages learning app, as I like the alternative format that they offer.  The unfortunate part of the week was that I was unable to spend a lot of additional time supplementing my learning with Mango after I finished with my Duolingo lessons!

For the two apps I’ve noticed a couple of things:

With Duolingo, I’ve spent a lot of time completing my lessons on my phone this week.  There were many times that I was working on the lessons, and I had started to ‘pick out my words’

IMG_2142
screenshot from Duolingo phone lesson

As I moved my thumb away to pick my next word, I inadvertently hit the ‘check’ button prematurely, which caused my ‘progress’ on the lesson to decline.  I noticed it happening several times a day this week- very frustrating when you are trying to zip through a lesson!

Mango follows a different lesson structure, and with the time I was able to spend on the app this week, I noticed the amount of repetition it incorporates.  I know repetition is necessary for learning a language, and certainly Duolingo repeats as well, however, NOT with the overly cheery voice over:  “And repeat, and repeat, (brings previous words out of left field)say this – isn’t this easy”?

While I like the format that Mango offers (and I do find I say the words aloud much more often), I miss the opportunity to be ‘heard’ (recorded) as is the case in Duolingo – and there’s also something to be said for the urgency Duolingo creates with its daily goal reminder.  I feel slightly stressed if I haven’t met my daily goal on Duolingo, and with Mango I don’t feel a pressing urgency to get on the app daily.

The Weird

I found this week I had a surge of new followers on Twitter, I had spent some time looking for French PLN groups or support sites and different ways to supplement my learning.  After sharing a few of my project posts on Twitter, I found my new followers included Language World and Speaky – which are both connected to language learning.  When I started to look into the apps and things these followers offered, something seems off with Speaky; however, the programs they were promoting reminded me of a video we had watched early in the semester:

Revisiting this video had me thinking that it would be really nice to find a speaking exchange.  After completing a few google searches, Coeffee seemed like a good place to start.  It was a simple few steps to set up an account, you select the language you currently speak and the language you are learning, and then it takes you to a list of people who have experience speaking the language you are learning.  *Here’s where it gets weird*  within a minute of going on the site, I found someone from Quebec to speak with, I sent her a ‘bonjour, comment ca va?’ – she did not respond to me, however a male who was not looking to learn English began messaging me, in English.  I tried to side-step the conversation by responding with “bonjour, comment ca va?” to which he responded “can you just talk to me in English”.  I got the feeling very quickly that this was NOT the type of speaking exchange that I had been expecting and in fact felt more like a chat room for single people.  I have deleted my account, and have not found any other ‘speaking exchanges’ to participate in!

Am I just going to end up in chat rooms if I try this again, or does anyone know of an authentic place to do a ‘speaking exchange’?

Next week

For next week, I will continue to primarily use Duolingo and supplement with Mango as time permits.  I will also continue with listening to French radio, having my french conversations (three times per week), and I will work to read and translate at least one of my French picture books.

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4 thoughts on “The ups, downs and weirdness of learning a language online

  1. Great work this week, Amy! I honestly couldn’t agree more with Mango; great for developing new strengths in language learning, but very repetitive. That being said, I got bored with the repetitive Mango lessons, so I took the placement test and skipped over a unit and a half. Then I try to do the new lessons, and I am missing some words and knowledge!

    I would also love to find a speaking exchange, although I am nervous about having to speak with possibly Native speakers! Perhaps your bravery in doing so this week will encourage me to do the same. Good for you for finding one, and I will ask around at work if they know of any others, possibly more towards your goals, that they suggest for their students.

    Keep up the great work, Amy!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I totally agree about Mango- I tried to skip ahead and I felt like the way they have scaffolded the learning makes its really important to go through the lessons. As for doing a speaking exchange- I may be placing the cart before the horse, but I think it’s nice to have things lined up for when I’m really ready (and I think it doesn’t hurt to try)!

  2. Hello there, you have done a good job! To learn another language, it is necessary to speak loudly as much as you can, try to communicate with native speakers, instead of being afraid of making mistakes. I always want to learn Cantonese. I can understand a little Cantonese, but I still stay where I am, no more improvement, as I am afraid of speaking and making mistakes.

    1. Thank you so much! I do try and speak aloud as much as possible, but I am certainly very slow at translating/understanding what people are saying. But I figure as long as I put a “I’m not very good at this yet” disclaimer on everything – people should be pretty forgiving!

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