Monday, January 30, 2017

duoLingo (free language software)


After using duoLingo for a couple of months on an almost daily basis, I am downgrading my rating to 1 star.

It leaves a LOT to be desired when you use it regularly, at least in terms of the French lessons provided.

 Initially, both Joe and I loved duoLingo. But it is painfully obvious that it is strictly a volunteer-based program that relies their (probably untested) skills in the language they are teaching there.

We found too many mistakes in translations, too many 'weird" sentences that made no sense, too many times we were penalized when we actually had a correct answer and it wasn't recorded correctly in our stats, slowing our progress to a crawl.

 For example, I went through one module recently, had 1 LETTER incorrect for the whole lesson, and the next day, this module once again showed up as requiring a review!!! Come on.....

Too bad, but it was time to look for other options.

 I still am very pumped to learn French but I don't want to be wasting time in the process.


Here is my previous review 4 star rating, about this software:

I have wanted to get back to learning French for a long time and recently decided to actually do something about it. ;-)

I started by checking out a few kindle books that promised a lot but did not actually deliver much, after browsing carefully through these books. I also knew it would be a LOT easier if I could actually hear the pronunciations of words as I progressed, not just to focus on writing the language, which is a rather limited way to learn any language, including French.

Then I started looking at language software available online and found:

And after less than 10 days of using this language software, I can happily share that it's been a great experience to date! And according to the duoLingo site my progress as of yesterday has been that I am already 18% fluent in French. :-) I think that's stretching it a bit, but it still is encouraging.  

Except for a smattering of French that I remember from high school and some  lessons with my first mother-in-law who was oh, so French (born in Quebec), I don't know much about the language at all. But determined I am, to learn how to speak and write French at a fairly good level, by the time I complete my studies. 

So, what do I like about duoLingo? 

Well, first of all there's the price, it is totally FREE!!! 

I haven't found any other language software that offers what they do, without a price tag attached.

And there are no add-ons, pop-ups or annoying emails day after day, with this service either. You CAN sign up for a reminder email each day or week, but it's not mandatory. They let you decide.

The lessons progress in an easy to follow way. Starting with some basic words and phrases and building on each module as you progress. There are also some mini reviews to help you retain what you've just learned, if you decide to use them after a particular lesson of the day.

I've been averaging a couple of lessons each day along with a review and it seems like the right amount of material to cover, without totally forgetting it all, before the next time I study! No point if the retention isn't there, right??

This site also offers many other languages, and again all for free. Spanish has the most number of students right now, with French being second. I noted German, Esperanto, Russian, Portuguese and many more. There are also quite a few languages that are being considered for addition to their site.

About the only thing I don't like about the course is that it is not always able to hear the pronunciations of the words, at a slower rate. They only have that feature on limited numbers of pages in each lesson. For me, it is SO helpful to be able to hear the pronunciation of each word, slowly and in a more pronounced way, to begin with. That is something I would like to see changed. 

But overall, I am just loving this new learning experience. I am already looking forward to trying another language, when I complete the French course, I'm thinking Spanish or German next! ;-)

If you've been considering learning a new language, are heading to foreign country for a trip soon, or just need a refresher on a language you already know, give duoLingo a try. I think you'll be glad you did!

Updated rating as of April 28, 2017: Unsatisfactory. 1 out of 5

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Down & Dirty by Ellen Zachos (a gardening book!)

Down and Dirty by Ellen Zachos

With gardening season just around the corner, this wonderful book by talented author and gardener: Ellen Zachos, came to mind today. 

I am definitely a novice gardener, but I   the idea of being a lot more skilled at this oh so popular hobby.

Yes, I've had my patches of potatoes, the occasional perfect tomato, some pretty flower beds... over the years.  But as for a true "green thumb" mine definitely ain't!! 

 This particular gardening book appealed to me so much. Not just because it is so visually beautiful but mainly due to it giving the "gardening challenged" like me, the hope of actually creating a beautiful and unique garden. All of the numerous garden theme projects in this book provide a welcome creative challenge; but most of all, look like lots of fun too.

You can read my full book review here that I wrote a few years ago. 

No matter what kind of gardener you are, novice, expert or somewhere in between, I think you will   this book!!! 

PS: I noted this collage in my photo archives when I was putting together this post. One that I created a few years ago. Thought it went well with the theme of this post too.

Spring flowers can't be too far away,  now that we are on Vancouver Island.  The spring season comes even earlier here, compared to other parts of BC. ;-)

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