Greetings from Estonia

I’ve been using Lingvist as well as Duolingo to study French, and have just this week subscribed to Memrise as well.

I’m using Duolingo to study Spanish at the same time. Possibly a bad idea, but there it is.

Spanish is the language I’ve studied longest, and I’ve always wanted to finally be able to understand Spanish-speaking people, so … although I’ll be spending 6 weeks in Paris, I didn’t want to ‘give up’ my Spanish. So I’m doing one Duolingo “Experience” in Spanish each day along with 6 Experiences in French. Plus 100 French cards on Lingvist.

Oddly, the only serious interference between French and Spanish I’ve experienced so far involves the word for ice cream. What’s odd about that is the fact that I don’t remember how to say “ice cream” in either language, so why should not remembering how to say “ice cream” in Spanish interfere with remembering how to say “ice cream” in French ? 

Whenever I’m asked to supply the French word for ice cream, I recall instead that the Spanish word for ice cream begins with an ‘h,’ which makes me think the French word starts with an ‘h,’ too.

After that my mind becomes a complete blank. 

Ice cream in Spanish: helado
Ice cream in French: glacé

Why helado-starts-with-an-h should obstruct glacé-starts-with-a-g, I don’t know.


Sante !

I have no idea whether fanning out among multiple apps is wise. I was thinking that using different apps might give me a slightly different take on the language, or perhaps different points of entry to each word, which might make the words easier to remember.

I don’t know that I’m getting different perspectives on French, and it’s impossible to tell whether multiple apps speed up my recall of the same words.

But I’m definitely getting a whole new perspective on Estonia, the home country of Lingvist’s creator.

Lingvist takes a more sober view of French than do either Duolingo or Memrise. I mean that literally: Memrise teaches you how to say “Bottoms up” in the first 10 words.

Which is kind of funny when you think about it, since nobody says “Bottoms up” in English. 

Sante !

Lingvist’s sobriety is a lot of fun after all the green owls and health bars and space cadets and whatnots of the other two. Nevertheless, I frequently find Lingvist amusing.

For instance, according to Lingvist, I know 1,422 French words (I think that’s 1,422 words, not word families, but I’m not sure) which would allow me to read 77% of the words of any text.

To read fluently, you need to know 98% of the words of a text, so I’m months away from my reading goal. Yet Lingvist thinks it’s important for me, at this stage of the game, to comprehend the following:

Ce qui représente entre six et huit réalisations par an

Which represents between six to eight realisations per year

I have trouble envisioning myself ever wishing to say anything of this nature in French.

All the more so given that I don’t know what a realisation is in English.

5 thoughts on “Greetings from Estonia

  1. From context (and a good 90 seconds of research), I get the feeling that the English translation of your French example is weak. Without further surrounding text, I’m getting the feeling that “accomplishments”, “projects”, or possibly even “breakthroughs” might work better.

    But that’s without any significant knowledge of French. 😎

    A major part of the reason that I suspect this is that I’ve seen all too many translations that run word for word rather than concept for concept, and this rather feels like that kind of translation to me.

    (See also, “English as She is Spoke”: )


  2. I’m doing both Italian and French right now on Duolingo every morning when I get up. (Apparently, because I am sort of an idiot. Not sure this was a particularly good idea.)

    I’ve been teaching Henle First Year Latin for a few years to students, I took 2 years of French in middle school (back in the early Pleistocene era), and have no experience with Italian. (My daughter’s boyfriend is taking Italian and needed some … encouragement … to do his Duolingo homework, so we started up one of their competition clubs in the app to motivate him and I ended up getting hooked.)

    The first big stop problem I ran into was “il” — he in French, masculine definite article (“the”) in Italian.

    I had a friend many year ago, when my first child was just a baby. They were bilingual in their home, so one parent always spoke Spanish, the other English. Their child did not speak a *word* until he was two years old, but when he did, he was perfectly bilingual. I kinda feel like that kid, but still very early in the process — it’s taking me forever to learn to context switch back and forth between them, but it’s forcing me to really have to stop and think and interact, so I feel like I am laying down some solid pathways and will know it better in the end.


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