Resolution Take One: Doing something new

Right so I’m cheating a little with this one, but I’ve decided to write about my resolutions and my attempts to stick to them. Obviously, my resolutions– and goals which are listed in the tab “2014” above– are fairly vague. I hope to make these more specific as I focus on something; so here it goes:

For the “try something new” and “make something new” resolutions I am going to learn french.

Now, like I said, I’m being a bit of a cheat with this one. As with anyone from the Isle of Man, and just about every other child who had an education at some point; I was taught languages at school. My primary school forced us to endure french lessons from year three, so I was about eight years old, with the teacher we affectionally called the “wicked witch”. We would dive under our tables when we spotted her car pulling up the long drive way every morning… Now, being 22 I couldn’t tell you if the lessons themselves were bad or she was a bad teacher, or maybe we were just a terrible class to handle.

All I know is that from then on I hated learning languages.

This carried on into high school where we now not only had to endure compulsory lessons in french, but also german. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly thrilling. In fact, I remember my own mum (who worked at the school and was quite friendly with the french teacher) screaming my name down the corridor when she found out that I had been skiving the class. Humiliating as that was, it just further embedded my feeling of hate for the subject.

German, on the other hand, seemed a bit easier. The words were less romantic and flowing; and sounded much more english.

Ironically, looking back, I think I would have actually done better in French. I remember the handful of times that I attended the class and had to speak I did rather well. Though that might have been due to the fact I was in the lowest set and it wasn’t particularly hard to seem smart in that class. Maybe some of the wicked witch’s lessons had stuck with me because I have no fond memories of public speaking in my German classes.

However, year nine saw my lessons in any type of modern language being brought to an abrupt stop when those in the lower sets were forced to drop one of the classes (yes!) and when we were making our GCSE choices, those who were only taking one class were allowed to drop languages all together (brilliant!). As you can imagine, I had a very blissful few years of high school following this while my smarter friends struggled with their speaking, listening and writing exams.

Just to clarify, every other subject I was in one of the top two sets so I would admit that it was my lack of interest or motivation which made me such a terrible student in that area.

So here I am, over six years later and realising the importance of learning a language. Not only to make me “stand out” but the job that I want at the minute involves travelling around Europe, so I at least need to know one of the languages. Though my family is generally brought up with the theory that if you shout at them enough and add in some crazy hand gestures they might get the jist of what you’re saying– you can tell we’re not fond of travelling.

But as I was thinking about this, I randomly came across Michelle Wray‘s blog on learning new languages. Talk about inspiration hitting at just the right moment! She mentions several tips for learning languages, which you should read for yourself if you’re interested or bored. But one of the main hints she mentions is something that I’ve heard about before, DuoLingo.

Duolingo I’ve heard of before while watching some TEDx videos (I’ll go into those another time). But I found out something quite interesting– Duolingo is a free online method of learning any new language (seriously, there’s so much money being made in teaching people new languages it’s amazing that this is free and half decent), but it’s also doing something other than teaching you a new language. The website doesn’t offer you random translations, but you know how Google Translate can translate words and phrases? Well, Duolingo uses those people learning new languages with their product, and uses that effort to translate real documents.

Here’s how it works: Somebody who needs a webpage translated uploads it to Duolingo. That document then gets presented to Duolingo students who can translate it in order to practice the language they are learning. When the document is fully translated, Duolingo returns it to the original content owner who, depending on the type of document they uploaded, pays for the translation.

About Duolingo

Because there’s no guarantee that computer power is 100 per cent accurate and to use professionals would cost a fortune. So basically by using this product, you’re not only going to become a pro speaker (writer and listener) of a new language (like me, hopefully…) but you’re basically helping translate the latest www.forbes.comStephen King novel so people in other countries can read it also.

Though that’s coming from someone who’s only managed to complete the first Basic level on the website.

So let’s see how this goes…



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