Everything Is Made Easier Thanks To The Internet

In high school I took two semester of German and in college I took two semesters of Japanese. Unfortunately my knowledge of these languages has deteriorated to such a point where I can’t read, write, or speak anything intelligible in either. This is mostly because I’ve had no real means of maintaining that knowledge.

Some time ago a friend pointed me to Duolingo, a website that focuses on helping people learn languages. I’ve been playing with it for a few days and I must say that it has impressed me. Sadly Japanese isn’t available but German is so I’ve been relearning a bit of that.

I’ve also been working on Esperanto. Why would anybody learn a manufactured language? Because a surprising number of people in various anarchist communities, including the ones here in the Twin Cities, know it. And because I’m not terribly good with human languages because I lack an understanding of basic language concepts. My hope is a manufactured language that is consistent in its rules will help me learn the concepts enough to make learning other languages easier.

In both cases I’ve been surprised at how well Duolingo works. The fact that it gamifies language learning helps motivate me to keep with it (I’m a sucker for imaginary Internet points). But the fact that it has you translate phrases both ways and, in the case of German, speak some of it helps.

What amazes me is that it wasn’t that long ago that the only practical way to study a language was to enroll in a language class at a university. Now there is a website that offer the basics for free and gamifies it to motivate you to keep studying. I’m constantly in awe of this future we live in, especially in how it makes access to previously scarce information widely available.