la festive est meilleur que les baguettes

The blog’s title “J’aime le pain mais j’adore les baguettes” is a sentence from Duolingo. Duolingo is a free website / phone app for learning languages. You sign up, select the language, do a small test to determine your level and then you can practise.

You practise hearing, speaking and reading French, though you can switch off the hearing and speaking part if you don’t have a microphone handy or if you don’t want to sound like a madwoman on the bus. There are several “skills” containing two or more “lectures” which can be completed in a very short amount of time. I actually did complete some of them on the bus or subway or shortly before falling asleep. I think talking to the computer instead of a teacher, and occasionally repeating something 5 times, helped me with pronunciation. I knew the theory but the sing-song of French felt weird. It’s simply different talking to a non-judgmental, endlessly patient machine ;-)

Duolingo tries the whole gamification approach to learning: you can follow people and compare your progress, measured in experience (XP) with theirs and you get lingots for things like completing skills and for streaks – the number of consecutive days you did a minimum of 10 XP.

Duolingo was surprisingly good at that. My streak was over 40 days when I was in Iceland and the hotel’s wireless connection was terrible and the cellphone reception was too, and I didn’t complete my daily 10 XP. I let it slide after that, but now I’m back, practising daily and telling my phone and/or computer “Le requin mange la tortue.”

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