Duolingo Challenge | Learning Polish in 90 Days

If you have been a long-time reader of my posts, you may have seen a post a while back that talks about a free language-learning app called Duolingo. I have always loved using Duolingo as a supplement to my language-learning. Never have I used it to learn a language on its own. That’s why I decided to challenge myself to learn a language from scratch ONLY using Duolingo. That means no help from others, no using forvo for pronunciation, no YouTube videos on Polish lessons, absolutely nothing except the Duolingo Polish course itself.

I have completed two trees on Duolingo so far: French and Portuguese. I was taking classes in conjunction with using the app on my own, so by the time I finished both trees, the lessons were more of a review. What I learned in class was more advanced than what I had learned with the app. Even so, I thought it was great for reinforcing some of the content that I learned in class.

The reason why I decided to do this challenge is because I’m genuinely curious as to how much of a language I can learn with only using Duolingo. I don’t expect to be conversational by the end of the challenge, maybe just have basic knowledge. Since the Polish tree is large, I don’t expect to finish all the lessons in 90 days, if I’m properly pacing myself and making sure that I understand what I am learning.

WHY POLISH?

I probably should have done this challenge with a language that is closer to the languages I speak, but I wouldn’t have had enough motivation to push me to keep learning the language after a while. I’ve been wanting to study Polish for a long time for a few reasons, but one of the most compelling reasons is because of my grandma. She was born in the U.S. but I was told that she spoke Polish at home as a kid. It has been a while since she has used it, I only hear her use some words here and there, but I would like to surprise her by speaking some Polish to her. Like I said, I don’t expect to have an entire conversation with her beyond something very basic. I’m just looking to surprise her!

If you want to follow my Polish language journey, you can check out the first video of my challenge here:

I would also be thrilled if you would join me in my challenge! You don’t have to study Polish, but any language you would like to from scratch. I would love to see how far you could get in 90 days from just using Duolingo. It would be especially interesting to see the comparison at the end if others are studying other languages! If you’re interested in joining me, please leave a comment letting me know either below or on this forum!

Live Without Regrets

My dad has used the line: Live your life in such a way that you will have no regrets at the end. The reason he says that is because at the age of 10, he lost his father to a sudden heart attack, at age 11 he lost his home and every earthly possession to a major flood, and at the age of 12 his favorite baseball player was killed in a tragic airplane accident. He learned early on that things don’t last and that you never know what tomorrow will bring. He said that if you want to do something, do it; if you want to say something, say it. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and say, “I wish I would have…” or “I wish I wouldn’t have…”

I just finished my senior year of college. With that comes a flood of questions, but there is one that I have been dwelling on, even before I graduated: How do you feel? 

Just like any other life-changing situation I’ve gone through, I felt and am feeling a lot of things. However, not one of them is regret. I made sure to make the most of my time at Gettysburg during my four years there. I did almost everything and visited every restaurant that I wanted to, leaving me satisfied. Most of all, I made memories that I will never forget.

This past school year, my introverted side took over more than ever and I know that part of that was due to reverse culture shock. During the two semesters, I constantly battled with wanting to have alone time because of being drained from work, but also wanting to make sure that I was spending time with those who were special to me before potentially never seeing any of them again.

Despite having the mentality of wanting to spend time with others, there were times where saying “no” was necessary for the sake of being able to rest. There were also times where I needed to put my work aside for an hour, after working on it for many hours, to spend time with my friends. In the end, I wasn’t left wishing that I had spent more time with people. Life is all about balance and balance prevents regret.

So how do I feel after all is said and done? I am still swimming in a sea of feelings, but making the most of my time at school has helped me feel ready to move on overall. No matter what stage of life you are in, if you just finished high school, just finished college, or if you are finishing a completely different chapter of life, make the most of it because you never know what will come next.

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Your Grade Isn’t Always a Product of Your Work

During finals week at colleges across the country, libraries are filled with students, empty classrooms are occupied after class hours, and (what seems like) the zombie apocalypse is beginning. The number of breakdowns and stressed-out, tired students that I had seen this semester was astonishing, and quite disheartening. Why do people let themselves get to this point in the first place?

I love learning. If I could be a permanent student without debt, I would be, or so I thought. This past year, the joy I got out of learning about new topics was overcome by the obsession to feel accomplished based on my grades. Many seniors I talked to this year, as well as myself, were upset that we were spending our last year of college worrying about our grades, instead of spending time with our friends and making memories before graduating.

After realizing that there is a such thing as over-studying, I realized that resting was very important. There has to be a balance. I formed a certain attitude when it came to studying for tests: If I studied as much as I could without overdoing it, and I didn’t do well, then I genuinely tried my best and could feel okay about it, even if I was disappointed at first. If I didn’t put any effort into studying for an exam and didn’t do well, then I had no one to blame but myself.

The truth is, you can put all of the effort you physically, mentally, and emotionally can possibly put into an assignment, and sometimes it just won’t pay off. Sometimes you get a teacher that doesn’t agree with you or doesn’t appreciate the way you write a paper, but the kid that wrote the paper half an hour before class got a better grade. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good student. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to work harder. It means that you didn’t live up to that professor’s standards, whatever they may be, and that isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe your grade doesn’t reflect all the work that you put into the assignment, but you did your best, and that is what matters.

Use Simple Language

Many years ago, I was talking to somebody that I had just met, and they asked me if I was from Scranton. This was the first time I was asked a question so specific to where I lived that I was caught off guard. I told the woman that I was from the area and asked how she knew. You have an accent, she told me.

What? I thought I spoke standard English just like anyone else in the area! There wasn’t anything in my speech that made me think that I sounded like I was from a specific area. When people think of American accents, they usually refer to the South, New York, or New England. Who knew that even in the little region where you grew up, your accent could be seen as different? There is much diversity within American English, but that doesn’t just apply to how we sound when we speak.

I have interacted with a variety of language exchange partners from many different places. Not all language exchanges give you the same experience, and not all language exchanges will go smoothly. However, if you are looking to make the experience less stressful for both parties, I would suggest using simple language.

I naturally don’t use complicated language and I don’t see why it needs to be used in everyday situations, like some people use it. If I can get my point across concisely without having to repeat myself or clarify what I was saying, then I can continue to say even more things. I have found this to be very helpful as a language exchange partner, because most of the time, my partners will understand what I am saying, even if they don’t consider themselves “fluent” in English. Being able to understand the conversation will make them more motivated to continue speaking to you and you will be able to have more fluid conversations.

I have been told that I enunciate in English. That can contribute to a better and easier language exchange, but I would highly suggest trying to use language that is simpler and more natural, rather than what you are reading in your textbook. However, I would not use language that is so simple that it is insulting. So try it out! See what happens when you speak to somebody using most of the vocabulary that they’ll probably know!

Language Event Planning

Have you ever held yourself back from a great opportunity because of fear? Have you ever thought about how your life would be different if you had taken that leap of faith? Do your dreams tend to stay inside your head?

I have wanted to try out every career at some point in my life, ranging from singing to being a chemist to being an archaeologist. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my future. I knew that Spanish would be one of my majors, but I was unsure of what I would combine it with. Business had crossed my mind, but after taking a look at the list of classes that were required, I shied away from it. The same thing happened my freshman year with Computer Science. I had taken a class that I really enjoyed and did well in. It made me consider majoring in the subject, but when I took a look at the list of required courses and saw that a lot of math was involved, I became intimidated and backed down. Life today could have been different if I had taken a step forward in faith.

What happens when you do take that step? 

Since my four years in college, I have studied abroad in two different countries, traveled around Europe, learned how to speak three romance languages, and most recently, I planned a language-learning event at my school.

I work at the Language Resource Center and wanted to do something to get our name out there, as well as engage the campus in language-learning and community-building outside of the classroom. That was when I came up with the idea of Mini Language Workshops, by students, for students. Each week, students at the college had the opportunity to learn the basics in a different language for an hour. The workshops were ran by 11 different students who either spoke that language natively or were advanced speakers of the language. Below, you can see the product of the language workshops:

For English subtitles, click the “CC” button.

You too can help plan events to help make your school a more multilingual place. Just take that leap of faith and start a meetup group or your own language workshops. Who knows, maybe you will start a new tradition!

Direct Objects in Spanish

Hello everyone! If you have been keeping up with my YouTube channel, you would have seen that I’ve been making more videos about the Spanish language. This video series stems from questions that I get frequently asked by students that I have tutored. Direct and indirect objects can be tricky in Spanish, considering they are formed differently than they are in English. For those of you who aren’t familiar with grammatical concepts, you may not know what a direct and indirect object are.

direct object can roughly be translated to “it” in an English sentence, making the sentence shorter.

Ex. I bought it.

The direct object is the thing that you bought. What was it? Was it a ball? A dog? A plane ticket?

In Spanish, nouns have gender. Therefore, for the equivalent to “it” in Spanish, you will have four options: lo, la, los, las. Depending on what your object is, you will choose the direct object that agrees with the gender and number. For example, “flowers” in Spanish is “las flores.” Since the noun is plural and has a feminine article, you will use las as your direct object.

Direct objects are typically placed before a conjugated verb or after an infinitive. However, there are instances where it gets or can get placed after a conjugated verb (if it is in the -ing form or if it’s a command).

Ex. Los quiero. I want them.

Quiero comprarla. I want to buy it.

Tómalo. Take it.

That’s pretty much it! There is a little more I can say on where to put them, as well as using me and te as direct objects, but what you see here are the basics. Once you get the pattern down of which direct object to use and where to put it, you will be able to easily form shorter sentences!

All Seasons Come to an End

A few weeks ago, I went home for what schools typically call “spring break”.  Spring is when my campus is filled with blossoming trees, the smell of fresh mulch that makes me hold my breath, and the comforting warmth wrapping around my body, accompanied by a bright sunlight that I haven’t seen in months. Spring has always been a different experience in my hometown since I live in the north. You have to learn to enjoy every moment of it, because it is fleeting. We get a couple of days a year where the flowers on trees are blooming, but it is a beauty that does not last. This year, I spent my spring break indoors when I wasn’t shoveling the piles of snow that were up to my waist from the Stella blizzard.

It was March. We had a cold winter, but not a bad one in terms of weather. Usually my spirits start to get lifted in March because I know that spring is coming. However, it was already halfway through the month and we had just gotten a huge snowstorm that we spent the entire week shoveling ourselves out of. I knew that spring was still on its way, but I was a lot less optimistic about how quickly it would arrive. At this point, I couldn’t imagine it ever arriving.

Just like the weather goes through different seasons, we go through different seasons in our life. Sometimes we have a period of happiness, enthusiasm, hope. Other times, we find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed, wondering when the next positive season will be coming. Recently I have been going through a lot with some personal issues that have come up, which is why I have not written a blog post in over a month. When I started this blog, I had planned to write a post every week, and I kept up with it even during my busiest times. However, I reached a point where I just couldn’t keep up. I was juggling too many things at once and it was not good for me.

Last week, the weather started getting better. The sun came out and I could finally walk around outside without wearing a winter jacket. To this very minute I still find it hard to believe that it is no longer winter. You will reach this point in your life. If you are going through a hard time, don’t be discouraged! Just as all good things come to an end, so do all bad things.

Studying abroad is a season, high school is a season, what struggles you are going through are just a season in your life. Make the most of the good seasons. Slow down and take everything in. Learn from the bad seasons and know that better things are on their way. You may not be able to see your spring quite yet, but it’s coming.