Duolingo Challenge | 1 Month of Polish Update

Cześć!

This summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn as much Polish as I can, only using Duolingo. Below is the result after studying for one month:

Cases have been my biggest obstacle when it comes to the language, but I really am enjoying the learning process. I decided to do this challenge because I was genuinely curious as to how much a person could learn from only using Duolingo (plus the tips & notes section, since it is part of the course). I only knew a couple of words before starting because of my grandmother. I plan on surprising her at the end of the summer, around when I finish the challenge. She grew up in the United States, but spoke Polish at home with her family, who came directly from Poland. I can’t wait to see the outcome after three months of studying, and how my grandma reacts!

Weekly updates have been posted on the Duolingo forum!

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!

Don’t Miss the Moment

So many people are living yesterday or dreaming about tomorrow that they miss the now. They’re thinking about going abroad or when they went abroad. They’re both wonderful things but don’t miss the here and now because what was got you to this moment and what is now will get you to that future moment that you’re dreaming about, so embrace the here and now and live it to its fullest.

Whenever people ask me if I miss being abroad, I tell them that I do, but only a little bit. The joy I receive from spending time with my loved ones and being in a familiar place outweighs that negative feeling of missing the life I lived a year ago. I looked forward to being abroad in anticipation of what was going to be. Now that I’ve done it, I have fantastic memories. However I also have my life at this moment (friends, classes). The life that you live is going on. Remember that the life you’re living now is preparation for what will be. Enjoy the moment, including the painful ones because they are lessons. 

While I was away, I missed home very much. I missed my family, my friends, my school, and especially my significant other. Homesickness is real and I don’t like when people try to make those who feel homesick bad for feeling that way. Despite feeling homesick, I did not let that paralyze me to the point of not having fun and making Skype calls home every day for hours on end. I counted myself as fortunate to be able to travel around Europe and live the dream I had been wanting to live for years. I took advantage of my opportunity. It was worth it and I would never take that experience back. What I normally tell people when they ask me how I feel is, “I was happy in Europe and I am happy at home. I am happy wherever I am.” The last thing I want people to think is that I was unhappy going abroad.

Be happy wherever you are. Live the life you want to live with what you have around you. Count the blessings in your life. If times are tough, remember that they are just lessons for you to learn and without them, you would not be the person you are today. Without the good and bad moments in life, you would not have gotten to this point. Most importantly, do not spend your life wishing away the present moment for something you are excited for in the future. Embrace now. Live now.

Count Your Blessings

About a week ago, many Americans sat around the dinner table with their families and a giant meal, and shared what they were thankful for. Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets observed one day a year but who says that we need to follow the calendar? Whether you are American, Panamanian, French, Polish, or just human, you can and should take a little bit of time out of your day to be thankful for something.

Many have suggested that a good remedy for discouragement and unhappiness is meditating on what we are thankful for. How many times do we hear that advice and actually put it into practice? I have started doing this, making a mental list of the things I am grateful for. I start with what is the most important to me, things I should not take for granted such as:

  • the environment I grew up in
  • the fact I still have all my grandparents and that my parents are still together after 30 years
  • that I can see, hear, walk, run, and do many daily things without a problem

Then, I gradually ease into material things that are still nice, but should not dominate my life such as:

  • going to my dream school
  • being able to travel throughout Europe
  • having a significant other

When you really think about it, you would be surprised how quickly you can form your list and how long it can go. Everyone’s list will be a little bit different, but I encourage you, the readers, to start thinking of a list of things you are thankful for and see how you start to feel after forming a habit out of this.

 

It’s Not All About You

“If you were a superhero, what would your superpowers be?”

That was a question I was once asked in an interview. I was caught off guard by the question, considering what I was applying for had nothing to do with superheroes. I started to think about who my favorite superhero was, hoping to get quick inspiration. There are many Marvel and DC Comics movies that have come out in the past several years that even if you do not follow the comics, you are bound to know of at least some of the superheroes. One really famous group of superheroes is known as The Avengers, consisting of Iron-Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America. Thor has been a favorite of mine since the movie came out five years ago. At one point, I would have said that I wanted to have his abilities. However, I ended up being more like someone else.

I came to the harsh realization that time does not stop while you are away. I first realized this when I came home for my first break during my freshman year of college. Somehow I thought that life had stopped for everyone else while I was gone, and that everything would be the same when I came back. While things did not change dramatically, people did change. They had new haircuts, new jobs, and other details that didn’t match up from before I had left. At that point, I had only been away for a couple of months. A couple of years later, I went to Europe to study abroad for seven months. Coming home, even between that period for a short amount of time, made me feel like Captain America waking up from being encased in ice and seeing the modern world around him for the first time in years.

Your study abroad experience doesn’t only affect you. You are learning, growing, and changing just like everyone you are looking forward to seeing again. Your trip affects your family. You may get to talk to them every once in a while through Skype or Whatsapp, but they may not tell you everything until you come back for the sake of wanting you to make the most of your time away and enjoy your trip. What happens at home may stay at home until you return there. For some families, it is harder on them to see their child go away for a longer period of time than other families. Everybody is different. It does not mean that they are not happy for you, or that they want to keep secrets from you, or that they want to get rid of you.

Your trip affects your friendships. You may get to talk to them on Skype or FaceTime once in a while. You may be sending them long-distance text messages, but long distance relationships are different and require more time and effort to uphold. Maybe your friends are going abroad at the same time as you but to a different place. Maybe you’re only going away for one semester and you realize that time moves very quickly. Your friends will still have to live their life without you and you without them in it. It may be temporary, but in a given semester, you guys can end up really connecting with other students, be it in your program or with locals. It took me seconds to make some of the lasting friendships I made while I was away, and I was not surprised to see that my friends also really connected with others. When you get back, it may be harder to come to the realization that things have changed, whether it is the dynamic of the circle of friends you hang out with, or if you don’t find out about one of your friends transferring schools until you are already back at school.

There will always be adjustments to make when returning from being away from a place for an extended period of time. Adjustments can be minor to the point where you feel like you are picking up right where you left off. Adjustments can be major to the point where you realize you cannot readjust on your own. That is where I encourage you to communicate with those you love. Be honest about your feelings and tell them that you are having a difficult time readjusting. That way, you do not have to walk through those feelings alone, nor have any misunderstandings, and you can come out of this difficult time even stronger.