Category Archives: Studying

The Multilingual Desire

Ever since I started using Duolingo to study languages, I’ve had a growing desire to learn multiple languages. There are many languages available on that platform, and it continues to grow.

My experience learning languages started in 1986 when I was 9 years old. I studied French in school until 1994, when I was 17 years old. I didn’t take French in grade 12, but instead challenged the final exam and passed it easily, getting full credit for the class. I was good at it. I had confidence that I could learn languages easily.

In university, I took a class in Japanese and enjoyed it a lot. I did very well in that class, and it helped me a lot when I moved to Japan in 2005. I had full intentions to learn the language and become fluent. I studied it on my own. However, I worked entirely in English. My interactions with Japanese people were with friends who spoke English well, coworkers who spoke English, students who I taught English, and people in shops. It was when I went shopping or out to a restaurant that I was able to use Japanese. As a result, I have no problem going shopping or ordering in a restaurant in Japan. My confidence in speaking Japanese didn’t grow at all. I didn’t speak well enough to have a conversation with my wife’s parents, or even with my wife. My listening improved, but my speaking did not. That’s my fault.

I started using Duolingo to relearn French. I also started doing Esperanto, since studying it has been proven to help people learn other European languages more quickly. I also started learning Spanish.

My studying has stalled recently. I’d like to get myself back into it. I’d like to focus on French and Japanese. French will be useful for future job prospects in Canada, while Japanese will be useful for me with my family and my in-laws. And since we plan to travel to Japan often, I can use it there.

But I don’t want to stop there. I want to get back into studying Spanish, as well as German, Norwegian, Russian, and Irish. My family heritage includes German, Norwegian, and Irish. My grandfather was born in Russia, so a lot of research into his family history has to be done in Russian. I think it would help. And I’d also like to learn Tagalog. I have some Filipino friends, and I think it would be fun to be able to understand what they’re talking about.

Are you using Duolingo? Are you studying a language? Let me know in the comments section below. Also, you can check out my Duolingo profile and add me as a friend.

Studying the British Empire

As you may know, I have an interest in history. Understanding history often helps with writing both science fiction and fantasy, as they deal with different times and societies, while also having rich and well-developed histories of their own.

I’m getting back into using FutureLearn, and this week, the course called Empire has begun. It’s about the British Empire. I’m from a country that was part of the British Empire, so I’m expecting something about Canada in this course. But the British Empire was the largest empire in the world at one time. There’s a lot to learn. Below, you can see how much of the world was part of the empire (click to see a larger version).

The_British_Empire_AnachronousThat’s a lot of countries. You can see a strip through Africa, much of south Asia, parts of the Middle East, and plenty of Pacific islands, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Thirteen Colonies.

Do you know any interesting facts about the British Empire? Share them in the comments below.

Duolingo, You’re Drunk

I love Duolingo. It’s a great system for learning new languages. The focus is on grammar and vocabulary, with a bit of listening and possible pronunciation. It can get you to a low intermediate level for speaking, but it can really help with your reading skills. But sometimes, Duolingo can be a bit of a comedian.

I’m focusing on Esperanto right now, which isn’t exactly a common language to learn, but it’s great for helping you learn other languages at a faster pace. Tonight, I encountered an interesting question.

esperantocowsA bit too big? Click on the image.

Did you? Well, that is very interesting, isn’t it?

esperantocows2I’m very glad to hear that, Duolingo. Thanks for reminding us.

If you’ve used Duolingo, have you encountered strange or funny sentences? Let me know in the comments below.

Test Driving Languages – Welsh

Flag_of_Wales_2.svgIt’s been a while since my last language test drive. This time, we look at Welsh, which is another Celtic language. It’s spoken by only about 20% of the Welsh population, or 562,000 people. I’ve been interested in this language because of its long words and many things I have no idea how to pronounce.

Jay Dee dw i.

— I’m Jay Dee.


This isn’t very difficult. It uses the Roman/Latin alphabet, so it’s familiar. There are some letters with accents, but I haven’t actually used any yet.


This is kind of difficult. Many of the vowel sounds are different, and there are additional vowels, ‘w’ and ‘y.’ Some of the consonant sounds are a bit different from what I’ve heard, but nothing difficult.


I can’t say much about this, as there hasn’t been much in the way of grammar in the course, yet. Just greetings, really. But I suspect that it may be similar to Irish, but I really don’t know. Checking Wikipedia confirms that it is verb-subject-object, like Irish.

Overall Impression

I had an easier time remembering words in Welsh than in Irish. There were some similarities to English, which made it easier. The days of the week had some similarities to the English names of the planets, so I didn’t have any issues there. The things that’s most difficult is the spelling and pronunciation, at least for now. I think it’s going to be an interesting language to learn. At least I’ll know how to pronounce all those difficult town names!

Are you interested in studying Welsh? Can you speak it? Let me know in the comments below.

Languages Are Getting More Challenging

I’ve done mainly Romance and Germanic languages on Duolingo, and have started a Celtic, Turkic, and Slavic language. But they all have one thing in common: they all use the Roman alphabet.

My next two languages are Ukrainian and Russian. They both use the Cyrillic alphabet, which I can’t read much of at all. Before I even attempt the languages on Duolingo, I need to do two things: learn Cyrillic and learn how to type with the Ukrainian and Russian keyboards. After that, I can try the languages.

There is one more language available to study, and that’s Catalan. However, it’s for Spanish speakers, which means I need to improve my Spanish so I can study Catalan.

But there are more languages coming soon. In fact, it looks like Welsh, another Celtic language, will be available next week. And soon after that, we should be seeing Vietnamese fairly quickly. Others coming in later this year may be Swahili, Hungarian, Greek, and Romanian. Other languages that look to be further away are Hebrew, Czech, Hindi, and Indonesian. I’ve been hearing that Korean is about to start being developed.

In a Reddit Q&A, Duolingo’s founder suggests that there will be about five endangered languages being added each year starting this year. That sounds quite interesting.

So, anyone know Cyrillic? Any tips?

Test Driving Languages – Polish

320px-Flag_of_Poland.svgMy first Slavic language. Oh boy, what am I getting myself into? This language intimidated me before I even tried attempting to study a bit of it. All those szcz strings and everything else. Unlike many other Slavic languages, I can read it without learning a new alphabet. I went into this believing it was going to be difficult. So, let’s see what I really thought about it.

Ja jestem mężczyzną.

— I am a man.


It’s basically like the Roman alphabet, but with an additional 9 letters, which are basically Roman letters with accents or other things attached to them. I could get used to it.


I’m lost. Well, not completely, but just six lessons doesn’t really help me figure out what they’re saying. I can’t listen and accurately type the words. This will take a lot of time to get used to. Some of the sounds don’t logically go with the letters I see, from an English centred brain.


The good things are that it’s subject-verb-object. Thank you! Also, there are no articles. That’s easy! And that means no gendered nouns. Also, present simple and progressive are the same.

The difficult things are that the verb conjugations are a bit tough to learn. And this language has cases. Seven cases, to be exact. I really have no idea what to expect there. Plural words have different suffixes, so I haven’t been able to figure those out yet.  What am I getting myself into?

Overall Impression

Difficult. Irish was difficult. Turkish was difficult. This is difficult. I don’t recognise a single word. I kept forgetting words. My retention was quite low for this, since I had to keep checking what the words were. I couldn’t remember how to spell the words. I couldn’t even pronounce them if I looked at them. Simply put, this is going to take a huge amount of effort to study.

I still have Ukrainian and Russian to do. They use the Cyrillic alphabet, which I will have to learn before tackling the languages. They’re also Slavic, so I’m thinking they’re even more difficult than Polish!

Do you speak Polish? Are you interested in or are learning Polish? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Test Driving Languages – Turkish

Flag_of_Turkey.svgI’m now moving away from Germanic and Romance languages, and onto something completely different. This time, it’s Turkish. I’m used to the grammar in English, French, and other European languages, but Turkish presents something very different. In some ways, it wasn’t difficult. In others, I had some difficulty.

Ben bir adamım.

— I am a man.


This is pretty simple. It’s basically the same as in English, but has a few added characters with accents and this one: ı. It’s not an i. It’s pronounced like e. There are some others, like ğ, ç, and ş, which have no sound, ch, and sh sounds respectively.


Apart from a few characters that are modified from the Roman alphabet, it’s very straightforward to pronounce. Just getting used to those other characters will take a little effort, though probably minimal.


Germanic and Romance languages use the subject-verb-object form. Turkish uses subject-object-verb, which is actually the same as Japanese. Since I have plenty of experience with Japanese, this word order is familiar to me. Verbs are conjugated according to the pronoun/noun, and are similar to French. The pronoun for he/she/it is O. They’re all the same. There are also no articles, except in some cases when we need an indefinite article. A noun without an article can be translated to a noun using definite, indefinite, or no article in English.

Overall Impression

The alphabet and pronunciation I can get used to. The grammar I can get used to. There are some similarities with other languages. The thing that’s difficult is vocabulary. They words resemble nothing in English. My word retention wasn’t bad, but I had a difficult time with spelling. It wasn’t as difficult as I originally expected, but it’ll still be a challenge.

Have you studied Turkish? Can you speak it? Are you interested in it? Let me know in the comments below.

Test Driving Languages – Danish

Flag_of_Denmark.svgMoving from one Scandinavian language to another, I attempted a bit of Danish. It’s very similar to both Norwegian and Swedish, but my experience was very different from either one. There were some easy aspects, yet other frustrated me. I was surprised.

Jeg er en mand.

— I am a man.


This is pretty easy, like the other Germanic languages. It’s mostly the Roman alphabet with a couple other characters added (æ and ø).


This frustrated me a bit. The postfixes were difficult to hear, and some words weren’t so easy to pronounce. I would really need to practice both listening and speaking to be able to get this right. Not easy.


The good things: You don’t have to conjugate verbs. They are always the same no matter what the pronoun is. The pronouns are also quite straightforward. There are gendered nouns, but not male/female. However…

The bad things: The nouns are either common gender or neuter. These you just need to remember. For the indefinite articles, they are en and et respectively. For the definite articles, they are postfixed to the nouns. And then there’s the plural form. And definite plural form. I just got so confused I couldn’t remember what they were. I would have to really concentrate on this to remember.

Overall Impression

I had difficulty with both pronunciation and articles. However, word retention was very good. There were some similarities with Norwegian and Swedish, and I liked that the verbs don’t conjugate. That is easy. I found it more challenging than Norwegian and Swedish, but that’s just after six lessons. It’ll be a while until I fully tackle this language, though.

Have you studied Danish? Are you interested in it? Let me know in the comments below.


Test Driving Languages – Swedish

Flag_of_Sweden.svgAnother Germanic language done. This time, it’s the Scandinavian language of Swedish. It’s said that Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish are all very similar languages. I can see what they mean. Having already looked at Norwegian, I can see a lot of similarities. But does it make it easy to learn?

Jag är en man.

— I am a man.


This is another alphabet, since it’s the Roman alphabet with a handful of accented vowels. It’s not difficult at all.


This is where it’s getting a bit difficult for me. Words are pronounced differently than I first thought. Some are just confusing me, to be honest. And it’s only a couple pronouns that are tripping me up. Accents also change the pronunciation of vowels, but it’s fairly straightforward.


Much like Norwegian, verbs are not conjugated. That’s easy! However, like Norwegian, indefinite articles come before the noun, and definite articles are added as a suffix. Unlike Norwegian, definite and indefinite articles are not spelled and pronounced the same. As for gender, nouns either have gender or are neutral. I think you just have to remember what they are. In general, grammar is fairly straightforward, though.

Overall Impression

Word retention was good, spelling was not always correct. I forgot some spellings, but practice will improve that. I can see how similar it is to Norwegian, so this will give me an advantage in studying. It may also be a disadvantage, because I may get them mixed up. I hope not! But I think I can count this as another language that I look forward to learning. It’s fairly easy from an English speaker’s point of view.

Are you interested in Swedish? Have you studied Swedish? Let me know in the comments below.

Extreme Learning

I hadn’t heard of the term “Extreme Learners” before, and was curious about what it was. There’s a website for it, actually. Extreme learners go beyond the traditional ways of learning. They take charge of how they learn. They even do their own research, book time at labs, create their own curriculum, and do whatever they can to learn. From what I’ve read, they are not geniuses. They are not gifted. They’re just extremely ambitious about learning, and will do whatever they can to learn.

I wondered if I could ever be an extreme learner. I mean, I’m always interested in learning something new. I’ve taken online courses, I’ve been looking at languages a lot recently, and I’m constantly reading up about science. What I haven’t done is gone out and done my own research in the field. I could, though. That might be fun.

But could I be an extreme learner? Perhaps. Do I have the time to do it? I don’t think so. But whenever I have the time, I do my best to learn something new. I guess you could say I’m a student for life. If I could, I’d go back to university and study something new, probably a major in geology and a minor in Japanese. I often think that’s what I should have studied. But who knows? It may be possible.

Would you ever try to be an extreme learner? Do you enjoy learning new things? And would you ever go back to school? Let me know in the comments.