English is the only language I speak, and I’ve never really considered trying to learn another language. It’s not like I travel enough to think that it would be useful. In the past decade, there have been a few times when it might have been handy to know some Spanish and at least once when I wished my high school French wasn’t so completely rusty, but mostly… no. Not worth the effort. Especially because my memories of high school French are not the best. Even the thought of it stirs up anxiety, embarrassment and shame. (I cheated on a French test once — obviously, decades ago — and the memory still makes me flush with humiliation and guilt. Ugh.)

Suzanne, however, lived in Oaxaca for a while years ago, learned some Spanish, and wants to learn more. She plans to take classes, but meanwhile, she downloaded the Duolingo app and started playing with it.

It looked like fun.

Do I care about learning Spanish? Um, not really. Do I care about playing games, meeting goals, getting achievements, having cartoon characters tell me I’m doing great, and feeling the satisfaction of being first place in my league? Oh, yes, absolutely. Is learning Spanish a nice side benefit? I guess so! Mi perra es muy benita  y muy bonita. Is this a useful thing to be able to say? Um, well… it’s fun? (My dog is very kind and very pretty, to save you the effort of google translate.)

Also fun, learning Japanese. OMG, it is SOOO hard. Honestly, mind-bogglingly difficult. My Duolingo streak is currently 10 days long and during that time, I’ve made it halfway through Unit 5 in Spanish, including achieving Legendary in the first four units; my not-quite-forgotten high school learning zoomed me up to Unit 27 in French; and in Japanese, well… I’m struggling, at halfway through unit 2. I don’t understand how Japanese children do it. So many characters in their alphabet(s)! And so unrelated to one another. I can write the word sushi, and recognize the word teriyaki. When unit 2 included the words manga and emoji, I was grateful. I do not expect to become fluent in Japanese, no matter how many hours I spend playing with Duolingo. On the other hand, I’m enjoying the puzzle aspects of it very much.

Suzanne gently hinted that perhaps I might want to be writing instead of learning Japanese — which is certainly true — but I’m pretty sure they use different parts of my brain. They definitely use different pieces of time — a Duolingo lesson fits nicely in the five-minutes, here-or there time, which is harder to use for writing. (Although now that I’ve typed that, I’m reminded that I got a lot of writing done while I was both working at a full-time job and going to school part-time, because all I had was those five minutes of time. Hmm… a thing I should think about, I guess.)

Meanwhile, though, the whole reason I bring this up is because Duolingo lets you connect with friends and do friend quests with them. Suzanne and I got 100 gems each for managing 50 perfect lessons, go, us! But if you’re also playing with Duolingo, and want to be Duolingo friends, look me up! My name is Sarah Wynde, my user name is Sarah_Wynde, and my avatar picture is of a bird that I saw in Oaxaca. Not a pigeon, but some kind of dove. (I’m quite sure Suzanne knows exactly what kind of dove, but I don’t remember the specifics.) I’m not the blonde Sarah Wynder, nor any of the multitudes of Wyndes. Anyway, I don’t know how long my streak will continue — I might wind up getting frustrated eventually — but I’m having lots of fun with it right now and would love to connect with more people who are having fun with it, too. As Duolingo would be the first to tell you, people who play with friends play longer and learn more. 🙂