11
Jan 17

There are a lot of great (and not so great) web sites out there.  I'd like to share some of my favorites (and not so favorites sometimes) with you here some days.  Today I want to share one of my favorite language-learning sites, Duolingo.  It is a free program that features the adorable green owl, Duo.

I use Duolingo almost every day.  I currently have a 714 day streak on Duolingo (meaning that I've used it every day for 714 days... although there have been a few times that I used a 'streak freeze' to maintain the streak when I forgot to use it).  So I guess that it's proof that I really like this web site.

With Duolingo, you can learn a ton of different languages.  An English learner can choose from quite a few languages, including Spanish, French, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and more.  Volunteers are always adding new languages.  If you know other languages, there are other languages that you can learn.  I've done some of the German for Spanish speakers course, and you can literally feel your brain developing flexibility.

Duolingo has an app that you can use, which has all of it's courses except for the languages that are still in beta.  The app not only includes the main exercises (which involve a lot of translating and usually some speaking), but it also has recently added chatbots and clubs (where you can root on your friends as they learn the same language).  The chatbots allow you to have a conversation with a computer about various subjects, including holidays as they come up.  Duolingo seems to consistently be trying to improve itself to make language learning more effective.

Some of the sentences that you translate are silly, others are normal, and some are downright strange.  One of my favorite sentences in Duolingo is to translate from the German "Help, the horse is eating the holy potato!"  I found out that there actually is a 'holy potato' somewhere in Germany.  There is even a Reddit group where people post all the silly things that people find on Duolingo.

So what are the results?  Duolingo will not make you fluent in your language of choice, but it will help you learn the basics, which will help you move beyond the beginner classes.  Duolingo has helped me relearn my German and Russian and improve my Spanish abilities.  I've also been able to easily dabble in several other languages.  It's also excellent for reviewing.

There are some drawbacks.  Sometime translating sentences can get boring after a while, and the grammar covered in Duolingo isn't always completely explained.  Outside of that, Duolingo does work great as a first-year language program, especially for homeschoolers.  When combined with other language-learning techniques, it can really get you started on your language-learning journey.  It's also great to use as a review for languages that you already know.

I've recommended Duolingo to many of my friends, and even teach a class that uses Duolingo.  Try it out!  It's free, and you might like it.

9
Jan 17
One of the views from Colorado Springs

In Colorado Springs, you can sometimes see Air Force flybys, as pictured here, or visit Library 21C.

There are a lot of great places that you can visit in the world, and there are probably also a lot of really great places in your own backyard as well.

I'd like to review some of the places that you can visit sometimes.  I've lived in Colorado Springs for a little over two years now, and of course, I've lived in other places that you can visit, so on some Mondays, I'd like to review some of them.  If you don't live in these places, maybe they won't be interesting to you right now, but if you ever visit, then you can check out the review.

There's never a bad time to check out a book from the library.  There's always something to read.  Library 21C is probably my favorite library (we might as well start with the best, right?).

Library 21C's biggest strength is its technology.  They have tons of things that you wouldn't normally associate with the library of your childhood there.  You can find 3D printers (open to the public at certain hours if you take a class and learn how to use them), computers, gaming machines, and other technologies.  They teach classes on all sorts of technologically-related classes.  They even have fitness classes!  You can visit their web site for the latest details.

The library has quite a few meeting rooms that your group or organization can sign up for.  They range in size and some have different capabilities.  Many have whiteboards and large computer monitors.  You can also check out equipment to use when you are borrowing the meeting rooms, like dry erase markers and erasers.

The main downside of this library is that it doesn't have a LOT of books.  While there are areas with books for children, teens, and adults, a lot of the space that is often reserved for books in a library is packed with all this great technology.  Not to worry though: Library 21C is part of the Pike's Peak Library District, and you can have any of the books in this library system reserved and brought to this library for you to pick up.  You do have to think ahead if you want a book that's kept at a different library, but that's a small drawback for all the advantages that this library has.  You can always check out digital books at any time (without even leaving your house).  The library also has a nice variety of new books if you're interested in browsing newer releases.

So if you've moved to Colorado Springs recently or are here visiting and want to spend a relaxing day of reading, you might want to check out Library 21C.