walkitout: (Default)
When I was first learning Dutch, it struck me as very odd that the Dutch word for window is "raam". Especially since (which I must have been aware of at the time but had since forgotten until recently), the German word for window is the Latin-derived Fenster. I commented on this to R. as we were headed out to dinner on Thursday (I cannot remember why), along with a rambling monologue about how odd it is that sometimes Dutch has germanic words where the German equivalent word is itself Latinate.

R. then proceeded to look up some of these words in various languages using online tools (which I had not ever done. No, I don't know why) and noted that Rahm in German is "frame". From there, he went, "raam = frame". And in the sense of, "raam is sometimes used to mean what we would mean by frame" he is correct. But I violently objected to the idea that raam is etymologically related to frame, thus leaving me with the puzzle of how to explain _why_ I felt this way.

I guess the first observation I would make is that I don't really understand where my etymological instincts come from, because the vast majority of my etymological instincts predate when I learned to pay attention to sourcing. So I can generally tell you that I spent hours and hours and hours one a fairly regular basis for years on end as a child reading etymologies in dictionaries (and the New World Cyclopedia. Yum.), and I had some specific curricula in school about etymologies. But beyond that, everything is a haze.

The second observation I would make is that R. and I _frequently_ have these kinds of disagreements (where he goes, hey, frame and raam -- kinda similar, just that pesky f, probably come from the same place, right? and I go, no way, no how and I can prove it just give me a few hours/days). Since I'm operating off of instinct and he's operating off of a bunch of theories about word similarity that turn out to have nothing to do with how languages evolve, his explanations invariably seem a lot more reasonable than my objections. But I am much more likely to be correct.

In this particular case, the core insight turned out to be that "raam" is all about the edge (rim). And "frame" is a nounization of a verb, and it is all about the action of going around. All of a sudden, many things make sense.

What you or I might call a window can be thought of in at least three ways: the pane of glass (piece of paper, shutters), the hole covered by same, and the edge around that hole. So the German word for window frame is precisely correct: a Fensterrahmen is the edge around the hole. (This was the word that put R. onto the theory that frame = rahm, and again, from a definitional perspective, sure, but from an etymological perspective, absolutely not.) And then I went off onto a huge tangent about how the Greeks and Romans were all about the static load and we didn't have frame construction until the middle ages, and that's when a word finally had to be invented for the building technique and its most obviously wonderful artifact, the modern window. (The most wonderful artifact of framing is roofs that don't slide out and then fall in, of course, but that's not obvious because things which are absent are never obvious in their absence.) That's when the noun (rim) intersected with the verb (frame, which goes around). Because that's when the edge started actually _doing_, instead of just _being_.

Also, R. is correct when he says that Dickens' use of the term "the little window" when referring to the guillotine was in fact a direct translation of a contemporary French phrase used by the Jacobins, altho to find that, I wound up digging around in google books.

Also, classic New England sash windows are called "guillotines" in French.

Finally, all those wikipedia comments about how the Romans had all the techniques necessary to do timber construction (in the framing sense) are Missing The Point. Framing construction is not about the techniques used to do the joinery. Framing construction is about the central insight of tying together static loads that should point down but have a component which goes out, and needs to be balanced. And I very belatedly remembered that we learned about this in school at some point, starting with people literally using rope to tie together roof structural members to prevent the characteristic out then down roof collapse, then the rope rotting/mice eating it (roof falls down) and then new practice became using carpentry instead of the rope. And the rope AND the carpentry techniques, along with the important engineering insight about the nature of the loads came from shipbuilding.

R. is trying to figure out if any of the words came over from the boat builders. I haven't attempted to research that, because if there is one thing that is true about language, it is that the land lubbers win when it comes to words.
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Continuing to read _Second Language Learning Theories_ by Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (oooh, 3M!). Story about "psycholinguist Martin Braine" trying to improve his daughter's grammar, quoted in some book by Pinker (oh, wow, I don't know why I failed to notice that the first time through). Kid persists in saying "Want other one spoon" when Dad thinks she should say, "want the other spoon". Of course, as Good Parents, we recognize that when your daughter says "want other one spoon", you are absolutely going to once again Thank The Great Goddess Above, Below And Within Us All because our child has successfully communicated a desire that we can actually fulfill and then go on with our morning. Braine, however, is an ass, and attempts to make her say it "the right way". Kid wasn't born yesterday (presumably more than a year ago, possibly more), and complies with Dad's detailed demands to repeat individual words and then immediately returns to "give me other one spoon". Because even a toddler knows better than to pay any attention to Dad when he's on another one of his kicks.

This, however, is NOT THE MORAL DRAWN! Shocking, I know! It's like some people fail to learn the correct lessons from parenting, and instead conclude a bunch of unjustified nonsense about "children do not seem susceptible to adult correction". Really? Really?!? Not when you do it the way Braine did it, no they aren't susceptible. Years ago (decades, when I'm honest) Uncle Cecil (shared pseudonym) did this great analysis of whether cats or dogs are smarter by reviewing the scientific research on the ability of cats and dogs to learn things the scientists were attempting to teach them. Never mind that, it turned out the cats were way better at teaching other cats what they had learned (ditto with the dogs -- it's a general truth, actually) than the scientists were at initially training the cats. When I've discussed this with a friend who has the ability to get animals to do all kinds of things you wouldn't think an animal could do (or would do upon polite request), I learned that he, too, had seen some of this research and agreed that the scientists in question were Not Good At Their Task.


Anyway. This is from chapter two, an overview of past ideas about how all this stuff worked so one really hopes that people have gotten a bit more clever altho I am not optimistic because people still quote Piaget as if he was onto anything at all, really, I know, it is hard to believe.
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I have four languages going on Duolingo, two of which (German and French) are the languages I have spent the most time learning in traditional school contexts (French in junior high school, high school and college; German in high school and at a language school that used to be located near Pioneer Square in Seattle the name of which I've forgotten and which may not be there any more), and which I've spent almost no time on Duolingo doing. One of the languages, Dutch, I've worked all the way through the tree and maintain it completely golden; I've never taken a traditional academic class in Dutch, but at this point I've probably spent the most hours in a conversational class (one on one) setting learning it. Finally, there is Spanish, which I originally started doing so my daughter could play with Duolingo with me, and, well, Dora the Explorer.

Not too long ago (perhaps a couple months?), Duolingo added a "Fluency Badge", which you get in percentage increments ("You are now 43% Fluent!" I am not joking.) as you work through the tree. You can go backwards, just like your little golden circles can lose their golden status until you practice them again. I only discovered the "Fluency Badge" very recently, when I was bored and decided to work on the Spanish tree. At first, I laughed hysterically ("You are now 11% Fluent!" What does that mean, anyway?). Then I eye rolled. And today, I went digging around to find out why I never saw that on the Dutch tree. New feature, not rolled out everywhere yet. And then I found this comments thread.


a_david describes the feature and then the fun begins. One thing I've noticed about Duolingo is, that like nearly everything ever in the history of ever, way more people start than continue. And of those who continue, only a comparatively small number participate in the forums/comments threads. And it really seems like the more trees a person has worked on and/or worked up to a high level on, the more critical they are of the feature, of the concept that doing anything with Duolingo can make you fluent, or . . .

kamil.kryn says: "2 years ago I start Italian on Duolingo. I'm a meticulous type, I make my way through the skill tree inhumanely slowly (self imposed limit of one subunit a day). And then, about 2 months ago, I go to Italy. Surprised as I was - I spoke Italian. I. spoke. Italian. Given, it was a choppy version of Italian, full of stuttering, "eeeem"s and "aaaam"s, and as rudimentary as they get ("one pizza please"), but there I was. Understanding and speaking Italian. Full Stop.

Now the fluency shield pops up and tells me I'm 60% fluent. You know what? I felt like 60% :)"

This seems pretty reasonable to me. Is it the CEFR definition of fluency? (And, yes, critics of the fluency badge bring up CEFR: "While it could be useful to know the level of fluency we have achieved if it was based on a known or accepted measure such as CEFR but to just give a percentage of a very vague measure seems a bit pointless for an academically respected site.") Not at all. But it is apparently capturing some notion of what it might mean to be fluent, according to a general population of people who do _not_ aspire to be polyglots. Fluency, as understood by people who don't speak a second language well, is the ability to get through a transaction at a shop, or exchange greetings, or order at a restaurant after making sense of the menu. And that appears to be approximately Duolingo's intention with the fluency badge.

It's a little tricky, when you launch a new service or product, trying to use early adopters to get the word out about your new service or product. You can't JUST sell to the early adopters, because early adopters are finicky and fickle. They demand the moon, complain about having to pay for it, and then are dissatisfied once they have the moon: it's so big, where are they going to put it, also it isn't actually made of green cheese as they had expected. Very quickly, they are bored with the moon, and want Mars. But of course, once they get Mars, they'll complain about that, too.

Another dilemma for Duolingo is trying to figure out whether they should cynically market the service to people who show up, do a level or two, and never return, or if they should try to help people keep coming back and doing levels so they actually attain a level of proficiency that will stick and might actually be useful to them, whether they are traveling or dating someone or working in an ER.

The fluency badge seems designed to encourage people who are NOT finicky, fickle, early adopters -- they are not polyglots who are going to work through every tree in the place, complaining relentlessly about how someone this doesn't Count as language learning. The fluency badge seems intended to get the person who shows up to keep coming back and actually learning something -- and to help that person _feel_ like they are learning something, which can be really difficult with language.

While I, too, laughed at the fluency badge, it's really grown on me. I think it's a great feature, and I hope they refine it and roll it out more widely. Gamification of language learning strikes me as a really positive development, and I'd love to see more people participate.
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And by "funny", I mean they made me laugh. You will scratch your head and go, whatever.

The word for Saturday in Spanish is "sábado". It's like they're all Adventists or something.

The word for "month" in Spanish is "mes". The word for "knife" in Dutch is "mes". Make of that what you will. But you could definitely imagine some issues Back in the Day when the Spaniards had control of the Netherlands.

ETA: Minor aside, not about language. Watch told me, hey, stand up already. Because I was attempting to convince my daughter to leave with the sitter, I went upstairs and am working at my desk. So, I stood up, used the lever to bring my desk up to standing height, and kept working. Well, I will, after I finish typing this and responding to a text message. Still, kinda cool.
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I've been lazy, and mostly just maintaining everything golden on Duolingo, with very occasional forays into Babbel. Sentence of the day, courtesy Duolingo:

"Ik zou nooit over wapens zingen"

Of course, haven't we all, at some point, sung about weapons?

"And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting mid air"?

Or, for the more foolish and less patriotic among us, sung along with Warren Zevon:

"Send lawyers, guns and money"

I'm sure you can come up with more, like, say, this gem from very early in the 2008 presidential election, in which John McCain abused a Beach Boys refrain:


It's all well and good to say you never will sing about weapons, but honestly, good fucking luck with that.


"He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword"

ETA: Bonus, from Spanish Duolingo

"Tu oso bebe cerveza."

Your bear drinks beer. Sounds like a problem, honestly.
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Each language learning system has some number of languages that it covers and a whole lot more that it does not. Excluding English, Spanish is the most commonly included. Dutch is somewhere down the list, altho probably included in more online/software courses than it would be based on demand, simply because some of the higher demand languages require a whole different approach -- languages with different alphabets, different writing systems, tonal systems, etc. present technical challenges that are tougher to deal with than just adding another European language. Babbel had a really good freebie period when I was looking for something post-Rosetta and I was impressed enough with it that I paid for a while before turning off the account simply due to non-use (I wasn't using Duolingo at the time, either, and I figured I might as well not use a language website for free, versus not using a language website that charged me so much per month or whatever).

Navigating Duolingo is dead simple. Do the next lesson. You sometimes get a choice of two or three ones to do next, but it's all laid out visible on a tree, with opportunities to attempt to test out at intervals. Babbel has a straight line "Beginner's Course" but it also has pick-and-choose sections as well, and it isn't obvious, the way it is with Duolingo, how much you have left before you've done all of it. Babbel paid to have actual humans speak the words, vs. Duolingo's robot. Because I have a real live instructor to talk to at fairly frequent if not perfectly regular intervals, I've turned off the use-the-microphone feature on both of them. I'm doing these lessons with kids and/or husband in the room a lot and it's irritating enough already.

They both have a mix of pictures, translating exercises. Babbel has extensive, in line grammatical explanations. If you want that in Duolingo, you go dig around in the comments. (Crowd sourced grammatical explanations are about as good as you would expect them to be.) I don't like doing Duolingo on my phone, because I run into fat finger errors. I discovered I really _liked_ Duolingo on the laptop, because I type fast and relatively accurately. So I've been trying to do Babbel on the laptop (I used to use the iPad for this more often in the past) and I'm running into all kinds of problems because of the way the type-in boxes handle editing and cursor positioning. It is somehow NEVER what I expect it to be. If they fixed that, I would probably really love Babbel. As it is, it's going to take me a while to adapt.

Rather than go through _another_ start from the beginning and go through everything (these are getting painful) Dutch course, I'm going through the grammar specific stuff, in hopes that it will clear up some persistent confusion I have with open/closed syllables and vowels, and some of the verb tenses. I also seem to have some difficult to characterize word order issues when there are adverbs, objects and negation. Maybe some extra sentence building practice will help with those.
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I was going to take A. to open gym today, but it was closed. I was going to have company this afternoon/evening, but they canceled. So: free day! When T. and R. get back from bicycling, I'll probably go for a walk, but for now, I'm here at home successfully NOT playing Farmville 2: Country Escape and I _am_ refreshing some of the Duolingo Dutch. But there's only so much of that I can do before I feel like self-distracting, so today's question is driven in part by having noticing just how badly the quality fell off in Duolingo in the later levels, and R.'s theory that happened because so few people worked through the entire course.

Question 1: How do people count and measure fluency in a second language in the US? In the EuroZone, because each state has its own (or more than one) language, and because there is a high degree of commitment to working together, the EU is largely working from a model of Everyone Learns English As A Second Language. There is widespread understanding that (a) it's easiest to get a British teacher and (b) you'd rather have an American accent. There is less understanding -- and I mean by everyone -- that European English is its own Thing. It has its own idioms, usage and vocabulary that does not exist in other versions of English (my go-to example: "social partners"). Because English is a working language across the EU, there are extensive testing metrics and credentialing systems for measuring proficiency.

If you ask the goog, how many people in the US someverbhere a second language, you get stuff like this:


Basically, you call random people up on the phone and ask them in English if they can carry on a conversation in a second language and you note down their answer. No testing. No credentialing. No asking when the last time they did so. No asking whether this was something simple like telling the guy at the burrito stand you want that sin queso or something more complex.

The goog also offers up more substantial and less cheery analysis like this:


This is an article that news organizations have been producing my entire life. Learn a language and the guv-mint will hire you to somethingorother in really sketchy places. Or at least read their news media and provide a precies in English of what you thought it said.

Entire language learning companies made their nut selling products and services promising to help the armed forces, the intelligence agencies and others try to turn people who speak some regional variant of American English into someone who can successfully navigate some other part of the world without unthinking and dangerous dependence on a local translator. I'm thinking of you, RosettaStone, and basically all of these companies are very quiet when they inevitably lose their contracts because basically, nothing works really well.

The article also says businesses will want you. Sure, they all say that. But they aren't that much better at actually hiring people who really speak a second language -- everyone wants to train people. (Which raises all kinds of fascinating questions. What's wrong with all those people who already speak the target language, anyway? Is this one of those "fit" things which is really about bias?) The usual conclusions are reached: executive function helps, but what _really_ works is how bad you want to use the new language, and whether you're willing to look like an idiot by using it.

This comment seems most relevant to my observation about Duolingo's drop off in quality:

"From knowing nothing to a little bit, (there are) huge changes in the brain," Osterhout pointed out."(From) knowing a little to knowing a lot, (it is) much more subtle."

The balance -- we should start teaching kids other languages when they are younger -- is probably true, if we really cared about our population being fluent in other languages. But the hard truth is that the languages we cared about a lot when I was a child are not the languages we care about right now. And that could well happen again. And I'm pretty sure that the _actual_ demand for being really fluent in Farsi or whatever is a lot smaller than the _actual_ demand for competency at the early levels of, say, calculus. Pretty easy to predict which of these two low demand educational attainments is gonna win, given that calculus is written into the prereqs for a lot of highly desirable higher education credentials. And Farsi ... is not.

I'm ignoring that guy over at Fluent in 3 Months because ... he's That Guy Over At Fluent in 3 Months.


"Obama is absolutely right. We live in a global economy and whether it's Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese, Americans lag behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to mastering a second -- or even a third -- language."

Notice that the author identifies as an "international careers expert". So _of course_ she's gonna say ya gotta do this. This is what she sells. As for lagging behind the rest of the industrialized world, well, there's a reason for that. They're all busy learning our language as a second language. If your first language anywhere in the world is Not English, the next obvious language to learn is ... English. With an American accent. It's a lot less obvious what the next language to learn is if you grew up speaking English with an American accent. (<-- Does this sound imperialist to you? It sure as fuck should!). The balance of the article is an ad for Praxis, and arguments in favor of learning Spanish for travel to, say, Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. Or Chinese, the language of global commerce. (<-- I'm quoting.)


This high school Spanish teacher is death on grammar based school lessons, a big believer in the use-it-or-lose-it principle, and a hardass when it comes to immersion: she married a native speaker of Spanish and hired a Spanish speaking nanny for the kids. She says: "This component to your studies is absolutely necessary--you MUST experience immersion. Studying or working abroad after having gained a good base is what it truly takes if you want to become fluent in a language. From my own experiences abroad, I can assure you that there is no substitute for having to navigate your daily routine and maintain personal relationships in a language that is not your own. Students who take four to six years of language in a classroom setting find their proficiency level high enough that they can reach fluency in a matter of months abroad."

If this is the criteria for Americans to attain fluency in a second language, I think it is safe to say that This Ain't Gonna Happen. For one thing, the same guv-mint that supposedly wants to hire fluent speakers of languages spoken in places where Americans Aren't Real Popular Currently At Least Not With the Existing Regime, that guv-mint absolutely will not hire anyone _from_ those countries, or with too many connections or time-in-country, in those countries. Loyalty reasons. I so did not believe this at first, because I was like, what? But you know, Empire (I'm not talking about the TV show here).

This blog entry at the Economist is critiquing the idiots over at Freakonomics:


Of course, all of the arguments made in this gilded turd apply way more strongly to studying computer science -- and the payoff for get a CS degree are widely understood, yet we still have a shortage, which suggests that this may not be a motivational issue.

Bizarrely, the author tosses this nugget out:

"What is the return on investment for history, literature or art?"

Wow. If you want to get foreign language more space in the school system, you'd better learn to work _with_ the other people already there, not against them. Also, I would argue at least in favor of learning history, simply because the personal payoff (and I mean dollars in net worth) has been so ludicrously huge.

The NYT weighs in with a new frame. Maybe we _aren't_ really a monolingual country.


Great quote from Arne Duncan here, proving, as always, that people who attain the highest, most rarefied levels of education are astonishingly foolish:

"“For too long, Americans have relied on other countries to speak our language,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at the Foreign Language Summit in 2010. “But we won’t be able to do that in the increasingly complex and interconnected world.”"

Er, we won't? Interesting assertion. I'd love to hear the back story on that one, because the current evidence suggests that it's just gonna get easier as we go along. I mean, if the EU had settled on something _other_ than English for their working language, sure, I could see the argument. But now? Yeah, right.

Anyway. In this article, the author compares the census question (Anything other than English spoken at home?) and says that's the wrong question for assessing bilingualism in the US. He compares it to the EU question (can you have a convo in some other language returns!) and says the EU isn't as multilingual as we assume, and the US isn't as bad off as we assume. He may well be right -- I've certainly found people in the Netherlands who speak little to no English, and we got through on my Dutch (for the record, the main one I remember was a truck driver in 2002, so don't be thinking that failure to speak English is a route to great success; the rest were restaurant workers in Ameland, where we got by primarily in Dutch, because their two languages didn't include strong English).

This article is worth reading. The author has written a book about people who learn languages. I'm going to go off to read reviews of that at Amazon and decide whether it's worth reading.
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Back when I was looking for something to do post-Rosetta, I signed up for Duolingo and Babbel. But then I was like, why am I paying for Babbel when I can do Duolingo for free?

Well, I'm done with Duolingo (at least for Dutch) -- I got through the whole Dutch course and then went back and got everything refreshed to all golden at the same time and honestly? Duolingo _does_ help with language learning, but there are some serious flaws in there. And having re-activated Babbel for a month, I will just straight up say that you pay for what you get. Babbel's speakers are _way_ _way_ better. I think I would have cared more if I had not been working with an actual speaker of the language.

In any event, rather than going through the main line of the beginner's course, I'm poking around at some grammar areas that I find persistently confusing. Babbel is not nearly as powerfully gamified as Duolingo, so there's a serious motivational deficit (also, no leaderboard that I can detect). This is a big deal -- the language (learning tool) you are motivated to try to use every single day probably has an advantage over the language (learning tool) you ignore for months at a time, even if it is in other measurable ways ... worse.
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"De vriendschap die ik met de koeien had was heel speciaal."

The friendship that I had with the cows was very special. D'oh.

I figured at 150 odd pages in, if I really didn't believe anything I was reading and didn't much care either, I should probably just give up. There's no way I'm getting through the whole thing before book group anyway, and it's increasingly clear to me that I avoided reading it this month for a host of very, very good reasons.

ETA: Who knew that the pronunciation of Gouda could be so difficult to nail down? On Sunday, one of my best and longest friends said a Dutch woman down the street told her it was pronounced "How-duh". I was like, um, pretty sure you mis-heard that, because that's not an "h" at the beginning. It's more like a throat clearing. I didn't debate the "ow" part, however. But then a sentence pops up in Duolingo with the throat clearing G but a very clear "oo". What?!? As near as I can tell, if it isn't a regional variation, Duolingo somehow managed to get a speaker who said it wrong. Which seems impossible, so I'm betting on regional variation (and yes, I listened to it several times -- since the word "gouden" showed up in the sentence, there was the opportunity to do a direct comparison and ou was pronounced "oo" in the city name and "ow" in the adjective golden). If I come up with an explanation, I'll add it here.


8Dori says "h" with no apparent throat clearing. All four agree on "ow".
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Sometimes, a word is very similar in Dutch and in English. Such as: "school". You know what that means, altho it is said a little differently in the two languages.

Sometimes, however, the word _looks_ like a word you know, while meaning something entirely different. It is a "faux amis", a false friend.

And sometimes, it is both. Dutch word of the day: monster, which can mean exactly what you think it means. Or it can mean a "sample", like for testing purposes in a lab.

ETA: I keep thinking about the "Who's On First" potential in Dutch for a discussion between Dr. Frankenstein and Igor discussion in the lab.

ETA only connected because it is Duolingo Dutch stuff. The picture for "the army" is a helicopter. Really says something about the current experience of warfare.

ETA still more: Best. Fucking. Sentence. Ever.

"De koeien voeren onderzoek uit naar de oorsprong van het gras."

Yeah, it really does mean "The cows conduct research on the origin of the grass." Duolingo is inspired by Farside cartoons?

Altho there's nothing wrong with this one:

"Mijn haar leeft in angst voor scheermessen."

My hair lives in fear of razors.

"De citroen heeft geen angst getoond."

The lemon showed no fear? What the _hell_, Duolingo.

I'm now laughing so hard I can hardly type. "De katten leren uit ervaring dat ze nooit iets leren uit ervaring." The cats learn from experience that they never learn anything from experience.
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So I got this great email today, with a mystery to be solved! The mystery had language and decorative arts elements.

Here are the pictures that were in the email:



Here is the background: we think the language might be some form of Latin, but would like to know more about the language. The person who asked the question notes that the text repeats and so the assumption was that it was a song or poetry.

Here is what I believe the text of the wall hanging is _from_:


It is from a very old hymn, part of the liturgy.

But I think that the wall hanging itself looks like it was machine made (because the object is in Australia, I haven't seen it -- just those two pictures). And the text in the hanging is neither complete nor, to be entirely honest, accurate.

So: any theories out there on why the text is partial? This hymn in some variations was sung faux bourdon (not _originally_, obvs!), so maybe one of my readers has encountered it sung in a round or round-like way during their time in a choir? Have you ever seen a wall hanging like this? The _oldest_ I can imagine it being would be some sort of late arts-and-crafts 19th century/early 20th century thing, but if anyone has seen any similar looking wall hanging (tapestry, etc.), I'd be curious to know what they've seen and where.

We have what I believe is a definitive answer on the language question, at any rate, but I'm still curious about just what this is and why it came to be (in Australia, no less!).
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For reference purposes, the English term would be "real estate" (the only _real_ property is real estate, little joke there), the French term I believe is immobilier. The Dutch word is "landgoed". Same language that calls toys, "speelgoed".

Definitely not treating real property as very special there. Sort of the opposite of the Anglo-American thinking, and unrelated to the French perspective (French for furniture: meubles, which is a corruption of the same underlying word meaning movable -- really, you can just see the aristocracy roving the countryside from one bit of land to another, unpacking all the goods in the drafty castle or whatever, staying for a bit, packing it all back up and moving on. Important to distinguish between the smaller, carefully crafted shit you bring with you and the sturdy but not particularly carefully made shit that stays behind).

Why Esperantists think it either possible or desirable to erase all this embedded meaning has always been beyond me. You can tell that I'm culturally very American, because I was _shaken_ by the idea that anyone could be _that_ flippant about real property. Yikes.
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Since I have missed a couple Dutch lessons, and our August trip is approaching, I thought I'd go do some Duolingo Dutch by way of review. Of course, my daughter then got all obsessed with it (this is _my_ daughter, after all), but she wanted to do Spanish. We got her set up, but remember, this is an almost 7 year old, just finishing kindergarten and she's only been reading at all for less than a year. On the other hand, Dora the Explorer and a handful of bilingual board books that have been hanging around the house. On the third hand, her keyboard familiarity is limited, as is her spelling in _any_ language.

We're obviously providing a fair amount of support. But she is piecing together some things, more than I would have expected. Her spelling of English words is as uneven as I expected it to be. Her pronunciation of Spanish is, predictably, pretty awful. She's ignoring gendered stuff AND conjugation -- totes expected because (a) native language ungendered and (b) she's weak on conjugating in English. Still, it's clear that it's not so impossible that it has stopped being fun, and I don't mind that there's a bunch of English (making it not as immersive), given that she needs to work on that, too.

It's extremely difficult for me to tell when I'm making progress with a language (well, absent somebody producing grades on my work, which is not happening with my Dutch teacher because it's conversational only). Going back to redo stuff in Duolingo is kind of fun, in that it's fairly obvious that a bunch of things I used to have to think about are now very automatic. Of course, it is discouraging that I still forget the words for "empty" and "dry" (dry you would think would stick -- droog, drought, right? I won't forget it now, hopefully.).
walkitout: (Default)
First, I want to thank C., for mentioning Duolingo. I recently decided to give it a try, and started with Spanish, because I foolishly believed there wasn't any point in using it to review French or German and the Dutch for English speakers isn't "hatched" yet.

The first and most important thing: Duolingo does not charge the user money (at all) and is basically ad free. They have an explanation for this, that makes more sense when you realize the guy behind it all is also responsible for Recaptcha.



You can use it on the web. You can use it on a portable electronic device that has apps, such as a phone or a tablet. There are a few pictures -- very few. It breaks language learning up into phrase and sentence oriented activities: translating to or from your own/the target language, repeating in the target language, multiple choice, dictation, etc. Sometimes you are asked to type in the language; sometimes you assemble the answers from little tiles. If you miss more than a certain number of times (generally 3) in a section, you have to start over at the beginning. If you don't miss any, you earn extra points/lingots. You can (I have not yet) buy stuff with lingots, including lessons in swearing in the language you are learning and similar fun things.

I've never taken any Spanish, however, I've been around Dora the Explorer in the form of the show, books, computer/electronic games, etc., and other less well-branded bilingual Spanish-English stuff. I also have two cousins-by-marriage, one who was born and raised in Mexico; the other whose parents came from there. So it's not like I've had no exposure to the language at all (do menus count?); I knew stuff like the you don't need to actually supply the "I" or other subject of a sentence rule and stuff like that. I also have some amount of awareness of French, German and Dutch as learned languages, so there's obviously a lot of cognates, and I have a basic sense of word order variation to watch out for, and the need to adjust endings on adjectives and so forth. The lack of explicit grammar lessons bothers me not at all. I could see where a lack of some or all of this background could make for one helluva confusing encounter with Duolingo otherwise.

I did not have any mystery microphone problems; if there's a problem with the speech recognition on this thing, it is that it might be uncritically accepting of terrible pronunciation on my part and I would never know.

I have definitely quite painlessly picked up a smattering of grammar and vocabulary very quickly. I'm having a little trouble with prepositions, which is really unsurprising. I have trouble with prepositions all the time.

I decided, in a manic moment, to try out the French and German courses. (This is really bad. When I do stuff like this, and then go to my Dutch lesson, I wind up completely unable to produce any speech because I get so confused. But it is fun!) I tested out of a tiny amount of each, which is unsurprising. (I couldn't remember the word for bird! Good news -- neither could R.) But going over the early stuff is a good form of review.

Today, as part of writing this review, I thought I would see what other people are doing with Duolingo. And I ran into something really, really bizarre that I'm just not sure what to do with. Why are people running this thing with google translate up in another window?

There are a million (hyperbole) more detailed, thoughtful reviews of Duolingo out there. Consider this a vote of confidence that their approach has been well-deployed across at least the few languages I have some familiarity with, it is not frustrating, and it is excellent, game entertainment. So, you know, while you're waiting for your Frozen Free Fall lives to regenerate, you could do this.

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