by Carmel on July 12, 2013 · 17 comments

As if I didn’t have enough to do already this summer.

Christine, from Almost Fearless, put out a challenge a couple months ago to complete all 25 levels in Duolingo, a free online language practice tool. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to hone my language skills before we leave, even though we won’t be hitting any Spanish-speaking countries for quite some time. It never hurts to get started early.

A little background
Growing up in a bi-cultural family, I overheard a lot of Spanish. My mom is Mexican, but my dad didn’t speak Spanish, so we didn’t grow up with in the house, other than listening to conversations between my mother and her relatives on the phone. We also lived in Seattle, so I wasn’t really immersed in it. A lot of my cousins didn’t grow up with it either, but I was always envious of those who did.


I know what you’re thinking…the resemblance is overwhelming. On another note, I just realized I look like a floating head up there at the top.

I was really interested in learning the language, though, so I studied it in school. I graduated with a second major in Spanish back in 2002. I spent 6 months studying abroad in Spain in 2000 and have even held jobs where I actually had to translate on a fairly regular basis (frightening). In the last few years, though, I haven’t given myself the opportunities to use it. That old saying, If you don’t use it, you lose it, is painfully true.

So here I am, trying to sell our stuff, pack up our lives, and prepare for the biggest adventure we’ve ever taken…and at the same time not make a little owl cry.



Don’t cry Duo. I promise I’ll do better next time!

I’m trying not to worry too much about finishing, as evidenced by how far I’ve fallen behind during our recent vacation. Usually it’s just a good distraction from doing the things I’m supposed to be doing, like cleaning out the attic. Besides, it’s fun to learn a language and realize I’m starting to understand more day by day, even if I’m not great about practicing.

It’s never too late to start. Find me by my username, nopogal, and you can taunt me too, like Steph from 20 Years Hence loves to do.

Have you ever learned a new language? What other distractions do you recommend to keep me from cleaning out my attic?


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellie July 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

You’re doing so much better than me, so take some solace in this. I make the owl cry so much that I no longer feel sorry for him and think he should just get a grip and stop wining.
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Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

This response delights me in more ways than you can know. It might actually be on Shawn’s family’s crest, you know, if they had one.


Kellie July 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I think you might have just added ‘Get Shawn a family crest’ to your to do list.
Kellie recently posted…The Marshmallow test – delayed gratificationMy Profile


Hannah July 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

I wouldn’t worry honey, you still put me to shame. I’m only on level 5, and my owl hates me. Level 25 seems so far away!


Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

I just wish I had more time for…well, everything! I think we’ll have a little more down time once we move. Right now, that is all consuming.


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I do love to taunt you, but only because I am hoping that it will bring out your competitive side and force your hand. That’s a legit excuse, right? Also, I hate to play this card (no, I don’t), but you are the one that started this war by calling me out on Twitter the very first (and last!) time you passed me in points…

Speaking of which, I may have nearly double the points that you do but I have no idea if I’m going to be able to make level 25 by the start of Sept. I am pretty obsessive about repeating exercises over and over, which is great for getting more points, but bad for advancing through the program. I really want to feel like I have learned all the new vocab and have the concepts down pat, which you don’t always get if you just breeze through a lesson. I will likely have to step up my game if I actually hope to cross the finish line!
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Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

And I only call you out (again) because I need you to compete with me! Gets me motivated. The point is to learn a language, not just win, right? So, you’re doing well in that regard. 🙂


Maddie July 13, 2013 at 5:29 am

Ok, I’m going to give this Duolingo wotsit a go! It is only just dawning on me how difficult it is going to be travelling in South America without speaking more than a few words of Spanish. I’ve realised how ignorant I can be as an English speaker, everywhere we have travelled people have spoken even just a little and it’s been enough to know a few words in their native tongue. After 2 days in Buenos Aires I’ve quickly realised that this isn’t going to be the case!

Wish I’d chosen Spanish over French in high school! Good on you for taking a refresher during one of the busiest times of your life 🙂
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Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

I might be insane. You never know.

Spanish is at least relatively easy for picking up some basic phrases. It’s nice to not feel totally ignorant…much like I will feel in basically every Asian country.


Chantal July 13, 2013 at 11:15 am

My mother tongue is Dutch but I’m reasonably fluent in English as well. Learning a new language seems fun so I am going to give this Duolingo a try with Italian. I’m probably going to be very bad at it but it’s all in good fun.
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Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:21 am

Oooh…Italian! I haven’t tried learning a completely new language with it yet, so I haven’t explored the whole site much yet. I have a good base of Spanish and a very basic one in French, so I’m able to just do the lessons, but I would imagine they would be hard if you didn’t already know how to conjugate. Let me know how you do!


Jess July 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I hadn’t tried duo lingo, but it sounds really useful – I just downloaded the app for my iphone. Besides, there’s nothing that motivates me like sad cartoon animals. I’m going to attempt to regain some of my lost German.
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Carmel July 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

And wait until you see the crazy pants phrases they come up with. I highly recommend following @shitduosays on Twitter. It’s hilarious.


Sarah Somewhere July 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Oh man, I have totally fallen behind after my first 2 day binge on duolingo!! And I dont even have an attic to clean, or a job – I mean seriously, where DOES the time go?! Oh btw, I’m not getting your posts delivered, and when I tried to sign up again it said I’m already on the list!
Sarah Somewhere recently posted…The Paradox of Letting GoMy Profile


Carmel July 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

I know. I hoped that after admitting I had slacked I would restart my efforts, but no luck so far. Selling our crap has definitely taken precedence (with good reason).

I sent you a message regarding the subscription. Hope we can fix it!


Amanda @ Adventure Year July 25, 2013 at 5:47 am

I had no idea this challenge was happening, but I’ve been trying to tackle Italian on there myself! And that poor owl must HATE when I log in. I took a little break, but now that I’ve found this post…it might be time for some crying, Duo.
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Carmel July 25, 2013 at 6:53 am

I can imagine Duo thinking, “Oh no! Not her again!” upon login. I just did a little during my lunch break yesterday and forgot how fun and frustrating it can be. I think I’ve officially given up on French (for now). It’s hard enough to log in to do the language I (sorta) know.


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