And the French Just Keeps on Coming!

Dear Liza,

This past week, I passed a new milestone: 1200 straight days of French lessons on Duolingo! I started being diligent about it after I retired and moved to Portland , and Auntie Bridgett makes sure I don’t skip a day.

I like learning on Duolingo for many reasons. I am on the FREE program, so it doesn’t cost me anything.

I can learn silently if I’m sitting near someone and don’t want to disturb them, or turn up the volume and hear how the language sounds.

The little green mascot owl, called Duo, is always encouraging and never appears to think I’m an idiot, even when I’m sure I am.

And now, because of my streak, I have three days of cool extra French lessons. I have also had fun learning a bit of Danish, so I can read menus when I visit you.

Seriously, I wish I could have gotten my students as pumped about learning as I am right now. I did try. But I’m not as cute as Duo.


Grandma Judy

Still Duolingo-ing

Dear Liza,

I have now been practicing French with Duolingo every day for 800 days in a row! This is partly an advantage of being retired; I don’t need to get up and go anywhere first thing in the morning. Cereal, coffee, and Duolingo are my first activities. Partly it is having a reliable study-buddy in Auntie Bridgett.

And partly it is a big, buttery longing to return to La Belle France!

I remember our trip to Paris in 2006, when my ignorance of even basic French drove me to tears of frustration and made for some awkward moments.

It was better in 2008, when we included Angers, Angouleme and Nantes in our itinerary. Having studied with Rick Hughes, I could read the wonderful historic plaques. I could understand the menus and signage at train stations.

But I still couldn’t talk to anyone! French seemed to gallop by while my brain trudged at a snail’s pace.

When we returned a few years later, I had done some Duolingo and studied with Veronique Sepulchre, and I felt more capable. I was still speaking French like a backwards child, but I was speaking French!

And when we are finally able to travel internationally again, I plan to be Paris ready.

La ville de lumiere, je vais retourner!


Grandma Judy

300 Days of Duolingo

Dear Liza,

Languages are so much fun to learn! You get to find out where words come from and how they are related. You figure out ways to remember hundreds of new words. And in the end, you are able to talk to people from other countries. That’s a pretty good pay off.

I made it!!

This weekend I reached my 300th day straight of doing half an hour a day of French lessons on the teaching site, Duolingo. Auntie Bridgett and I make time for it every morning, right after breakfast. We work separately, sitting side by side on the couch for company and help. Let’s face it, with hundreds (maybe even a thousand by now) of new words, sometimes I just blank out.

“This is silly,” I’ll say. “What’s cupboard?”

“Placard,” she’ll answer. “It’s masculine.” It’s important to know that. Every noun (a person, place, or thing) in French has a gender, masculine or feminine, and that tells you how to spell the words that describe it. The gender isn’t always what you think it is.

“Robe”, which means dress, is feminine, so that makes sense, but so are the words for “car”, “orange”, and “house.”

Auntie Bridgett uses her sketchbooks to draw pictures to help her remember how words go together.

Words that are masculine are “coat”, “bicycle”, and “garden.” Sometimes to help me remember the gender of a noun, I will think of a cartoon showing the thing with long eyelashes if it is feminine, or a mustache if it is masculine. Be careful, though! Mustache….. yep….. is feminine.

So now I head off toward the next 300 days. With any luck, by the time I get to that milestone, we will be able to travel to France again, and put all this learning to use.

Paris at sunset

I know it is silly to be homesick for someone else’s home, but I sure miss Paris.
But at least when we go back, I’ll be able to have a conversation!


Grandma Judy