I finished the Duolingo Portuguese course!

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I was studying Portuguese more intensely and thought I would be done with the Duolingo course more towards June. But I decided to try to finish the course by Easter, which was yesterday, and I managed to finish it last night. So I got to the finish line by the end of March, and now it's the beginning of April, a fresh start for another pursuit. 

Since the beginning of the year, I've finished the Japanese and Portuguese courses. But I don't think Duolingo really cares if we finish; it seems like they want us to stay mired in endless lessons because they keep changing and extending their courses. While I'm very glad I've attained a couple of major language goals, I don't really want to use Duolingo as much anymore. My paid account ends in July and I am not going to renew the subscription.

I wasn't planning on saying anything negative, but the Duolingo admins blocked my post about it on an online forum. I'd posted an image and wrote two sentences about it, but they said that violated their rules because they wanted a more robust written description. I thought, okay, I finished a course. That's a big deal; why aren't they accepting that as-is? They're constantly throwing out stats saying how rare such engagement is, but when you actually achieve something, they downplay it, not just in discussions but in the app. They celebrate tiny wins but don't care about the larger ones. So I wrote a longer description and was not blocked when I posted it again, but there was a bot answer that told people how they should engage with my post. 

I've been studying languages and teaching ESL for several years. I'm obviously really into language and have kept this blog going for almost 20 years. But a bot blocking me, then responding to posts (not just mine) to tell people what they should say, in addition to an app that keeps moving the goal lines, is sort of crass. That's why I'm way more appreciative of what Easy German is doing. I'll be doing a post about them in the future. But in the meantime, yes, I'm happy that I learned a lot and finished two courses, and will still engage with Duolingo a bit every day, but I'm not going to promote them anymore, even to my students.


I translated a bit of German

When I had more time between jobs, I decided to spend more time on Twitch to listen to electronic music, especially from Germany because I was trying to improve my German while listening to music that was very different than what's popular in Chicago. 

What I've noticed is that American music has been hip hop-oriented while Germany seems to not have focused on such beats or sounds, and what they call "House" really isn't the House that originated in Chicago. It's also interesting when the DJs don't speak much English because they play music that is more European-based, and to me it's both enjoyable and interesting. I haven't been to Europe in several years, so it's like I'm traveling via music. 

One day I was listening to a German DJ and I noticed that his bio was only in German. Even if other DJs don't know English very well, they usually manage to translate their info, even if it isn't so perfect. So I asked him in the chat if he wanted me to translate his bio into English, and he said yes. At first, I didn't see it in his profile, so I figured he didn't want to post it. Then he did, and here it is

Meine Leidenschaft zur Musik begann schon vor einer gefühlten Ewigkeit. Mit den ersten Schul-Disco's wuchs die Liebe zum DJ'ing.
Seit 89 war ich dann über 12 Jahre aktiv als DJ in Clubs und Diskotheken unterwegs.
Nach einer längeren Pause bin ich jetzt wieder hier am Start und möchte euch auf meinem Kanal eine Galaxie voller elektronischer Musik präsentieren.
Begleitet mich auf meiner Reise durch die unendlichen Weiten mit elektronischen Melodic und Progressive Sounds, chillt mit Deep-House Music oder tanzt ab bei Special-Sets mit House-Music oder ab und zu bei Sets mit Musik aus 80er, 90er oder Trance-Classics.
Werdet Teil einer tollen Community 
My passion for music began what feels like an eternity ago. From my first school discos, my love of DJ’ing grew. I was an active DJ in clubs and discos from 1989 for more than 12 years.
After a long break I’m back, starting here again, and want to offer you a galaxy full of electronic music on my channel.
Join me on my journey through the infinite expanses of electronic melodic and progressive sounds. Chill out with deep house music or dance the night away to special sets with house music, or sometimes sets with music from the 80s, 90s or trance classics.
Be part of a great community. 

The intro is still only in German, so I'll post the translation that I did here: 

Herzlich Willkommmen auf dem Kanal von Galaxy-Music! Neben spacig-elektronischem Sound aus Melodic und Progressive House, gibt es hier auch irdische Klänge mit Deep-House, House... bis hin zu Special-Set's. Enjoy it and feel the Music und werde ein Teil unserer großartigen Community.  
A warm welcome to the Galaxy-Music channel! In addition to the spacey-electronic sounds of melodic and progressive House, there are also the earthly sounds of Deep-House, House…including Special-Sets here. Enjoy it and feel the music and be a part of our great community.  

My next German-translating endeavor is going to be an article about a German electronica group that I also discovered on Twitch.  


Getting more into Portuguese

After I finished the Japanese Duolingo course, I decided to try to finish another course. Before trying to attain the Japanese goal, I'd been spending a lot of time on German, with other languages sprinkled in. But the satisfaction of finishing something I'd started caused me to look at the length of each of the courses I was taking, and they were either really long or extremely long. I think it's because the courses are aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Spanish and French look like they'll take forever, and German will take a long time as well. Italian seems better, but Portuguese seems more manageable. So I've decided to concentrate on that, and I'm having a great time.

My previous exposure to Portuguese was several years ago in some casual lessons and a couple of trips to Brazil. I also translated Portuguese into English for work and for fun, which didn't seem difficult after trying to tackle Japanese translation. So my Duolingo learning is pretty challenging, especially because it's hard to understand the audio. If I want to skip a unit, the vocabulary questions seem easy, but I don't always understand the dictation. So when I see the correct answer, I understand what's written and am pretty annoyed that I wasn't able to discern the words.

It's sort of messed up my Spanish, which wasn't that great anyway. Now I'm working in more Spanish environments, so I have to sometimes speak it and understand what people are saying to me. But sometimes I'll say a word that is correct in Portuguese but is wrong in Spanish, so my mind feels more scrambled. The other day I told some Spanish speakers that I've been doing more Portuguese in Duolingo than Spanish, and they were cool about it, but I was sort of frustrated that I'm attempting different languages but they're just mush in my mind. But I feel like my reading skills are still solid, so at least I have that going for me :) If people email me in Spanish I understand, and I understand articles pretty well, but listening is difficult and speaking is almost impossible at this point. 

Because Duolingo can't be used alone to get a better grasp of a language, I've been looking at some old books on my shelf such as Essential Portuguese Grammar and Teach Yourself Portuguese, which are written for English speakers, and Bem-Vindo, which is more challenging because it's totally in Portuguese. They're all still useful even though they're from early in the century. I even have a Portuguese Bible that I bought years ago in Brazil. It's written in modern Portuguese, so it's not that hard to understand.

I'm planning on finishing the Portuguese course before the summer. And I would love to go to Portugal sometime because everyone says it's a fantastic country to visit, and some people say it's the best.

Portuguese Duolingo

p.s. the e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.


Do rich people have it better?

Welcome to the post I've been writing for a while, and rewriting, which I've been asking people and thinking about for a long time: is it better to be rich? My short answer is yes.

Commentators will point out unhappy rich people and say, "See? Money doesn't buy you happiness." True. You can find happiness in various ways, and according to The Happy Person, written 30 years ago by therapist Harold Greenwald (which I read a while ago and am now re-reading), people can choose to be happy in any situation. But I'm not talking about general happiness or attaining it. I'm talking about the idea put in front of us that rich people are unhappy so it doesn't matter if you're rich. 

In the larger scheme of things, it doesn't matter. But it makes life easier, and I suspect rich people have better social lives and more social opportunities. One time I wanted to ask a rich person if being rich means a better social life. But before I could even finish the sentence, he said "yes." He didn't know that I was asking about socializing; he thought that I was asking if being rich is better. And to that question he also said "yes."

Think about it: if you want to go to Europe for the weekend, you can. If you want to join a club, you can. If you want to buy a better car, you can. You can give your kids what they need: a safe neighborhood, dynamic activities that will help them grow, a good education, clothing, nice parties, opportunities including valuable contacts for jobs, and more.

But the problem is when there's money but no love or warmth or authenticity. Then people feel lonely and unhappy and isolated. They can buy whatever they want and fly wherever they want, but it won't matter because they don't feel accepted and safe, and it's like living alone in a hardened, cold cave. But the commentators will take those examples and downplay wealth, as if everyone who has money feels that way. But that's not true.

I've met people who have a lot of money who never have to worry about paying their bills. It's only the irresponsible who squander it and end up broke. But those who are smart (and there are many) live within their means, even if it appears to be extravagant. For instance, a rich person can buy a large beach house outright, but they realize they can't have one on every gulf and ocean. So they stop at one. Or they can fly first class every time, but they know that buying a private plane is stretching it. To the rest of us, even an apartment on the Pacific is too expensive, so we have to settle for one in a concrete jungle. But rich people do have their limits, it's just that they're broader than ours. 

And then there's the pursuit of money that can make people feel miserable. I'm not talking about people who need a job to get their basic needs and to get out of a shooting-filled neighborhood to be able to pay for a one-bedroom in a stable suburb. I've met people who are more than millionaires and they're neurotic and lack peace because they want what other rich people have and are envious. They work to acquire more but don't enjoy what they have nor what they can do with their money. But again, that's not every person I've met. There are lots of people who are living comfortably, paying for what their children need and want, and their concerns are academic because they have way more than they need.

I've met a lot of people who are just getting by and are stressed out, and understandably so. If they lose their job, they'll have to scramble to get another one to survive. If prices go up, they have to make decisions about what is most necessary. If their car breaks down, they have to be able to afford to get it fixed. When gas prices go up, they have to forfeit other necessities to be able to fill the tank. They want to be able to enjoy Christmas, nights out, weekends away, but they know they'll get into debt over it. Their lives are filled with decisions and sacrifices over basic needs and desires for luxuries that a rich person's pocket money can take care of with no problem.

Many years ago I met someone who made wise decisions and ended up pretty well off. She never had to worry about paying for anything, and she was able to pay people to help her as she got older. But she said some of her happiest days were when she and her husband were just starting out and they lived in a studio apartment, where she tutored students and her husband worked at a job that didn't pay a lot. She said life was so much simpler back then and she enjoyed it. I think she was just being nostalgic as she got older. Would she think the same way if she raised her kids in such a situation? She'd have a small space for her, her husband, and a few kids, enough money to pay the rent and some basic food but not much else, and a neighborhood with bad schools surrounded by decrepit buildings. They would've been stressed out and fighting about money, and complaining that they wanted their kids to be in better schools, have decent clothes and an infrastructure that had pathways to a brighter future. I was pretty young when I heard her talk about the good ol' days, and even back then I had my doubts. 

Last month, I was hanging out with some people at someone's house, and we had a great time. One person said what we were doing was worth more than being able to fly to Europe for the weekend. There was no money required for what we were doing, and while it's great to be able to afford a spontaneous European getaway, the fun we had was priceless. And there are other experiences like that: having the opportunity to be yourself in a judgement-free safe space, having fun doing what you love, helping people live with dignity, or just helping people.

The big news recently is that a super-rich woman gave a medical school a billion dollars so students can study for free. Imagine being able to do that for people. I know there are wealthy people who don't donate anything to anybody, just enjoy buying houses, yachts, cars, planes, and whatever else they want, but they're rich enough to have that choice. 

I know that money doesn't buy you happiness, but if someone is level-headed, that person can coast. Even professor Michael Blanding confirms More Proof That Money Can Buy Happiness (or a Life with Less Stress): less stress, greater control, and more satisfaction. 

p.s. the e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.


I finished the Duolingo Japanese course!

I decided to set a Duolingo goal to finish the Japanese course this month, and I did it!

At first I didn't know if I was really done because there was no celebration from the app. Usually they give you high-fives for things such as completing lessons or challenges, so I expected something like that. When I got to the end of the challenges, Section 6 turned gold and Duo appeared in the middle of the circle with pom-poms, and a trophy appeared. But the app didn't give me a separate message of congratulations nor put anything in the feed, which is something it usually does for other milestones. But since now everything is in "Review" mode, I'm assuming I'm done and can review as I want. 

I still have German to tackle, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian, so I'm not done with the app. I'm going to continue studying Japanese in other contexts, and Duolingo definitely helped me improve my skills. It's a good app; you should use it to at least augment your language-learning pursuits.

p.s. the e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.


I met someone who likes people

Five years ago I wrote about a guy who's in the people business, who I assumed was helping people and speaking to groups of people because he liked people. But when I met him he was quite unfriendly and didn't want to talk to anyone. He had no problem talking on a screen or lecturing to a group, but after he was finished, he was squeamish and avoidant, which didn't match his public persona. So I concluded that he was a phony and was only pretending to be people-oriented to help him sell books and get a following online to appear to care about helping people. It was disappointing and a turn-off, and I regretted buying his books, and decided to no longer spend time looking at anything else of his online or engaging with his content in any way. So I concluded that people who are in the people business should actually like people.

Then a couple of years ago I wrote about how I like people who like people, and I still feel that way. I've worked with people who don't like people and they think it's weird and obtrusive if anyone tries to be friendly or tries to connect. I thought I was going to meet such a person recently because they said they're outgoing, but of course it turned out to be false, which made me think about this topic again. At this point, and especially since the pandemic is over, I really don't have time for posers or people who show fake enthusiasm only to cancel at the last minute because something better came along or they've decided I'm not as important as someone else. Why waste my time? But amazingly, around the same time, I met someone who is outgoing, works with people, actually likes people, and follows through. I was surprised that the person is authentic. Especially with social media, there are so many people who craft a public identity or act like they're accepting but are really selective and superficial.

I was eating breakfast in a hotel restaurant and saw someone doing an interview on his phone, and afterward I walked up to him and asked if he had just done a livestream. He said he was recording his podcast, and we chatted about digital content and other things, then I gave him my contact info and returned to my table. Then he came to my table and asked if he can join us (my husband and me). Of course! Because we'd already gotten along, had already established a connection, sitting at our table was a logical and natural continuation of what had been previously established. There aren't many people who would do that, but it's no big deal for people who like people. We continued our conversation and talked about a lot more, then he went to a conference and I went elsewhere. He even invited us to go out that night with a group from the conference, but I thought I had plans, so I didn't go. But of course, the plans I had were cancelled at the last minute by someone who I thought would be people-oriented, so it was too late to go out with the seemingly fun group. It was one of those situations where I should've trusted my gut; sometimes I can tell if someone is going to follow through or not, but I ignored my instincts (and this has happened other times, and has even led to a Tonya Harding-type of situation, but I won't blog about that unless I become so rich I don't care anymore).

Since the guy was friendly, sincere, and interesting (and such a combination is rare), I texted him about breakfast the next morning. I didn't expect him to show up, but he did, which again seems rare in the 21st century (unless you're rich, famous, and/or powerful; then people will show up). We had another interesting conversation, and I told him I wanted to interview him for my livestream. I figured at this point he'd flake (because other people have agreed to interviews but then disappeared), but he didn't. At first, it looked like he wasn't going to show up because I heard nothing from him for half an hour. Then, just after I deleted the meeting and went to another room to watch TV, I got a text saying he was available to do the interview and was sorry for being late because he was with a client. So I reestablished the link and we did the interview for more than an hour. So again, he followed through and he was the same kind of friendly, people-oriented, authentic person he'd been when I first met him.

So all of this is to say that I still like people who like people, and people who like people follow through and aren't fake or opportunistic, and communicate appropriately and respectfully. Hopefully I'll keep meeting such cool people as the year progresses.

p.s. the e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.


2024 is going to be about language

As I said previously, I've been doing Duolingo and reached the 200-day milestone on the last day of 2023. When I was working a lot, my language learning was limited to Duolingo and foreign language accounts on Twitter/X. Now that I quit a job and did not have to work the holidays for the first time in several years, I've increased my language learning to at least a few hours a day, which includes Easy German, Japanese shows (with English subtitles) on NHK, Twitch chats, online articles, and textbooks from classes I took years ago. I definitely feel very motivated, and haven't felt this way in several years because I was chasing other dreams and goals. 

I've also resumed studying Italian and Portuguese on Duolingo. I studied Italian several years ago and even did a translation here, but I didn't really care about it much until a few days ago when I went out with someone who was able to speak Italian with some tourists. I could sort of understand what they were saying but wanted to understand more, so later that night I practiced on Duolingo. I also added Portuguese because everyone who's been to Portugal says it's the best place to visit, and I recently talked to a few people who've been there and loved it. I was able to speak it several years ago when I went to Brazil, so I decided to try to unearth it in my brain. Duolingo only has Brazilian Portuguese but it's better than nothing. I still have no clue how to pronounce it, though I can read it okay.

p.s. the e-book version of my debut novel is still at Amazon, and the price for the print version has been reduced: buy at the Eckhartz Press site.