Thoughts about Language Learning 6/29/2023

Ich kann nicht so gut Deutch, aber es hat viel Spaß gemacht.

Roughly, that means "I am not very good at speaking German, but it has been alot of fun."


My experience learning German has been very different, and overall much better than learning French which I took in high school and remember about none of. I want to take this blog to disect why I enjoy my experience with German so much, and what benefits I feel it is giving me outside of simply knowing another language.

A Thought Provoking Escape from Programming


As fun as I find programming, during the school year it can feel all consuming. I am constantly in "developer mode." My education has become more and more focused on programming, and those programming courses have become more and more rigorous. The thing is, if I have the time for a social science course, which is a subject area I have a ton of love for, my mind will often be wandering to the code I am working on. However, with language courses I have found that my mind is not able to wander to programming. I am forced to focus on the language, as I am not naturally great at picking up grammar rules, new languages, or even new words. I have found this to be a good thing, as it forces my mind into a break from programming. Often, when I return to programming I feel refreshed, and will often solve a problem that was stonewalling me.


I have always had a problem taking a 'break' from really anything. I feel uncomfortable when I do not have something I am working towards, and I feel like I am wasting time. I have found that learning German has been a great way to take a break from programming, while still feeling like I am working towards something. I do in fact need to learn how to simply let myself relax more, but learning German has been a great tool in my arsenal.


Why Now and Why German


Well, first of all I was pushed into completting more language courses due to university graduation requirements. However, instead of opting to take a couple more French courses, I decided to restart, learning German from scratch. This choice was made as a result of quite a bit of research.

First, English is a Germanic language, meaning there is similarities in sentance structure. Interestingly I have found that literal translations of German sentances seem similar to Old English, or sometimes how Yoda talks in Star Wars.

Second, I read that German is a very logical language, once you learn the rules it becomes mostly about learning the words whereas Romance Languages, in my experience, tend to just pile on more and more rules.

Lastly, looking into language courses at Michigan, I found the entire German department to be the highest rated. I have found myself in agreement with this high rating, as the department is extremely organized and well structured. In general the department has proven itself as organized as the Computer Science Department, which is saying something.


Duolingo Addiction


I have used Duolingo a couple of times before, but never really stuck with it, I always fell off. But this summer, I have dedicated myself into teaching myself another semesters worth of German but on my own. I have found Duolingo to be a great tool to achieve this goal.

Now, I am not using Duolingo alone. That was my problem during all of my failed attempts to use Duolingo. It is a good application, but it does not do a great job of teaching grammer, or allowing you to interact with real German speakers. Due to the extreme organization of the German department at Michigan, I was able to get my hands on all of the course materials online, allowing me to watch video lectures, practice vocab, read grammar rules, and more. Doing Duolingo on top of all of this has been a great way to practice what I am learning, and keep myself engaged.

My usage of Duolingo has increased immensily over the last couple weeks. The Streak and League features of the app have kept me engaged daily, and locked me into fierce battles with other Duolingo users to place well enough in my league to advance. For example, this week I am locked in an intense battle within the top 10 in the Emerald League, where only the top 7 will advance to the next league. I will receive notifications whenever someone overtakes me, which instantly prompts me to get on the app and get practicing. My fellow interns at ZEUS now will just laugh whenever I randomly start speaking German to my phone.


Takeaways

  1. Learning a Language while studying an applied science, such as Computer Science or Engineering Disciplines, can be a great way to take a break from the stresses of applied science while also keeping the mind engaged. Thinking in this different way then coming back to a problem you were struggling can help you solve it.

  2. Deutsch ist sehr Spaß! Some languages may come harder or easier to you, as French came harder than German than me, but what really matters is quality instructors and the organization of the instruction. If you are at Umich, consider taking German.

  3. Duolingo is a good tool to use in addiction to classical language learning. But my takeaway as of recent has been that its steak and league features are a great way to keep users engaged. Gamification is a powerful tool, and Duolingo has done a great job. If I ever develope an IOS app, I will be sure to consider gamifying it in some way.