Duolingo Korean review: First impressions and funny sentences

Duolingo finally added a Korean course this fall and after two months of doing two lessons per day almost every day, I can say it’s one of the most effective and satisfying methods of learning the language I’ve tried so far.

As I briefly noted on my main blog, I’ve been enjoying it way more than the other two Duolingo courses I’ve got going on, which are French and Swedish. My hunch is that my Korean level hits that sweet spot between know and don’t know—such that the basics are not so foreign that it’s strenuous to complete the exercises (like my Swedish course experience), nor am I familiar enough with sentence structures and vocab that the exercises become a bit tedious (like my French course experience).

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Best way to learn a language?

If you had to pick just one method…that isn’t taking a class or moving to that country?

That’s the premise of a great video I watched earlier this year from Talk to Me in Korean, which I’ve been consulting since my high school days. Over the years, the company has grew from a site with online lessons to a whole big production that includes videos, textbooks, and a cafe in Seoul?! But in this video, TTMIK founder Hyunwoo shares just one thing you should do to get better at Korean.

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A trip to Albertine (finally!)


Last weekend, I finally got around to visiting Albertine, the new-ish bookstore and reading room housed in Manhattan’s historic Payne Whitney mansion, which has served the cultural services of the French Embassy since the 1950s. Conceived as a project to bridge the French and American cultures through books/humanities/general intellectual deliciousness, Albertine carries 14,000 titles in French and English and hosts special events like discussions, book signings, and story hours. While I aspire to partake in those alluring offerings later on, my first visit consisted of a quick stroll through the place, which was intimate and well-heated, and well, getting really hypnotized by the gorgeous indigo-and-gold ceiling on the second floor (details on the design of that here).

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Duolingo Teaches Swedish Now!

I’m not sure how it’s been over a month since I blogged here but this I do know: it seems rather counterproductive that my “first post back” is about…Swedish???

Alas, I’m slowly making my way through the WordPress reader and am SO. FREAKING. EXCITED. to learn (via Ruth @ Talk Foreign to Me) that Duolingo is offering a course on Swedish now (along with Danish, Turkish, Dutch, and Irish, apparently).

I know my goal, first and foremost, is to get real good at Korean and French, but ever since I met some really fun Swedish-born Chinese girls that one summer in Beijing…I’ve been mesmerized by the language…

I think it’ll be really exciting getting to know a language I speak no word of…and I think the casual, illustrative exercises on Duolingo will be perfect for that.

All aboard the Swedophile train!

Idioms are hard.

The Atlantic recently published something that’s right up my alley: a foreign idiom quiz! Featuring examples from Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and many more.

Before the quiz, there was this quote from Jay Bhalla, author of an idiom book called I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, which I liked and was just like, you can say that again (idiom!? haha):

“It’s just fascinating that every culture has them,” Bhalla told me, notwithstanding the fact that idioms are “often the least logical way to communicate a thought.”

No Korean in the mix, but here are the Chinese and French questions:


↑ This took me a while to process, but then it came to me. Horse horse tiger tiger = 马马虎虎 (Mǎmǎhǔhǔ). This is one of those things that I know in speech and listening, but not in writing…definitely did not realize there was horse and tiger involved.

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Cool Intensive Language Study Opportunity

I'd probably study Korean, but in light of recent events, Arabic is truly critical...(via davespencer/Flickr)
I’d probably study Korean, but in light of recent events, Arabic is truly critical…(via davespencer/Flickr)

Um, why didn’t I know about this when I was still in school?

Apparently, the U.S. Department of State sponsors the Critical Language Scholarship Program, a super competitive opportunity for U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to study one of 13 foreign languages over a summer. Fully-funded. The application for summer 2015 is now open and closes on November 12. 

Languages offered 

  • Azerbaijani
  • Bangla
  • Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Korean
  • Punjabi
  • Turkish
  • Urdu
  • Arabic *
  • Persian *
  • Chinese **
  • Japanese **
  • Russian **

* requires one year of prior study
** requires two years of prior study