DuoLingo – 250+ Days In

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on my adventure with Educational Software. Thankfully that is not because I have completely crashed and burned with that project, rather I’d say I’ve done quite well, with my only major failure being blogging about it :(

I’ve now passed a 250 day streak on DuoLingo. For those of you not familiar with the site a streak is simply a series of days where you’ve completed a minimum amount of practice. Every day I have logged in and done at the very least one lesson, though more often than not I did quite a bit more than that. A lesson is typically ten questions, though that varies between the Android app and the website, and can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to ten. Occasionally I will half finish a lesson only to open the app later and find it has kept my progress (though don’t always rely on that one). It’s been really quite convenient and I would say that is responsible for 98% percent of my success with learning Spanish. I’m constantly pulling out my phone and going to DuoLingo to do my Spanish, instead playing whatever game is new and interesting.

At 250 days I have managed to complete about half the tree on DuoLingo. It’s hard to say where that puts me with the language, as the tree is structured in an unexpected way that has you learning things like numbers and object pronouns much later in the game. I’m currently level 15 in Spanish, with the maximum level being 25. I have 8484XP, which would represent about 848 lessons completed (keep in mind that you can redo them over and over for practice). DuoLingo says I know 819 words, though I’ve learned many more through external sources. I’ve supplemented with Memrise quite a lot, and have completed the entire Learn Basic Spanish course with 324 words learned there (though there’s a bit of overlap). I also practice a lot using the Spanish DuoLingo Words course as well as the 1500 Word Spanish Intro, though I’m no where near completing those courses. I’ve given up on Rosetta Stone, it wasn’t worth my time. I’ve also abandoned countless other Spanish sites and apps that just didn’t get my attention like DuoLingo or Memrise. Other than that I have listened to almost every episode of Coffee Break Spanish and have done a fair bit of both the Rocket Spanish and Pimsleur Essential Spanish audio courses. So how much Spanish do I know? I have no idea! A lot, but no where near enough.

Up until only recently I have only been using the present tense and have finally gotten to and finished the past tense section, which only taught me the preterite tense. Future tense is only a lesson away so I am excited to tackle that one soon as I feel that both are necessary to really use a language. I had really stalled out on my tree around the half way point, partially due to me wanting to really wrap my head around a few of the concepts, and partially because I find the lessons became less straight forward. I starting to find the learn through brute force method to be less and less intuitive as the lessons progress, it works great for learning conjugations but some concepts just really need a different approach. I also don’t like how the preterite tense was taught with new words and conjugations rather than just new conjugations for words you already know, it made it much harder to pick up what was happening. But am using outside sources to help me through those rough areas so I guess it all works out.

Despite all these negatives I would actually say I’m doing amazingly well in Spanish. I’m normally a failure when it comes to languages, and had often given up on the hope of learning a language. With DuoLingo I am making daily progress and I am seeing results. I over hear a lot of Spanish and can make out a lot of what people are saying, though not always. Some days I feel like can’t understand a thing then the next some lady will yell at her kid in Spanish and I’ll understand every word of it. I’m watching shows and movies in Spanish, with the help of only Spanish subtitles and am following along pretty well. I have also recently taken a few Skype lessons and was very pleased with how well I did with the verbal skills. I’m not fluent, no where near it, but in six months I feel I’ve come further with Spanish than I did in taking French for 6 years in school. I am actually learning Spanish, and I’m having fun doing it and am eager to learn more every day. So I would consider my journey with DuoLingo a complete success so far.

As for Rocksmith… well not so good news there. After completing my 60 day challenge, with only missing a couple of days, I eventually put my guitar down and forgot about it. I don’t really know why, I was having fun, learning lots and really excited about it all, but I just broke the streak and that was that. I think i went away for a weekend and when I came back I had broken the habit and was never able to get it started again. So it really shows how important that daily streak reminder is in DuoLingo, it’s kept me going and going. Rocksmith, on the other hand, completely failed with their 60 day challenge because their tracking system doesn’t even work. It almost never updates and when it does the information is always wrong. After 60 days it only reported 3 days of playing on my profile. Pretty unimpressive when you consider how hard they promoted their 60 day challenge.

That being said, I really enjoyed Rocksmith. Both 2014 and the original. I hope to get back into them, perhaps in the winter when I have more down time, we shall see. For now my guitar is on the side burner as I focus on my Spanish.

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Fix a Zoomed in Youtube Video

A while back I uploaded a bunch of Youtube videos in 16:9 format and found they did not display correctly. They had the black bars at the top and bottom despite being viewed in 720p which is a 16:9 format. Eventually I found out I could fix this by one of two ways, one was not to upload directly through my video editing software and the other was by adding a tag that said yt:crop=16:9. This was a hidden tag but was used by the Youtube video player to adjust the video to that screen format. It worked and I used it and forgot about it, until now.

Today a subscriber let me know my videos were all zoomed in about 20% and a lot of my titles were chopped off as a result. It also really amplified any shakiness making it look it was filmed by Michael J Fox. I figure Youtube must have changed something on their site, as nothing seemed to prompt this on my end. I’ve had a few other videos get messed up when I had edited them using their in browser editor, but in this case I had not done so. Eventually I noticed it was just the videos that were using that tag and thus I removed them, which fixed the new issue but gave me back my original one. So after a bit of research I ended up back at this page which mentioned another stretch option. I did not remember this one being there before but either way it did not sound like what I wanted, but I tested it anyways. Alas, that was the solution! All you have to do is change yt:crop=16:9 to yt:stretch=16:9.

Youtube must have changed the way these worked and not told anyone. Thanks Youtube.

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Disable Plants vs Zombies 2 Notifications in Android

I’ve always enjoyed Plants vs Zombies, and I think they vastly improved upon it in the sequel. The issue is that it spams the Android notification console with messages. It was bad enough that I almost ditched the game. Then I found out about this handy trick which should work for any game or app.

And voila! No more annoying notifications!

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