The Power of Duolingo

In December, a friend of mine showed me this website called, “Duolingo,” knowing of my interest in foreign language. I created an account, and tested into both the Italian and Spanish courses, and was placed into Level 10 and 12 respectively. Looking at the skill tree, I saw that while my grammatical skills were strong, my vocabulary and idiomatic expressions in Italian were somewhat lacking. Over the following few weeks, I improved, and even went up one level. My vocabulary is now much better, and I feel more confident in my skills, although not quite enough to take the upcoming AP Italian Language and Culture Exam.

Whoever wants to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Portuguese but doesn’t want to pay for full-fledged courses or doesn’t have the time, Duolingo is a great, free way to learn and practice your skills, although there’s no substitute for practicing speaking ability with a native or fluent non-native. If you’re a fluent speaker of a language not on the course list, you can join a team for that language to contribute to the building of a course through the three stages of development, and hopefully, add a new course for others to learn with.

Duolingo is an infinitely useful tool, and its user-friendly interface and interactive structure is great for learners of all ages. So, get learning! https://www.duolingo.com

National Foreign Language Week

National Foreign Language Week celebrates the speaking of foreign languages in America, and was inaugurated by Eloise Therese, 1956-1960 president of Alpha Mu Gamma, a college-level foreign language honor society, in 1957. Each year, the week serves as a time of advocacy and encouragement of the learning of foreign languages, from March 4 to March 10. This event is so important that President Eisenhower, in 1956, sent a telegram endorsing the celebration. Each successive president has similarly shown support for this event.

At your school, workplace, or wherever, you should encourage the celebration of this event in whatever way you can! Start learning a new language, teach one to your children, or improve on your skills by enrolling in community college course! I cannot stress enough how important foreign language education is, especially in the context of our nation, one made of people from all walks of life, from many countries, and of different language traditions. I greatly anticipate this event, so I can celebrate it with my club at my school!

Akshay Patra

Akshay Patra is a non-profit organization in India that has collected significant sums of money to donate toward the funding of school lunches to children that go hungry, and then do not come to school. By providing these children with healthy meals, they are encouraged to go to school, and provide not just India, but the whole world with young new minds to improve the future.

My mother has expressed great interest in doing this charity, and I have as well. I have decided that I will donate 100% of the proceeds of the purchases of Scoprendo l’italiano! toward this cause. So, if you wish to purchase, know that you will also be helping improve the lives of many unfortunate children.

If you want to know more about this cause, go to http://www.akshayapatra.org.

Something for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a little poem I wrote for Valentine’s Day. It’s in Italian, so I’ll post a translation as well. I’ve purposely left it ambiguous with respect to gender,  to make it more applicable. I named it Vedi!, which means Behold!

Vedi! (Behold!)

Mentre calpesta dalla sua carroza, (As he/she steps from his/her carriage)

Il suo costume è il più brillante (His/her garb is the most brilliant)

Brillando come il sole radioso! (Shining like the radiant sun!)

Vedi! (Behold!)

Come la sua voce canta (How his/her voice sings)

Più dolce dell’usignolo più bello (Sweeter than the most beautiful nightingale)

Illuminando il mondo colla sua bellezza! (Illuminating the world with his/her beauty)

Vedi! (Behold!)

Mentre riempie tutto colla sua letizia (As he/she fills everything with her felicity)

Ballando attraverso le strade (Dancing through the street)

Come l’arcobaleno brillante! (Like a brilliant rainbow!)

Vedi, (Behold,)

Mentre vengo ai tuoi piedi (As I come to your feet)

Adorandoti, amandoti, (Worshipping you, loving you)

Chissà se sia un’anima più pura? (Who knows if there is a purer soul?)

Vedi, (Behold,)

Sento il tuo contatto amoroso, (I feel your loving touch)

Come i raggi lunari (Like moonbeams)

Ed il mio cuore è così commosso, (And my heart is so moved,)

Che non posso vivere senza te (That I cannot live without you)

Ti desidero follemente (I desire you madly)

Come la terra bassa agogna (Like the lowly earth longs for)

Le stelle splendente (The resplendent stars)

What’s the best language to learn?

As a foreign language nut, for those who know me, I’ve been asked on multiple occasions what I think is the best language to learn. Language, being a universal thing by nature, is also universally applicable. It has so many uses, and different languages are suited to different things. Purposes include utility and beauty. While many perspectives on the two exist, here is my piece:

When it comes to the most useful language to learn, most people consider Mandarin Chinese to be the most useful, followed by Japanese. China has become a considerable economic entity in recent years, as has Japan. Both have fairly wide areas of economic hegemony, and doing business in those countries is very likely to be useful. However, in the realm of politics, I believe that Hebrew, Farsi, and Arabic are among the more useful languages. They are largely overlooked, due to the stigma associated with the Middle East, and difficulty in learning. As issues grow in Iraq, Iran, and Israel, the US is also pressed further into involvement with those conflicts. By knowing those languages, and using them to negotiate with the people of those countries, a more peaceful outcome might be possible, due to a medium of mutual understanding.

As for the most beautiful language, Hindi-Urdu, Italian, and Hebrew rank in my top three. Hindi has a rich musical legacy, ranging from Vedic chants to Bollywood music (although some of it is rubbish these days). The most beautiful songs in Hindi-Urdu that come to mind are Teri Justajoo (Saaware) from Shor in the City, Sajda from My Name Is Khan, and Titli, from Chennai Express. All are decent movies, except for the last one, which is almost wholly a slapstick comedy, with this one jewel of a song, although part of the song is in Tamil. Hindi-Urdu is one of the most beautiful lyrical languages, with expressive vocabulary that conveys a wide variety of emotions, aspects, and actions, deeper than most other languages.

Italian is the second most beautiful, in my opinion, shown in its ubiquity in classical vocal music, and also the rhythmic, lyrical flow of the language. It’s also quite entertaining to speak, especially with other people. It is often said to be the most romantic of all the Romance languages.

Hebrew has been called an odd choice as a favorite language by my friends, who regard it as somewhat harsh and clunky. However, I have heard fluent speakers, who speak the language with grace and beauty. The language, in vocal music, has the potential to rival Hindi-Urdu, with its rich, meaningful vocabulary. Good Hebrew singers have a solid foundation yet fluid range in their voice quality, commanding the language as if it were an orchestra conducted by a masterful maestro.

Well, that’s my bit for today. Leave your opinions in the comments! I’d love to hear other peoples’ views on this topic.

Book Availability!

http://www.amazon.com/Scoprendo-litaliano-Accessible-Learning-Italian/dp/1495411702/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391897837&sr=8-1&keywords=scoprendo

https://www.createspace.com/4650011

If you wish to purchase a print version of Scoprendo l’italiano!, it is available at these links for $39.18 (for Amazon Prime members and $43.78 for non-Prime members) and $43.78 on my Createspace eStore, for which I have a discount code: LZDAWJA2, which should give a $20 discount when applied.

Book Availability!

http://www.amazon.com/Scoprendo-litaliano-Accessible-Learning-Italian/dp/1495411702/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391897837&sr=8-1&keywords=scoprendo

https://www.createspace.com/4650011

If you wish to purchase a print version of Scoprendo l’italiano!, it is available at these links for $39.18 (for Amazon Prime members and $43.78 for non-Prime members) and $43.78 on my Createspace eStore, for which I have a discount code: LZDAWJA2, which should give a $20 discount when applied.

Coke’s “America the Beautiful”

On the most recent weekend, I’d heard about the so-called, “controversy,” of the Coke commercial during the Super Bowl, which involved the performance of the American patriotic song, “America the Beautiful,” in other languages. Only yesterday did I actually see the video for myself, and I am disgusted by the comments on it.

How is it that we, the United States of America, can be so divided in our beliefs on what ought to be a trivial commercial? United under English we may be (albeit for the sake of our individual functionalities in society), but to say that this song should not be sung in any other language but English is absurd and untrue to the American spirit of the virtues of life, liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. It is a blow to life, where the cultural and linguistic lives of our multi-ethnic society are put in jeopardy. It is an attack upon personal liberty, where the immigrants and their descendants are discouraged from freely speaking their mother tongues and thereby forced to abandon their cultural identity and heritage. It is to abolish the right to the pursuit of happiness, to claim that when immigrants come to our country, they must speak English, abandon their own ways, assimilate into our society, and ultimately lose all sense of self, individuality, identity, and self, compromising personal happiness, such as one’s happiness upon their identity fully crystallizing and coming to terms with it.

So I ask you: If you deny the multi-ethnic nature of our society, how can you call yourself American, when you deny this important personal liberty, to speak one’s mother tongue and establish one’s cultural identity? How dare you deny liberty, a virtue that our colonial forefathers fought for!

Updates on Scoprendo l’italiano! (Part 2) and Other News

Scoprendo l’italiano is now available in print on Createspace and Amazon for $43.78! A bit pricy for the first release, but I will be releasing a discount code in the somewhat near future.

In other news, I’ve begun work on Hindi Sikho!, a Hindi counterpart to Italian, with help from my parents, both of whom are much more accomplished speakers than I am. You should most likely expect to see it available in early to mid-March. I hope you guys purchase my book on the Kindle Store or a print version, if you prefer.