Opinion: A different word for everything


One of the things on my bucket list is to be fluent in another language.

My wife Mary Ellen and I are planning a trip to Mexico this winter, so I decided to look into the many apps that you hear advertised on the radio like Babbel, a lousy name for an application that claims to help you speak a new language clearly. There was also Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

I opted for Duolingo and am achieving some success. Up until now, the app has been pretty good, so long as I speak only in the present tense and want to order only beans and rice at a restaurant. It also gives me different scenarios and then provides the terminology I might employ in those situations, like at a library or a café. Here’s one:

  • You are walking down the street alone. You see a stranger. You ask for directions and then strike up a conversation. You suggest having a drink where you can talk, maybe get to know each other better and then plan to have some fun together.

This sounds to me like a chapter from “Spanish 101 for Street Walkers.”

Now, in my sixth month of study, I get the feeling that Duolingo is running out of new things for me to translate from English to Spanish. The sentences below are actual examples from Unit 14 along with a few editorial remarks by me.  All are 100 percent true. Totalmente Cierto!

  • Yesterday, the birds cleaned the kitchen.
  • (What about the bottom of their cage?)

  • The horse and the cow went out for dinner.
  • (Good luck. It’s hard to find a good vegan restaurant in Indiana.)

  • My cat cleans the house.
  • (But his litter box is still a disgusting mess.)

  • The duck learned to use the toilet.
  • (But never flushes or puts the lid down.)

  • The pig wrote a letter to his grandmother.
  • (How many pigs still have a living grandmother?)

  • The horse is taking lessons in German.
  • (But is having trouble putting on the lederhosen.)

  • The cats are learning Chinese.
  • (Big deal, they are Siamese cats.)

  • Pigs can learn to spell.
  • (Yes, and they think “farm” is spelled E I E I O.)

I doubt I will ever have to use any of these phrases, but it’s always good to be prepared. For example, right now I have to wrap up this column quickly. There is a lot going on in my house and I need to attend to it now…

  • Mi cerdo y mi vaca estan en la computadora pidiendo una pizza de anchoasa entregar.
  • (My pig and my cow are on the computer ordering an anchovy pizza to be delivered)

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