For my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, as well as a milestone birthday for my husband that happens in the same year, I want to go to Italy and eat my way from one end to the other. I want to have first-hand opinions on the wine, bread, and pasta; northern vs. southern cuisine. I want to see some of the great masterpieces of art in their natural habitats, and I want to see Venice before it sinks into the sea.
I don’t want to be a stereotypical American tourist, insisting that, well, when in Rome, rather than do as the Romans do, we do it the way Americans do because that’s the one and only right way. Among other things, to accomplish that goal, I’m attempting to learn some basic Italian on DuoLingo.
If you’re not familiar with it, DuoLingo is an app for your phone that is designed to teach you a foreign language. I’ve heard a lot of people make fun of it for the obviously AI generated sentences it asks you to translate and words it teaches you. For example, why ‘penguin’ was one of the first words I needed to learn in Italian escapes all logic. My friend Betsy, who is learning Spanish, had to translate a long, complicated sentence about old cheese in her ears and needing to take a shower as a result.
Nonetheless, I soldier on.
I find the weird things it asks of me to be at times hilarious and surprisingly thought provoking. From an academic standpoint, the weirder the sentence, the more likely I am to remember the words in it.
Take this stark, naked truth for an example:
Yes, DuoLingo, it does. Though why I’d need to convey this information while on a gluttony tour of Italy, we may never know.
Here, DuoLingo is telling me that while I may be drinking some fabulous wine, the grapes of which were stomped by the feet of the same person whose hands gave me the bottle, I need to remember to hydrate. Also, I need to make sure I grab the right bottle.
This one was a little personal for me. I’m in my mid-fifties. It was none-of-your-business ago.
This one seemed existential to me. Yes, the centuries pass, and so do the days, hours, and minutes. Why choose such a long period of time, except as a poetic way of referring to the brief beauty that is the existence of humanity?
So, I could be irritated by the inanity of what I’m asked to translate (gli elefanti bevono limonata=the elephants drink lemonade) or I could be amused by it and take whatever unintended lessons are on offer.
Guess which one I chose?
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.