How Duolingo uses dirty gaming tricks to get you addicted to French

By watching its users learn languages – and make mistakes – in real time, Duolingo is developing a unique view of education

After months spent away from the language-learning app Duolingo, my level-five French skills were in decline. The “food” category was particularly threatened, coded red (for danger) with just one “strength bar” remaining. I clicked it, and was asked to translate: Je mange un repas. No problem. “I eat…” Wait, what was repas? My mind drifted to arepas, the Colombian snack. Defeated, I Google Translated. A meal! I should have intuited this from the English “repast”. But, in the moment, I forgot.

Learning is forgetting; or, more accurately, it’s virtually forgetting that we know something, but then being able to magically retrieve it when called upon. As Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better, suggested to me, the human mind is not simply a computer; we will forget things, at a fairly predictable rate. So should I have simply drilled French food vocabulary every morning over my petits déjenuers? No, Boser says. The best thing “is to learn a word right when you’re about to forget it”. With each instance of effortful relearning, you remember longer [ . . . ]

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Raising a glass to the language of intoxication

 

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Language notes on the French art of drinking

As you would expect, there are many French maxims relating to booze. Alfred de Musset, a 19th-century poet, was not too picky with his preferences: Qu’importe le flacon, pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse – “Nevermind the bottle, as long as you’re intoxicated”. But perhaps the neatest summation of alcohol’s role in French life came from Napoleon, who once said, “In victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat you need it.”

Autumn is upon us, and the grape harvest is under way in vineyards, from Reims to the Rhône Valley, so here we look at French expressions that relate to enjoying a tipple and having one too many.

We often think of the French as moderate – or, at least, quite sensible – drinkers, but in 2013 the phrase beuverie express appeared in the country’s official journal. It became part of the language and ‘binge drinking’ had officially arrived in France…

It is by no means at UK levels but with this in mind, a stock familiar phrase for saying someone drinks too much is boire comme un trou – literally ‘to drink like a hole’. Similar to this are boire comme une éponge (drink like a sponge) or boire comme un évier (drink like a sink).

To drink oneself into a stupor is boire jusqu’à tomber, while to drink someone under the table is faire rouler quelqu’un sous la table.

Conversely, someone who demurely sips at their drink can be said to boire à petits coups. Other words for ‘to sip’ are siroter and gobeloter.

Need to hand out a few words of warning in French about the inhibition-removing effects of a few glasses of wine? Try Ce que le sobre tient au coeur est sur la langue du buveur – “What the sober hold in their heart is on the drinker’s tongue” This is a rather long winded way of saying in vino veritas.

Cul sec! (‘dry bottom’, or ‘Bottoms up!’).

 

Source: Raising a glass to the language of intoxication