Friday, August 3, 2018

Duolingo: A Review

A month ago, I finished the Korean course on Duolingo, reaching level 1 on all of the categories (now I am in the process of getting level 2s) in the course.

Duolingo is an app/website that helps people to learn different languages. There are over 20 courses for English speakers and according to their website, they have over 200 million users. So, it is a well-known stop for learning languages.  

My Experience: 
When I first downloaded the app, it had no Korean course (the language that I have been studying since 2013), so I was only using it to study French. Then last year Duolingo released the beta version of the Korean course. I added it right away and started working. 

I didn’t study using the app every day (which is the ideal thing to do); I only used it when I had the time and energy. Personally, I think Duolingo is a great way to expose yourself to new Korean vocabulary. It is also a way to measure how much you know of a language. Of course, for me there is still a lot to be learned. 

Strengths:
Duolingo always has new words introduced in different colors within sentences. It covers many areas from alphabets to verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. It has you covered. It is one destination to learn basic Korean. 

I really liked how the lessons were available in order. It motivated me to finish more lessons so that I can access more.  

The course was useful in testing my skills in constructing sentences in Korean. It was the closest thing to writing in Korean since I don’t practice writing Korean at all. 
There are different types of questions available which is very important for language learners. You ought to discover them yourself. 

Weaknesses: 
I believe for Duolingo to provide an excellent experience for its users, they must commit to some changes. 

One of the biggest issues is that after a few lessons they stop introducing new words separately with a picture (for the visual learners). They just provide sentences and if you don’t know the meaning of any of the words, you just click on it (and the meaning will appear in English). This is not a good way to memorize new words because you are only copying and pasting. Instead, the words colored in yellow/green should be introduced first. Then the user can be tested by translating sentences.   

Secondly, there are many useless sentences that I wouldn’t use in real life. I wish Duolingo would focus only on sentences that I would need to communicate. 

If you are going to learn Korean using Duolingo, you must have a little background. You cannot jump into the course without previous knowledge. 

Finally, I recommend using Duolingo to learn a language in a fun way. But don’t expect fluency at the end of the road.

What do you think? Have you ever tried Duolingo or any other similar applications?



Twitter: @basma_aalx 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

It took me forever to finish this book. Not because it was boring but because it was thick of information. With each passing page, I had to pause to take in what I learned.

When I first picked up the book from Cairo book fair last February, I thought it will give me a summary of historical events. However it actually turned out to be about the history of the universe, earth, when the elements you see floating around in the periodic table was discovered, etc.

If you are interested in science, this book is right for you.

It talks about biology, physics, chemistry and the list goes on and on. I honestly don’t know how this book was compiled together with this amount of information.

My live reactions:



I believe that you need a little background in science to understand many of the things mentioned in this book. I am not a science major, but I took biology and chemistry classes in high school and I think it helped a bit. If you are still interested in reading this book (without previous knowledge in science), you can use Google (it helped me a lot).

This book was informative, funny and an eye opener to the wonderful world we live in. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey

When I saw this book in the midst of the other books, I knew I had to buy it.

It is about Queen Elizabeth which I barely knew anything about. The book contained colored illustrations so that was a plus. And finally the cover had the Queen on it and I just had to conform to her orders.

So I don’t have to go further about my excitement towards this book when I first saw it.

Now upon reading the book, I felt bad for Elizabeth’s struggles. She had to grow up in a place far away from her mom. Her mother was executed when Elizabeth was very young. And as the title suggests, it was a struggle to the throne. Elizabeth went through a lot. It was probably because of the era she was born in. Everything was just too complicated back then.

I had fun reading the first part of the book (knowing about Elizabeth’s upbringings and such). However, later on, I became disinterested because the book turned into a political scene. It focused on politics which doesn’t cross off any of preferred genres. For some reason, I prefer reading history over politics. I know both genres collide from time to time. But you know preferences. What can I do!

So I recommend this book if you are into both British history and politics. Also, if you have a little background about the Elizabethan era.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

Imagine being frozen for centuries. You are alive but frozen. You are on a spaceship travelling to another planet.

Amy chooses to go with her parents to a new planet that is similar to earth.
We see in the first 2 books in the series the story is unfolding on the spaceship. 

In Shades of Earth, the spaceship finally lands. FINALLY!!!!!

I don’t want to get into the story because SPOILERS!!!

So instead I want to discuss Amy’s decision.

Would you do that? Would you freeze yourself? For any reason?
It got me really thinking.

Imagine freezing yourself and waking up knowing that the people you grew up with, loved or hated are all dead. That Earth is no longer your home. That if you were to go back to Earth, nothing would be the same. And you wouldn’t have a place on it. Just that thought breaks everything apart.

I did find the book a bit slow, especially the beginning. However, the ending was good and unexpected at all.

Finally, I am glad to have finished this amazing series. The only Sci-Fi series I ever read in my life. And it’s the only trilogy that I own completely so that is saying something. I still remember when I first saw the cover of Across the Universe. Man, it brings back memories.

It’s time to say goodbye to yet another series. Looking forward to Beth Revis’s newest projects. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur Golden
Pages: 497
Publisher: Vintage

Memoirs of a Geisha takes you on a train ride to a pre-world war 2 Japan. Its takes you on a journey that is rare to one’s eyes. It takes you through the scope of being a geisha who was sold at the age of 9.

This book captures the essences of Japanese beauty via describing beautiful kimonos, wonderful silk-wrapped gifts and distinguishable individuals.

Okinawa was even described so vividly in this novel that I myself felt my soul was transferred for a little while.

This novel nourished my interest in the Japanese culture.


Now it is time to watch the movie. 

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