As a firm believer in the usefulness of gamification to assist learning, I had been looking for an opportunity to explore some of the resources that take a gamified approach to foreign language learning. Duolingo was already on my radar, and not only after they added Klingon among their options. I decided recently to finally try it out, starting with Swahili. I was pleasantly surprised with how this minimally gamified approach – breaking things into levels, providing immediate feedback and encouragement to keep going, etc. – made sure I made progress on a daily basis.
I soon myself trying to recall how something that I was learning related to the Swahili of the song Baba Yetu, which you may know as the Civilization IV theme song, by Christopher Tin. And so I Googled the phrase “Jina lako ni nani?” (“What is your name?”), I think also including “Baba Yetu” (Swahili for “Our Father”) among the keywords. It turned out that a page on the Duolingo site was the top of the results. Clicking through, I found that they specifically addressed the question of how the words of the song relate to the words taught through the Duolingo app.
But I was also in for a surprise: In the discussion, one commenter shared a link to a blog post of mine!
Back in 2015, I wrote a blog post about the Swahili of Baba Yetu. At that point, I was thinking about music’s usefulness in language acquisition first and foremost, and not really thinking about gamification in relation to this particular aim (even though the song was connected to Civ IV).
It is always cool to come across evidence that what one has written is proving useful to others. That continues to happen with my blog posts about a squirrel baffle, an annoying TV problem, and Who’s Who scams (as it used to be with a solution to a problem with Windows Vista, which has hopefully become less relevant because no one is using it any longer). I hope that the things I write about religion, biblical studies, and sci-fi are also comparably useful, but I’m not really surprised that things I’ve shared on other topics circulated more widely. I presume there are more people in the world who feed birds, watch TV, are targeted by scammers, and use Windows than there are people interested in the academic study of religion.
Since the title of this post is “What is your name?” I’ll also share here my response to a challenge that came my way on Twitter. Brandon Hawk retweeted this tweet from Sarah Clark:
Write your author bio using predictive text. Use your phone to type “[Your Name] is a [poet/novelist/writer/etc] who” and keep pressing the middle button until it makes a bio.
— sarah clark (@petitobjetb) June 28, 2018
This was my result:
James McGrath is a religion scholar who writes the story and is not surprising to the point in that article and the author is a powerful article on a blog.
— James F. McGrath (@ReligionProf) June 29, 2018
I must say that I’m pretty happy with it! If you decide to play along, please do share your results with me!
Have any of you used Duolingo? Other apps you’d recommend for language learning?