Duolingo is great for exercises and full sentences (not so much for speaking a language, tho), but the stuff I need to practice isn't always what they want to teach me on any given day. I need a vocab list—not the top 1,000 vocab method I first learned about in Gabriel Wyner's book—but my vocab. The words I know well and the ones I don't.

This is what AnkiApp does so well. It's built on spaced repetition. As you review your flashcards, you also grade them. Did the answer come easily? Did you have to think about it and maybe you weren't sure you were correct? Or did you forget it completely? Then, the easy words are served to you less frequently, while the hard ones keep coming up until you remember.

As a Canadian, I've been learning French as long as I could read. It's printed on every cereal box; it's required in public school. But here in BC, it's not spoken everyday. I had a few good French teachers in elementary school (and one poor Australian who really tried his best), the best teacher in high school that inspired me to continue with the language as an elective, and then a couple of African teachers in university (one was from Cameroon) who introduced me to the ways the language is different around the world.

I'm confident in claiming French as my second language, but I have never felt fluent. Now I teach French, and I still can't call myself an expert. Because I have to keep studying. I have to review my vocab. I have to—apparently!—learn a whole new future tense because through all those years in school, I only ever learned futur proche.

This month, I added Spanish to my rotation. (I added Korean in 2023—my bosses and half my students are Korean—but I put it on hold during the holidays, and now I've forgotten all the words I learned 😭. At least I still remember the characters.) I've always felt a little embarrassed that I don't know more than I do. Living next the US, spending as much time as I do in California of all places. I'm a North American, and Spanish is the second most spoken language on our continent. Next week, I'll be visiting Mexico for the first time, and it turns out I don't even know the food words as well as I thought.

Because I'm working on this new language, and I started teaching a new French class, I re-downloaded AnkiApp again last month. I built my Spanish vocab deck (98 words so far), but was also reminded of the other decks in my library: Canadian prime ministers, countries of the world (by shape), ASL alphabet (Oh right, I signed up for that course, too), and the NATO phonetic alphabet.

The latter reminded me that I once downloaded an app to learn Morse code. This weekend, I went searching and found Morse Typing Trainer, built in the Google Creative Lab, using the Morse code keyboard in GBoard. That gives you two big buttons—dit and dah. The web app teaches you images to go with every character (D is dog, __ for the body and . . for the eyes). It seems to use a form of spaced repetition, too, repeating the characters when you make mistakes and breezing past the easy ones.

In addition to the alphabet and numbers, it also teaches a whole host of punctuation, which, honestly, I don't care to remember. I fully used a cheat sheet (made a table in Notion, lol) just to get to the next level. And then the next level was just the beginning again! I was hoping it would give me words to keep practicing, but this is strictly a teaching tool.

So I found MorseZapp next. This app also takes you through each character, but without the image mnemonics. MorseZapp, though, doesn't require GBoard. It teaches you instead to time your dits and dahs with a single tapping area—just as you would with a real Morse device. And like AnkiApp, you can—with the pro version—create your own levels to help you study.

If you've followed me along to the end, here are the languages I'm currently teaching myself: French, Spanish, Korean, ASL, NATO phonetic alphabet, Morse code. That doesn't include Japanese, which I took in university, German, which I learned while watching Alles was zählt, and Mandarin, which the other half of my students keep determinedly trying to teach me (谢谢).

It's a lot, and it's not even everything I want to learn. I also do the music lessons on Duo; I have an Anki deck for the treble clef notes and ukulele chords. I'm gonna pass that driver's test eventually (7th time's the charm!). And maybe this is the year I teach myself how to build a (tiny) house.

While this post has been open, while I've been writing myself towards an ending, I have Tumblr open in another tab. And this post came across my dash:

I don't think being good at things is the point of doing them.

Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut

I learned Morse code this weekend.