Why DuoLingo is the Actual Best

Duolingo is a language-learning website (and app, although I don’t use the app as much) that –finally–makes learning new words somehow both easy and fun. Here are four reasons why I love it.

italy street

The Italian alleys that I’ll be able to navigate with ease, thanks to Duolingo….

1) It works.

I love the idea of knowing another language, but I have failed to actually learn one over and over again.

With Duolingo, which I started using abroad about two years ago and have picked up again this summer, a little bit of Italian has actually stuck.

It may not be the best/most efficient/most pedagogically correct tool out there, but I can stick with it, and that makes all the difference.

2) It’s fun.

Duolingo is like a game. You can set goals and collect points (for answering questions correctly) and rack up “lingots” (for completing levels or a certain number of days in a row). It tells you how “fluent” you are. There’s a graph that shows your progress day-to-day and noises that cheer you on as you race against the clock.

For the first time, I actually enjoy learning a language after the first three days.

3) It’s competitive.

I am incredibly competitive (sorry family) and Duolingo feeds that (sorry again). There’s a leaderboard that shows how you’re doing compared to your connections each day, week and month, and now that my whole family (including my father, who dropped about four language classes in college and now does Duolingo) is playing, I have incentive to learn my way to the top of the field.

The various language skills are grouped into categories (house, people, possessives, etc) and those turn gold once you’ve mastered them, but they also decay over time, meaning that you have to constantly be practicing to keep all your skills gold as well as to learn new ones. This is referred to as “gilding the tree” and it’s serious business (here’s a blog post on keeping your tree gold).

4) It’s collaborative.

While Duolingo does bring out my competitive side, it’s also incredibly collaborative, and this is more seamless than in any language-learning app I’ve used before. Users can leave comments, so you can see what people have written about a particular phrase and discern why it tripped you up, for example, or if it has a more colloquial meaning. The other/business side of Duolingo is translating the Internet, and you can earn points by doing that too. There are also discussion boards for more general topics and advice.


Duolingo is the first program, including Rosetta Stone, that has worked for me on a consistent basis. I’m nearly halfway through Italian now, and next I’m going to give German a shot–all the better for studying theology.

Happy travel Tuesday! Linking up with Bonnie, Sara, and Christine

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Olivia’s Top Three: Classic East Aurora

Well folks, the summer is pretty much over, and it’s our last weekend here in East Aurora, the idyllic little town outside of Buffalo that has hosted us for two summers now. 

polo picnic

These ladies had a historically authentic picnic at the Knox Farm Memorial Cup polo match, and they are my new idols.

This weekend is about goodbye, since we don’t know when or if we’ll be back. I am a little more emotionally attached here than Rick (I have our future dream house all picked out on Zillow), but we’ll both be sad to leave. 

We’re kicking off the weekend right with A Midsummer Night’s Pub Crawl tonight. A few of my coworkers are the organizers of annual East Aurora pub crawls, which I’ve never been around for, so I convinced them to hold one as a goodbye party. 

Either Saturday or Sunday we’ll check out Elm Street Bakery, my favorite place of all time (not really but close), and we’ll probably also stop in Vidler’s 5&10 for souvenirs and do some work at Taste, the coffee shop with the best wifi. 

Lastly, we’ve got to start packing. It’s no fun but getting a least a few boxes of stuff ready to go is one of my goals this weekend. 

On to the next great adventure!

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Olivia’s Top Three: Celebrate Food

Hi everyone!

Last week, I didn’t get around to doing a “top three” because of the holiday.

We had a three-day weekend and wanted to go home for Independence Day, but our ancient, dilapidated Buick was old and grumpy and reluctant to start, and definitely would not have weathered the trip.

So on Thursday afternoon, after working from 6-3 so we got a full day in, we went and successfully navigated buying a grown-up car that has air conditioning, brake lights, all four windows, etc, and then we bought 40 chicken nuggets to celebrate and drove the five hours home.

It was worth it to get to see the whole family, however briefly (I think that the five of us+Rick+Ben’s girlfriend were all under one roof for less than 12 hours), and we got a few crucial things like marriage counseling and fingerprinting for work checked off the to-do list.

Anyway, this weekend looks to be a nice one, with good weather all around, which is a welcome change.

My first pick is the Taste of Buffalo food festival, a huge celebration that’s one of the largest in the United States. We went to this last year, and to my surprise Rick was insistent that we go again.

After that, I want to check out a Buffalo classic, Shakespeare in the Park. It’s the last weekend for Romeo and Juliet, and I’m really disappointed we haven’t made it yet.

Finally, in Delaware Park on Sunday, Buffalo is hosting something called Buffalo’s Largest Picnic. I LOVE picnics and I love that this is just a little bit out there. Plus, any meal made up of cheese, wine and fruit can’t be bad, right??

I also haven’t gotten a chance to explore Delaware Park, which was famously designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and I’m excited to see more of that.

Here’s to a relaxing weekend full of nice weather and good food!

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Olivia’s Top Three: Art, Ghosts and God

art festival

Hello again!

This weekend is a busy one here in East Aurora. Saturday and Sunday is the Roycroft Art Festival, which features a huge number of juried artisans who are affiliated with the Roycroft Revival. I am not really in the market for nice art just yet, but it’s fun to look.

More importantly, several other events are held in conjunction with the festival. My two favorite are the book sale at the Presbyterian church and the jumble sale at the UMC, which includes strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. 

So this weekend’s top three are: 


I hope the weather holds so we can bike around, but if not I still want to make sure to buy some books and eat some shortcake. There are also several workshops in conjunction with the art part of the festival, which would be fun.


I’m going on a Haunted History Ghost Walk tonight! I don’t believe in ghosts (yet) (just kidding) but it’ll be a fun perspective on the history of East Aurora. I hope to be scared!


Ever heard of a Mass Mob

Someone came up with the brilliant idea of holding events every month or so where a whole bunch of people agree to attend the same church on the same Sunday. The idea is that struggling/older parishes get some publicity and attendance, while people get to experience something new and see art and architecture that they wouldn’t have otherwise. 

I love churches (up there with libraries and museums) and although we haven’t been getting up early, I’m going to try extra-hard this week because it’s the only one in Buffalo this summer, and in Harrisburg I’m committed to St. Stephen’s. 


I’m hoping that after the Mass in Buffalo we’ll have the motivation to get on our bikes and check out the Outer Harbor. It was pouring last week at Canalside, and we didn’t bother to put on the bike rack. 


So far this has definitely been helping to get me off the couch on the weekends, and it’s also encouraging me to try new things. It’s strange because we have all of our favorites from last summer that I love, but at the same time we only have a few months here so we better explore. 


-Last year’s art festival

Something Saturdays, a blog I recently discovered that’s all about weekend adventuring!

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Olivia’s Top Three: Arts, Crafts and Coffee


Welcome to a new summer series! This summer I’m exploring Western New York (again) and each Friday I’ll be sharing my top three picks for weekend activities in the area. 


First on my list this weekend is Public Espresso (priorities, right?). I started following this coffee place a while ago on Instagram, and everything they serve looks amazing. They also offer treats from a variety of area bakeries, including my very favorite Elm Street. It’s located in the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo. One thing that they recommend is the uber-trendy cold brew, which I would like to start making at home.


While I’m enjoying coffee, the Boyfriend–who I guess is now the fiance? Weird. Maybe I’ll just call him Rick, which is his name. 

…anyway, he loves biking and renewable energy, and wants to participate in the Buffalo World Naked Bike Ride. This is an event where people ride bikes around the city wearing little to no clothing, ostensibly to show their support for not being dependent on oil, etc. This is 100 percent not my style, but I am young and foolish so I will go and watch. Photos to come…maybe.


Lastly, the Roycroft Campus is a centerpiece of East Aurora and a National Historic Landmark (I think). It’s now offering tablet tours, which are slightly cheaper than guided tours and self-paced, and I’d like to try one this weekend. I’m looking forward to learning more about what the Roycroft actually is.

(What I know: it’s a really pretty and architecturally fascinating part of town; Elbert Hubbard and his wife died in the Lusitania sinking; Elbert was pretty quotable and his words appear on a lot of the trash cans around town. What I think: it’s the home of a commune that was the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement, an important phase in America that has nothing to do with paint and glitter glue.)


Relevant: Billy and Pat.

Also: follow me on Twitter and Insta for regular updates about my adventures.

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