Thursday, October 3, 2019

What DuoLingo taught me about Buffy

I am currently learning Danish on Duolingo. Why Danish? Well, that's a weird story.

My first introduction to the language was when I was watching Angel (you know, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer  spinoff). The version I was watching came with subtitles in somewhere near fourteen languages and the only way for me to turn them off was to cycle through all of these. Soon enough, I just gave up on turning them off and stuck with the first one, which was displayed by default. So you could say that Danish's proximity to the beginning of the alphabet is why I am learning language.

The second time I learned some Danish was due to a band (dance act? pop duo?). They're called Infernal and they usually sing in English. They had one hit (From Paris to Berlin) and that's approximately when I started listening to all their music. At some point, though, I found out that they had some songs in Danish under another name (Paw&Lina) as well. I liked two of these songs rather a lot and also looked up the meaning of what I was listening to. So you could say that Infernal is the reason I am learning this language.

Ultimately, though, the reason that I started learning the language is just that I liked it a lot. That's why I started watching a tv show in Danish and started doing Duolingo lessons. I stopped watching the tv show after a while and I also didn't continue putting the time into Duolingo. And then a year or so later, I picked up the app again and dropped it not too long after. My current attempt to learn the language is my third one.

The other day, I was watching some episodes of Buffy with a friend. It also had Danish subtitles, but this was only one of four languages. Moreover, though, my Danish has gotten to the level where I got just enough of it for it too be rather distracting (which also doesn't happen when it truly doesn't take much effort to read what you see, which is not where I'm at at all yet). So, I turned them off. However, yesterday I was actually watching some episodes on my own and I wasn't too bothered by being distracted, so I left them on.

That gets me to today. Today I was doing a quick lesson in between things. And they taught me the very first Danish word that I had learned. One that I had figured out from just the subtitles that first time because it had kept recurring. And then a bit later, the app taught me another word. This time, it was a word that had stood out last night. That was quite the coincidence. Or was it?

The two words were "Boy/Girlfriend" and "friend". I had started on a new category: people. And that's just the thing. Buffy and Angel aren't about the monsters. The monsters basically just provide the backdrop. People - and the relationships between them - are what the shows are really about. So, it makes perfect sense that this was the moment that I started learning words that I already knew.

And at the same time, I realized just how much the show really was about the people...

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