Day 214

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Katie’s three best friends are, respectively, Finnish, Russian and French, and she rather envies her friends’ ability to revert to their milk language when needing to talk privately to their mummies. She would like the two of us to have a similarly secret way of communicating, so, when I discovered the wonderful, and completely addictive, language-learning app Duolingo, Katie was dead keen that we should learn a new language together. We chose Italian – because none of her friends speak it and because we have the added incentive of trying to get to the point where we can welcome Monique, our Italian nanny, back from Thailand at the end of January. A few days later however, it occurred to me that Maori would be the perfect secret language – we are unlikely to run into anyone who understands it, it would be a kind of nod to our heritage, and it would please (or at least quieten!) the more PC amongst my relatives, who complain bitterly about my mispronunciation of ‘whanau’. Sadly, if unsurprisingly, Duolingo doesn’t offer Maori, but a quick search of the app store revealed a Maori language learning app called Te Pumanawa. I downloaded it eagerly but, sadly, it is the exact opposite of Duolingo. It is badly-designed, with a confusing and irritating user-interface, it constantly crashes and, even between crashes, it is the opposite of addictive. Dull in the extreme, it begins, not with vocab, but with screens and screens of bloody vowels. I guess people who learn Italian as a second language do so mainly because they think that knowing a little of the language might allow them to have more fun if they go abroad, helping them to order a coffee, buy a beer, pull a member of the opposite sex, or, for those with children, convey the urgency with which hot chips should be brought to the table! Whereas I suppose adults learning Maori as a second language have more ‘worthy’ motives (cultural sensitivity, employment, political correctness), and a worthy, and very very dull, app is the result.

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