Things That Matter

Language Learning App Duolingo Has Been Teaching Phrases Like ‘He has to be detained right now’ In Spanish

It seems like everyday we uncover stories of discrimination and racism towards communities of color. This week the story stems from the most unthinkable source. One of the world’s most popular language-learning apps, Duolingo, served up two very problematic sentences to a user. His girlfriend took to Twitter to let everyone know.

Needless to say that Twitter was not having it.

Two xenophobic statements popped up on a user’s language-learning app and this is why they’re hurtful.

The fact that sentences like: “Are they legal?” and “He has to be detained right now.” can appear on Duolingo has us floored. They may not be explicitly referring to immigration issues, but the choice of words used is loaded with anti-immigration rhetoric. The word “illegal” carries major stigma in a time of pervasive and systematic civil rights violations against immigrants in the United States. Not to mention the weight that a phrase like “He has to be detained right now” carries in a country where at least 2,654 migrant children – and perhaps thousands more – were taken from their parents and held in government custody while their parents were criminally prosecuted for crossing the border unlawfully.

Duolingo was quick to respond to the backlash on Twitter, arguing that the sentence “Are they legal?” did not refer to people but rather questioned the legality of objects namely “firearms.”

In Spanish, “ellos” refers to people, the sentence is clearly about humans.

However, as several Spanish-speaking users noted on the social platform, the structure of the sentence in Spanish, “¿Son ellos legales?”, leaves no room for doubt on whether or not it’s referring to things as opposed to people. If we go back to Spanish grammar 101, Duolingo should know that the use of the plural personal pronoun “ellos” (they) instead of the demonstratives: “eso/esas” or “aquello” (those or that), to point to things, like guns or drugs, make it clear that this sentence is questioning the legality of a human subject. In simpler words, in Spanish “ellos”: refers to people, “esos” to things.

As one twitter user pointed out, “the exercise is not only grammatically incorrect, it leaves it open to a dangerous interpretation.”

Duolingo crowdsources its content from volunteers, and no scarcely anybody moderates what makes it onto the app.

What’s more, it looks like Duolingo’s been slipping on their content for a while now. According to an article published last year on the apps crowdsourcing’s strategy; “The startup has built one of the world’s most popular language-learning apps while only hiring a handful of translators.” Each day the platform serves up millions of sentences, “almost all of them created by its 300 or so volunteers.”

According to Quartz, “more than half” of Duolingo’s employees work in engineering, while “just three people manage the volunteer community”. The app makes this system work by appointing “volunteer moderators”, who apply through the website to oversee content in each language. The company claims that volunteers “are vetted for language skills, and then trained on subjects from pedagogy to guidance dealing with gender, diversity, and cultural sensitivity issues.”

As recent stories of neglectful treatment of migrants, civil rights violations, discriminatory behavior and racial profiling, have become the norm in the media—result of an anti-immigration administration—it’s troubling that this intolerant rhetoric is now visible in apps that are meant for ‘educational’ purposes and that claim to have ‘guidance on diversity and cultural sensitivity issues’.

It’s no coincidence that ever since Donald Trump became President of the United States, there has been a spike in hate speech and crime—and the numbers only continue to climb. A survey of Mexicans recently deported from the United States found that the number of people who reported experiencing verbal abuse or physical assault during their time in the U.S. increased by 47% between 2016 and 2017.

Founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, a Guatemalan immigrant himself, chimed in to the conversation on Twitter, commenting that the two statements “didn’t appear next to eachother” and “were taken out of context”. He assured users that the statements were removed from the app to “avoid confusion”.

If no one is policing the sentences that go up on Duolingo, are children safe to use the app?

But what context would ever make those two sentences necessary in an educational app? They are grammatically incorrect and hurtful. No human is ever illegal. The very object of hate speech is to deprive people of the assurance that society regards them as people of equal dignity. Why is this instance of ‘indirect’ hate speech so important? Precisely because the public conception of immigrants and communities of color, specifically Latinx communities, is constantly under fire, and further feeds into a climate of fear.

As one twitter user put it, it makes you think twice before letting your 8th grader use the app to learn a new language. If xenophobic statements like these can pop up at any time, with no real policing of incorrect, racist or straight-up inappropriate content, then what’s the point of Duolingo even having a ‘content policy’ at all? As a Guatemalan, von Ahn should do better.

Michelle Obama Just Released Her Workout Playlist And It’s Got Some Mean Music

Entertainment

Michelle Obama Just Released Her Workout Playlist And It’s Got Some Mean Music

Atlantic

When it comes to workout sessions and the beats she conducts them to, Michelle Obama has got quite some taste. The former First Lady recently shared her own workout playlist and revealed that some of her favorite songs come from today’s biggest Black queens. Cardi B, Lizzo and Beyonce among them.

In a recent post to her Instagram page, the former First Lady shared that she’s a big fan of working out to Cardi B.

“It’s about that time when New Year’s resolutions get a bit harder to stick to,” Michelle Obama shared Sunday to her Instagram page. “To offer a little inspiration, I want to share my go-to #WorkoutPlaylist with you. These songs always seem to give me that extra boost to get through my toughest workouts. What’s on your playlist?”

Obama revealed that songs like “Soulmate” by Lizzo, “Show Me Love” by Alicia Keys, and “Press” by Cardi B are among some of her favorite tunes to listen to.

Of course, it didn’t take long for Cardi B to flip out over the news that our very own version of an American royal loves her music. 

“I’m tellin ya Michelle Obama not the one to play with,” Cardi B wrote in a follow up Instagram post about Michelle Obama’s workout playlist.

Even though she shares her life openly on Instagram and Twitter, there’s still a lot to learn about Cardi B. From her recent feud with Nicky Minaj to her early start as a member of the Bloods in the Bronx, Cardi has always been open about her life- you just need to dig deeper to find out all the juicy details. Keep clicking to find out more wild facts about this stripper-turned-rapper social media star.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

1. Her real name isn’t Cardi B

This seems pretty obvious, but Cardi B is just a cute name that she picked up from her parents. Her full legal name is Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar. The fact that her sister’s name is Hennessy led to the nickname Bacardi, then Cardi, then the rest is history. The ‘B’ alternately stands for bully, or beautiful, depending on her mood.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

2. She grew up in the South Bronx

And she’s always been proud of her roots. She recently donated $8,000 to the family of a 15-year-old boy who was a recent victim of gang violence in her old hood.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

3. She joined the Bloods at the age of 16.

Growing up in the Highbridge neighborhood in the South Bronx, Cardi joined the Bloods at the age of sixteen, something that she proudly admitted on Twitter in 2017 after she was called out for being a poser.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

4. She doesn’t hide the fact that she started stripping at 19.

After working at a grocery store in Lower Manhattan for a few years, Cardi switched to the more lucrative career of exotic dancing at the age of 19. She says that she started stripping to gain independence after being caught up in an abusive relationship, and credits her career switch with saving her life.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

5. Her next formal job was on the VH1 reality show Love and Hip-Hop New York

She appeared on the sixth and seventh seasons of the show, and allowed the cameras to follow her budding music career, as well as all the drama associated with her relationship with Tommy Geez, a rapper who at the time was serving a four-year prison sentence. She left the show in 2016 to pursue her music career full-time.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

6. Since her appearance on Love and Hip-Hop New York, Cardi hasn’t stayed off the airwaves for long.

She followed up her two seasons on LHHNY with a stint on the BET show Being Mary Jane, and guest appearances on Hip Hop Squares, and Kocktails with Khloéwhere she talked about what happened when she told her mom that she had become a stripper.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

7. After “Bodak Yellow” bumped “Look What You Made Me Do” off the charts, T. Swift sent Cardi a big bouquet of pink flowers. Cardi’s response?

“Like, damn, why’d it have to be Taylor Swift? I like her, I like that damn song.”

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

8. She isn’t afraid to talk about her plastic surgery

She credits it with helping her stripping career, and says that she first started thinking about it early on. Her rationale is that people don’t come to the club to see dancers who look like they just walked off the street.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

9. Tired of people making fun of her crooked smile, one of the first things that Cardi B did after appearing on LHHNY was pay big bucks to a dentist to fix her teeth.

There’s a major difference between her early Instagram videos and Cardi today- her straight, white smile cost about the same as a luxury SUV.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

10. The loud, hilarious personality that made her a social media icon was part of the reason why she had trouble in school.

Her loud, stream-of-consciousness videos on Instagram made her a household name, which in turn helped raise her profile enough that studios paid attention when she started dropping tracks. In school, Cardi says that she was often disruptive- not because she was a bad kid, but because she could never stop telling jokes.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

11. Even Cardi B’s romantic life is open for her fans to see.

Her fiancé, the rapper Offset, proposed onstage during Power 99’s Powerhouse at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The couple had started publicly dating earlier that same year.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

12. She confirmed rumors of her pregnancy by performing live on Saturday Night Live on April 7th 2018

Although she had earlier denied reports that she was pregnant, she stepped onstage to perform “Be Careful” in a curve-clinging, high-necked Christian Siriano gown that showed off an obvious baby bump.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

13. Her daughter’s name is as unusual as her own.

On July 10th 2018, Cardi gave birth to her daughter, who she named Kulture Kiari Cephus. She announced the birth on her Instagram page, and later explained the meaning behind the name on Twitter by tweeting “Kulture. anything else woulda been basic. Okrrrrr”

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

14. She’s been careful about sharing photos of little Kulture.

Even though her Instagram account gives her fans 24/7 access, she doesn’t plan on doing the same with her daughter’s life. While she’s posted a few photos of her daughter bassinet, the only photo she’s made public is of Kulture’s tiny hands, which was posted on Instagram on September 2nd.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

15. Cardi B plans to be a strict parent.

Her daughter is only a few months old, but Cardi recently told People that she’s planning on being a very strict parent with daughter Kulture. “Like, you can have whatever you want, but you can’t do whatever you want,” she says.

CREDIT: @cardiabelfenty/ Twitter

16. Cardi was raised Catholic, and has a deep faith in God.

She speaks openly about her faith, and says that she regularly receives guidance from God. Even though she’s religious, she wasn’t afraid to slay at the the 2018 Met Gala when the theme was ‘Heavenly Bodies’.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

17. She’s the first female rapper in 19 years to debut at #1

There hasn’t been a female rapper that has made a successful bid to top the charts since Eve’s Let There Be Eve in 1999. “Bodak Yellow” was the first song by a female rapper to make it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 List in 19 years.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

18. It’s rumored that her wedding to Offset could be televised

It’s not often that rap royalty weds rap royalty- rumor has it that both BET and VH1 are vying to secure exclusive rights to the couple’s eventual wedding ceremony.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

19. She spends way more money on her blinged-out nails than she does on her outfits.

She isn’t afraid to admit that her looks often don’t cost that much. “$100,000 on the wrist but my outfit costs like $60,” she brags. She still likes to shop in the Fordham area of the Bronx, which is full of shops selling cute clothes for cheap.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

20. It’s rumored her net worth is around $4 million

Just in 2017 alone, her net worth increased by over $2 million- that’s double her total income.

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

21. She considers herself a feminist

“If in order to consider someone a feminist, they have to had gone to college, got degrees, own companies, then that’s not real,” she told Latina magazine in 2016. “Why can’t someone who came from the bottom, who has a dark past, not achieve? I used to be a dancer and did what I did. I don’t have a perfect vocabulary. But I do influence people.”

CREDIT: @iamcardib/ Instagram

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

Things That Matter

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

@IGD_News / Twitter

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.