For starters, Duolingo is a free and fun language learning app that promises to teach you all the fundamentals in a language, sufficient to give you a working knowledge of the target language and making you (atleast) conversational. All with just 5 minutes a day.
Today, I finished my daily dose of Duolingo and this flashed before my screen
Admit it, even you had this phase of being unhealthily obsessed with a certain culture/ lingua Franca that you immediately jumped on the Duolingo train to master the language…. And then the phase died out, and so did your streak.
I have many Duolingo friends who once began enthusiastically but currently have a 0 day streak. The most common excuses are:
1. I couldn’t keep up with it due to difficulties forming the habit.
2. It will not make me fluent anyway, then why bother?
3. I don’t think it’s an effective app.
4. I don’t have the time for it.
Number 1 is the most common excuse. Number 2 is very characteristic of a quitter- yes, you can’t become fluent if you’re not willing to. Number 3- how did you come to that conclusion without much effort from your part? For number 4, EVERYONE has 5 minutes a day to spare if their passion for the cause is strong enough. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Here are some plain facts to consider first:
- Duolingo alone cannot make you fluent in a language, but there are some features that often go undiscovered, taking you farther away from your goal. Duolingo, if used correctly can be a significant step in your journey and can also take you many steps closer to fluency.
- Duolingo has streaks, leaderboards and challenges for a reason- It is linguistic education in the guise of a game. It’s this game aspect of the app that makes you consistent and hence, successful in your odyssey.
- The Duolingo algorithm is smart. People learn in different paces, but the algorithm ensures that there is negligible gap in knowledge between a quick learner and a slow one, which is even more advantageous than the school system, just as advertised.
- Some courses are better than others. Even amongst the 3 languages I learn, the older courses are considerably more fun and well- updated than the newer ones, which lack some features and depth.
I’ve been using Duolingo for over a year now and yes, I’m comfortably conversational in my target language, German. I also revise French and Hindi (both of which I learned at school). Can’t recommend this app enough. No, this won’t be just me. This will be the result for anyone who is consistent and the app ensures that we are all at the same level by the end of a section. You can spend anywhere between as little as 3 minutes to as much as a whole day on this app. (Although I won’t recommend the latter). On an average, I spend around 5 minutes a day.
Within days of diligently using this app, I found myself capable of saying basic sentences in German and would try to talk to myself in this new language with all that beginner’s excitement. In some tests, I’ve been able to outscore my counterparts who’ve studied the language at school- the only difference between us being, studying for a game vs studying for an exam. Ofcourse we all prefer games over exams!
Owing to my positive experience with the app, I’d like to share some insights and point out where people often unknowingly miss out. I believe there IS a right way to use this app to make it more effective.
1. Duolingo Stories
Some people don’t realise that this feature exists. Unfortunately, it is not available in all languages. But the stories use the language as they’re used in day to day life and are also very witty/cute. These stories also normalise certain topics we usually consider a taboo by casually validating and representing everyone.
2. Free Duolingo Events
MOST people seem to be unaware of this feature. It is a virtual gathering to practice your conversation skills. (Organised via Zoom). Fluency cannot be achieved without practice and this is the best platform to make mistakes, stammer and converse with other learners in a non-judgemental space with shared woes. While I’ve only been able to attend about 2-3 events, I liked my time in each of them and have met some wonderful people thereabouts. Our practice sessions panned out very well. A new feature in this respect is paid events where you are taught by native speakers in your own pace, more like a personalised tutor.
3. Build your streak
Once you build at least a 7 day streak, you will no longer want to break it. Yes, play it like a game and let it not become a chore.
4. Make friends with people you actually know (that includes virtual friends)
*Winks at Lizi and Anjola.* You motivate each other, inspire and get inspired. I get ecstatic whenever I read that they topped the leaderboard or did 10 lessons a day! How inspiring! My tired soul perks up and opens to more learning too.
5. Make friends with people who have long streaks
These people will serve as your inspiration. I get childishly delighted whenever they congratulate me on my milestones and idolise their dedication. So when you find someone with an inspiringly long streak in the leaderboard, BEFRIEND THEM!
6. Duolingo Podcasts
Currently available only in French, Spanish and English (as far as I know). Sensitises our ears to the Native accent.
On a concluding note, the right way to use Duolingo is to use it everyday. If you need motivation to do so (which we ALL need, being humans), look up to your friends and ofcourse, your own streak too.
PS: I’m back!