How to Use Duolingo Right

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.

Personal experience:

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.

When your co-learners cheer for you!

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!

Impressive stats of a Duolingo friend

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.

A small piece of motivation 💪

PS: I’m back!

18 Reasons Why

So far, I’ve been in the Earth as it made 17 revolutions around the Sun. If that’s not clear to you, I’ll make it clearer: the world has had to put up with me for 213 months and 15 days. (Feels rather small, right?)

4-year old me asked 4000 questions a day, just like any other 4-year old (17.9 year old me asks 6000 a day, so that’s some growth right there!). So 4-year old me asked my grandmother “When does one become an adult?” Her reply was “When you are 18, you legally become an adult. Till then, you’re a minor.” 4-year old me wondered, why this weird number? Why can’t it be a more solid number like 20? Aren’t 18-year olds still in their 10s? (My then word for teens). 17 year old me still wonders…

The transition in East vs West

Turning 18 isn’t much of a thing in Asia as it is in the West. Although your parents are no longer legally obliged to take care of you, in most cases they continue to do so. My sympathies are with my Western peers. I’m hearing stories of orphan teens who are thrown out of foster homes and rendered homeless as they are now “adults” and need to support themselves. Others leave their “parents’s house” and work a part or full time job along with balancing college life. Add “keeping grades up” to that. And people wonder why Asians do better in academics!

My age at the time of writing this is 17 years and 9 months (and 15 days, if you care for accuracy). That said, I’m approaching the so-called “milestone” of 18 at the speed of light. Hence, I officially owe my kin and kith some justification to my childish manners and playful demeanour.

Some of these are stand-alone points and some have a tiny explanation. Please be patient and read them all. I bet you’ll be able to relate and add your own. Here are 18 reasons why 18 is too early to call someone an adult:

1. Biology- At 18, the prefrontal cortex is hardly half way developed. Prefrontal cortex controls decision making, impulse control and focus.

2. That said, you will most likely regret the decisions you make at this age. Some rush into romantic relationships, which may lead to marriage, which may subsequently lead to divorce. Not many husbands who married their college sweethearts see their wives’ first fine lines!

3. The good old cliché- Age is just a number

4. You may still grow an inch or few. Are adults lucky enough to grow?

5. Some are hardly done with puberty. Not very long back, I got asked by a very curious aunty, “Have you hit puberty?”.

6. Where the law goes wrong- Permitting alcohol and drug usage by 18 and convicting them for “drug abuse”. You seriously think these teens would use alcohol wisely?

6. Teen and adult at the same time? Duh, are you listening to yourself?

7. The law going wrong again- Allowing 18-year old “adults” to legally marry and still worrying about the human population increasing like rabbit population!

8. Early marriage can lead to citizens not contributing to the country as they hardly have enough time to contribute for their family! They raise kids without raising the economy.

(Personally witnessed this, living in a tier 1 Indian city!) Not to mention, their whole family becomes a tax-payer’s responsibility.

9. Evolution- Life expectancy has increased a lot. There is no longer any urge to rush into adulthood at the tender age of 18 when life waits for you until 81.

10. Blood donation- This is very noble and nobody in their right mind would discourage it. But College is when most students starve, due to dislike of hostel food. You may be anaemic, unbeknownst to yourself. So run a blood test and check if you are robust enough. You are still developing as well. If you don’t fit the standards yet, don’t beat yourself up.

11. I wouldn’t trust an 18 year old riding the aircraft I’m in. Thank you! Who knows their adventurous spirits didn’t sip alcoholic spirits before the long abstinence during the flight?

12. The law will not lead me to believe that you magically become an adult on the midnight of your 18th birthday. Three months from now, I don’t think I’d be any different from the way I am today.

13. 18 should not be a benchmark for legal punishment. If they are capable of committing a crime at 17, they deserve to be convicted at 17 itself. There have been cases where a rapist is released because he was one day younger than 18 on the day of crime. Well-deserved punishment (in cases like this, encounter) shouldn’t wait until a certain birthday.

14. Everyone’s journey is different. Respect a late bloomer just as you would an overachiever.

15. It’s a period filled with confusion and identity crises. For instance, I feel like a child in a nearly adult’s body.

16. You don’t yet look or think like your actual adult self. You will evolve a lot more. Imagine if your mental metamorphosis stopped at 18? This has to do with point #1.

17. In some countries (like South Korea and many provinces in Canada), you are not yet an adult at 18. Contrarily, you became an adult 2 years ago in Scotland. These numbers are not universal, making one more reason to disregard them.

18. A philosophical approach to turning 18- Adulthood and maturity are processes and not a destination you reach overnight. Processes take time and it’s okay to enjoy it slow.

Nevertheless, I’m very glad that I’ll get to vote and DONATE BLOOD. As for me, this would be the best thing about my upcoming birthday as I’d get to share my rare elixir with the world. If you have a rare blood type, you never know when your help is required!

It’s okay to not shed childhood mannerisms. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to enjoy the beautiful metamorphosis and embrace the “slowness” of these fascinating processes. Growth should not be rushed into just because of peer pressure and because a certain number requires you to act a certain way.

Finally, I should apologise for the image- It’s quite bad, I know. For once I wanted to use an image that doesn’t risk me a copyright claim. It also compliments my love for imperfection (yeah, I’m a fan!).

On this note, my next post will be written by the child in me, putting adolescent me to rest. A light-hearted poem by the title “Old Dr Henry.” Hope you enjoyed reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it! 😊

The Number Hunt

I cordially welcome you to this travel between times. Get on to this virtual time machine and hold tight! I’m your time hostess in this beautiful Boeing Timecraft, and I will also be your guide in this once-in-a-lifetime tour. We’re about to undertake a long journey to the distant past and then head back to the present as we please. Trust me, the jet lag is worth it! Now, let’s go back 7 million years, before the time time was invented and see what our ancestors were up to.

Okay, we’re here. Shhh! Keep quiet and hide behind this bush. You may whisper when required. Time tourism is serious business. Make sure no one sees you and observe carefully what these folks are up to. Wow, a dodo! Do you see that small, hairy man running behind it? He’s hunting it! Please don’t freak out and fall in the man’s eye. Hunting is “legal” in this era after all!

As you can see, Hunting is one of the most important daily activities in the lives of our early ancestors, the cavemen. It is their source of food, clothing, shelter and everything they need for the simple, innocent lives that they lead. When we come to think of it, we, the modern humans would not have come into existence if our ancestors did not poach to feed themselves or attack a prey to layer up against the cold. In other words, hunting paved way for the continuation of our species, our eventual evolution and our taking over of the planet.

Now, let’s go to a different era. How about one million years from this point? Keep mum and jump in!

We’re here and it looks like the caveman has evolved into someone who needs more. He now refuses to be confined to his little world in the cave and has extended his empire to far off distant lands. Let’s fast-forward more and see what he’s like a few hundred years even later.

Holy Moly! You see that? He’s built glorious civilisations across the planet already! These men don’t live in caves anymore and look a lot less hairy. A bit more polished, wouldn’t you say? I wonder what happened in the meanwhile that caused this drastic change. Admittedly, that’s an impressive amount of change in a matter of mere centuries. Let’s go back a bit into the past and see what has led to this “evolutionary update”. Please don’t get tired. I promise again, the jet lag is totally worth it.

Okay. What’s different now from the period we just visited to the period we visited before that, is that these guys still use the barter system now. Meaning, money isn’t there, the idea of “numbers” hasn’t striked them yet. Oh, wait! THIS IS IT! THIS is what has led to the massive change- the invention of numbers! It’s clearly not something we can undermine, as this single discovery has changed the way we deal with business, has heightened technological growth and overall, has paved way for the world to become what it is in our era.

So far, we have only visited the starting point in the history of numbers. Due to the time constraint and limited scope of this visit, we shall make haste and visit the most important epoch in our itinerary- the social media age of the 21st century. If you would like a more detailed trip through numerical history, please choose a premium package of “Numerical history tour” for 1.5 million bucks next time. It will cater to curious minds.

We’ve arrived at 2019. As you can see, these guys look exactly like us. They’re dressed in vintage clothes- hoodies and jeans, with eyes glued to their phones. There are almost as many skyscrapers as we have in our times. Mathematics has built the modern world that you see.

This is a dark age in the history of numbers. Because, we saw that when numbers were invented, they were intended to measure the value of THINGS. But now, people associate their own worth to a set of numbers. Numbers have gone on to create insecurity and depression- Weight, Height, age, exam scores, ranks, number of followers on your social media handles, and when you upload a sweet picture of yours, the number of likes, etc.. People have forgotten that at the end of the day, they’re mere numbers.

Obsessive weight-watching has led to anorexia. Obsession with likes and followers has led to insecurities, depression and low self-esteem. Social media was a toxic world, as we all have read in history. Students have ended their lives due to unfavourable exam scores. It was their dream to be in a certain place, for which they had to be evaluated a certain way. This evaluation happened with the help of “scores”. It weighed their brains and told them what they were “worth” and what could be expected of them in the future.-again, numbers. It labeled them as smart or dunce. It weighed their brains and and assessed

In this era, People no longer hunt animals, but hunt numbers. This is different from the Stone Age, because this kills in a different way. Here, you are not killed by animals, but by numbers. Numbers govern the state of your mental health. They govern your financial security. They govern how you live life. Money (again, numbers) decided what respect you get in the society. The money you earn was decided by your scores in exams. Hysterical, right?

If I could talk to the people in this era, I’d tell them: Life is more than a mere number hunt. There is a lot to hunt for in life (we are all hunters after all!)- happiness, health, peace of mind, friendship in the real world (not just virtually), love, success of character and the “feeling” of beauty within. Beauty does not lie in your body measurements. It lies in feeling nature within. Feeling God within. And feeling the paradise within. It immediately reflects on the outside. There is more to hunt than luxury or validation from social media that YOU ARE AWESOME. You are enough, even without your virtual friends having to remind you that 😉

Hope you enjoyed this time travel. Let’s head back home, with gratitude, for being in a better world. Let’s appreciate the beauty of the world and ourselves. Let numbers measure only the value of material things, and not of living people…

Image credits:

Globalisation or Global Westernisation?

Have you ever visited the comments section of a YouTube video? It’s usually a fun place to be. You meet all types of people there- The hilarious, the self-promoter, the hater, the contentious, the spammer and ofcourse, the good old simp. You get exposed to myriads of viewpoints and mindsets, which help to create and broaden your own. Our story begins there…

I was scrolling through the comments section of a random YouTube video on some political theme, in which one user (say, user 1) wrote ‘’This is all a part of globalisation and this is how it ought to be’’ to which another user (user 2) replied ‘’This is clearly westernisation! What else do you call it when you blindly follow the west? I won’t listen to any leftist who suggests that this is globalisation.’’ I’m occasionally good at remembering the exact words used in a conversation and this is pretty much how they framed their responses, excluding the anger and profanity.

This whole comments section feud made me challenge myself to answer these questions:

1. If only one of them is right, who is it? Or are they both right?

2. What if our history textbooks that taught us about globalisation didn’t actually give us the full picture? Is this a one-sided story like the second user claims or is our textbook right about globalisation?

3. Could they plausibly not be as different as we think?

4. We know of Westernisation. Why wasn’t there ever an Easternisation? Or was it there all along but just not very prominent?

5. Is globalisation just a cleverly devised word by our (former) white colonisers to subvert us from the idea that the whole world is going away from their roots to embrace Western culture?


You may notice that some of these are two questions clubbed in one. Let’s answer them one by one, not necessarily going by the order.

Firstly, let’s put ourselves into the shoes of user 2 and go by their reasoning.


Westernisation: User 2 believes that all the changes taking place in contemporary times, visible in day-to-day life and through the media such as change in popular opinion, fashion, culture, use of social media, etc.. are all a result of Westernisation. Why? Clothes are only becoming more Western, not more Chinese or anything. People are celebrating Halloween and dumping Diwali. Party culture, which isn’t ours, is only increasing. The global language is English, a Western language. How is this not Westernisation? Ofcourse, the East has had some influence on the world too. But clearly, it’s neither as powerful as this, nor very conspicuous in routine life.

Time to come off User 2’s shoes! Now, quickly get into user 1’s shoes!


Globalisation: User 1 believes that these changes were to happen anyway, to accommodate with changing times and they are only making life more easier & relevant. In their view, clothes have become more airy and comfortable, who cares West or East? Life has become faster, so trivial things such as clothing should not slow them down in the contemporary society. Some of us must voluntarily help in making Diwali cleaner by participating minimally in what can harm the environment. Parties help in breaking free from a stressful routine and English is more wide-spread. The whole world’s becoming one place and voilà, that’s globalisation. Will you not take a life-saving pill manufactured in the West?

Now get off user 1’s shoes!

When analysed separately, neither of them seems wrong. Well, it all comes down to what’s acceptable of both the processes. Westernisation is only a component of globalisation and that alone has not made the world into the crazy buzz that it is today. There’s been influence from every corner of the world in turning it to what it is now, in the modern world. Globalisation is a never-ending process. The world is becoming smaller and that is, by all means making life easier.

Now to the question, if Easternisation has also been a component in globalisation: ABSOLUTELY! The world didn’t just come together because it became more western. It became more global. We all credit Edward Jenner for the discovery of vaccine. But did you know that long before him, in the 15th century, there was a Chinese (most probably Buddhist) monk who discovered the method of ‘’nasal insufflation’’ of powdered small pox virus to treat the disease? Without even our realisation, the West is often rediscovering what the East discovered long back in the fields of medicine, astronomy, philosophy and engineering. So, yes, it does not matter who gets the credit for it. How it impacts us is what matters and that way, the world is becoming a circle: things are finishing where they all started.

There are reasons as to why westernisation is more visible.

Firstly, the impact of the West is more visible in DAY TO DAY LIFE such as in fashion, social media and others unlike its counterpart.

Secondly, the West colonised the world and on the other hand, we were colonised. So their influence is obvious to rub off on us more. That also explains why English is the Global language. There are 54 Common Wealth nations, almost all of which were British colonies for hundreds of years.

Hence, Westernisation is a subset of globalisation and it is not the sole influencer. However, there are certain boundaries we do not expect these processes to cross. Any process of such influential prowess has the power to DESTORY, as much as it has to create. It can destroy the identity of individual civilisations such as in the few examples below:

1. Globalisation has resulted in the death of many native languages. Sanskrit is now critically endangered with just few hundred native speakers who are hardly represented.

2. Many Australian Aboriginal tribes have completely lost their identity. Their languages, their practices, their culture- they have been uprooted from their traditions and unfortunately, some are already lost forever.

3. The Native Americans live under the shadow of the European immigrants- whether they are immigrants who moved in a century ago or relatively recently.

4. Many tribes around the world have lost themselves in the process of ‘’taming’’ themselves to fit into modern society.

We have answered all the questions I’d challenged myself to (hopefully). Globalisation is necessary to make the World function at its very best. It has always happened and will always happen. However, we must do our best to protect our cultural values and traditions, and prevent them from the threat of extinction. Since native culture and tradition can not keep up with the pace of modernisation, we must hold them tight to keep them from losing to the process of desirable global change. Let the history of the dinosaurs not repeat itself with cultural diversity! After all, diversity is the very beauty of existence!

Disclaimer: These are mostly observational opinions and not well-researched facts. I may as well be right or wrong. I’m a learner and not an expert. We’re all entitled to our opinions and I welcome any correction/ healthy discussions from you in the comments!

Thanks for taking the time to read. Peace be with you! 🤍

Image credits:, Google search

The Bribe Biryani

‘’A thing of beauty is a joy forever’’ goes the first line of a very beautiful poem by John Keats. Couldn’t agree more, but if you ask my fellow Indians, you’d be surprised at the plethora of alternatives you’d receive for the same line. Joy, for us Indians is food. Of all the succulent appetisers one can derive joy from, ‘’A thing of biryani is a joy forever’’ would hands-down be the most popular! The good old biryani is more than a gastronomically-pleasing Ramzan delicacy. It’s an emotion, tangible magic and above all, a common item used in bribery.

Bribery may not be a very familiar idea in more developed parts of the country and the world. To make life easier, I’ll attempt to brief how this works in the place I live, Tamil Nadu. Of course, you remember the barter system from your history lessons. This works similar to that. You buy pleasurable stuff (like money) from me, and I’ll buy a vote from you in the elections (yes, for the money I give you). At the end, we’re both buyers and sellers. I pay you to vote for me and you’re obliged to do so by a sense of moral responsibility.

Bribe money, the most common and frequently discussed, can range from ₹1000 bucks to, in some cases, even tens of thousands. But there’s also bribe freebies (yes! I won’t be led to believe that freebies aren’t bribe), bribe dowry, bribe vehicles to bribe what not…. Bribe biryani! Giving or collecting bribe is an offence by law, though not yet firmly established. I had first-hand experience of this about two elections back, when I was still a blithe little tween. It took me all this time to realise that instances such as the one I saw at the petrol pump in 2011, when men in white shirts were freely handing money to vote for a particular political party must be CONDEMNED and brought to the notice of the election commission. Then, I also realised, that the election commission itself is manipulated by bribes from these parties!

People in Tamil Nadu tend to be particularly emotionally attached to certain political parties, perhaps thanks to the freebies and the infamous bribe Biryani they’ve enjoyed for generations, in the period before elections. Malpractices of all forms must be condemned and stood against, but bribery, in my opinion is the cheapest clothe hanging in the closet! It plays with a common man’s gullibility and the vulnerability of poverty. Manipulating a man living below the poverty line by showering him with temporary pleasure, whilst letting him stay down there in the economic hierarchy is just as wicked as it gets! And where do you get the money for your bribe biriyani? From the very callous tax-payer who spends most of his earning helping you win elections and earn black money.

With 11.8% of the population living below the poverty line and a good number of uneducated illiterates AND educated illiterates, there are more and more people out there to keep this going for many more years to come. Do I blame a man earning ₹5000 a month for collecting the equivalent amount in bribe? Definitely not, as this can buy him an extra meal and new clothes for his growing children. What does he care about the law? Chances are, he does not even know about the existence of that abstract entity we call law! The state of helplessness that this is, is inexplicable.

The most disturbing that this got, is when I personally witnessed FUTURE VOTERS perpetuating this practice. The infamous bribe biryani is used in school-level elections too! Young voters are very easily coaxed by the idea of biryani or dairy milk silk. The candidates contesting in these ‘’elections’’ are aware of this and go on to shower the voters, their friends, with their beloved bribe items.. ‘’As Times pass, so will this’’ I thought, but it can’t be farther from reality.

I was initially of the idea that my writing this article would be rather futile, as someone illiterate enough to collect bribes would not be able to understand the depth of my long rantings. But it won’t be fruitless and it’s never too late to ‘’try’’ to bring a change. It has taken me 17 good years in this world to realise that, a change can begin anywhere and from anyone, even from someone as common as myself. You know what they say, ‘’Never underestimate the power of a common man.’’ That is a generalised statement and obviously includes the common girl!

From the 4 or 5 elections I’ve seen during the course of my life, I have learnt that the genuine party is often the one that has lost by a huge margin. That’s the outcome of taking malpractices less seriously and following protocols. How I wish that we, the future citizens can change this forever by playing the game of elections fair and square! Can’t wait for the time when corruption becomes a part of distant Indian history. Whether that’s within our lifetime or a long time after depends on what we do to accelerate the process of this much-required change. My body will never digest the bribe biryani and neither should yours…

Image credits:, Google search