Learning and being able to then speak a second language is such a rewarding and valuable skill. I realise that I’m in a very fortunate position when it comes to truly reviewing Duolingo in that I am able to speak a second language to a certain degree already. I cannot believe it took me until now to realise how useful it could be for anyone interested in learning a new language for someone like me to compare learning through a traditional classroom method versus online lessons and quizzes.
I spent seven years of my educational life learning Spanish from absolute scratch through classroom teaching – following the standard UK learning and qualification process (GCSEs and A-Levels). The craziest thing about all of this is that I’ve only ever been to Spain once since I started learning the language, but this leads me on to my reasons for becoming interested in using Duolingo. The majority of my holidays throughout my entire life have been spent in Southern France and consequently it’s a country I’ve visited over twenty times, so I thought it would be truly bonkers of me to not even attempt to learn a little basic conversational French at some point.
For both revision purposes and in an attempt to hold on to my Spanish skills, I have actually been a member of the Duolingo community for a couple of years and I have watched the wonderful transformation of it’s tools from basic language memory and writing skills to cool ‘chatbots’ to help you practice your current topic conversationally, detailed grammar exercises and even podcast episodes in the most popular languages; the Spanish one is so good and even though it’s main purpose is to educate you on the language itself, you don’t notice because often the topics discussed are interesting and relevant to the real world today.
With regards to starting a French learning program, I realised pretty quickly that no matter what, even early on, I’d be throwing myself in at the deep end – something I never felt with Spanish as I was five years in with learning the language when I signed up to Duolingo. I can honestly say I didn’t know that much more than everyday greetings and a few food and drink items in French on day one of my journey (so far). Quite honestly, I thought it a little embarrassing for someone who had visited the country so many times!
Anyway, a couple of months into my French journey I feel like I can now share my true verdict – in addition to a few tips – for learning a new language on Duolingo – from starting with knowing absolutely nothing and then giving yourself the best possible chance of being successful in your continued learning journey.
First and foremost, motivation is key. If you were learning alone the ‘Clubs’ feature was great at giving you a push – unfortunately this feature was dropped recently but it seems like it could make a reappearance pretty soon. At the beginning of your journey you are encouraged to set up a realistic personal daily goal, ranging from a casual five minutes (one lesson) to an intense twenty minutes (four lessons) per day – obviously the higher your goal, the faster you should expect to improve. By continually reaching your goal you will gain a daily ‘streak’ and prizes (gems) will improve for every quiz/lesson group/level you complete. These gems go towards unlocking exclusive lessons such as an Idioms class.
In addition, to be able to keep up your progress, I personally think it’s wise to not focus on the same topic all of the time as it can get a little repetitive. The latest version of Duolingo offers – in some cases – over thirty lessons per topic – so the content provided is more thorough than ever. This also means that to keep learning fresh I’ve found it preferable to spread my learning around two or three different topics at any one time. The incentive to complete a group of topics is unlocking harder levels with more exciting things to learn of course.
If you feel like you are starting from a more intermediate level, I’d strongly advise taking a progress quiz before you begin your journey so you aren’t forced to work through the easier levels before you can learn new content. The best thing is that even if you are potentially skipping levels, your skill in all of them depreciates over time if you do not go back every now and then to refresh your knowledge – forcing you to keep up with your basic fundamentals in a language.
Of course, like any form of independent study, it’s your responsibility to complete any lessons and you’ll only get out what you put in, but if you choose for it to be, Duolingo is an amazing free – and actually surprisingly fun – resource for learning a new language and although my progress with learning French is not as quick as learning Spanish (obviously), I still feel like I can form a few sentences correctly which is quite cool when comparing my level of French not too long ago. If you want to be able to speak the local language when you next travel abroad, give Duolingo a chance.
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See you soon,