I took French in high school for not one, not two, not three, not four, but five years straight. The rest of my family is fluent. I’m also Canadian, which I feel like should automatically make me bilingual. Yeah, no. You’d think with that background that I’d be a French language pro, or at least be able to order une croissant. I, however, am not. I have, on multiple occasions, confidently said “je voudrais un café au lait, s’il vous plait” (I’d like a café au lait please) only to be curtly asked “what kind of milk?” by the barista in response. Yes. In English.
I’m not really sure what went wrong in my years of trying, and apparently failing, to learn French, but I recently decided it was time to fix it, especially since I’m planning a trip to France next year. So, like any good millennial, I headed to the app store to save the day and retrieve my MIA language skills. Typing in “learn French” yields hundreds of results of programs claiming to teach users a new language. After some scrolling, installing, and deleting of apps that gave me flashcards for “boy” and “girl” (I’m pretty bad, but not quite that bad), I came across DuoLingo.
If you’re an aspiring polyglot like me, DuoLingo is a must-have to learn or refresh vocab and grammar in over twenty languages, ranging from Welsh to Norwegian. They recently even added Japanese! DuoLingo’s interface is a bit like a computer game; after taking an optional fluency test to skip earlier units, users have to pass levels in order to proceed in the program. Make a mistake, and you’ll lose a health bar. The only way to recover health and keep on learning? Review, review, review old topics. There’s a competitive element too; upon signing up, I was prompted to choose a goal for how much time I wanted to dedicate to the app each day. It sends me reminders if I fail to meet this goal which is really annoying but makes me really productive. I decided I was “insane” (their words, not mine I promise) and would aim to spend roughly 20 minutes per day learning languages. For all you social papillons, you can also join user communities to share your progress, chat with the LingoBot for some digitized conversation (if you’re lonely), or enroll in bonus lessons, like international flirting (if you’re really lonely). It even alerts you of your progress with the language in braggable terms that you can automatically share on LinkedIn; I’m currently 42% fluent (this feat isn’t on my resume just yet; I’m not quite sure “hey look, I’m slightly below mediocre in a foreign language” screams “you should employ me”). I’ve been using the app for a few weeks and am absolutely a fan. While it doesn’t include speaking, which is arguably the most important part of learning a language, I’ve found it keeps phrases circulating in my head even when I’m not practicing. And I’m hoping that the flawless accent of the audio-exercises will somehow permeate into mine. I’m almost confiant that after a summer of DuoLingo-ing away my commutes, I’ll finally be able to order that coffee, maybe even in a third language. Off I go, just got another alert. Au revioir!
Posted by Addie