I’ll be honest, grade 11 French wasn’t my forte. At the tender age of 16 I had placed a cheat sheet on the ground beneath my desk for…nefarious purposes. The list fed me an array of verb conjugations that my hormone-laced mind would never be able to memorize without the help of Mr. Miyagi. As the test commenced, I was killin’ it. Call me Pepe le Pew and stick a Gauloise in my mouth, because my French skills rivalled a UN interpreter’s.
Cut back to reality: sitting there, pimple faced and scared, watching Ms. D’Alfonso rip my paper into tiny chunks for the class of thirty to smirk at.
Needless to say, my interest in learning a second language took a serious hit that day.
Fast forward eight years and I’m still monolingual. No, I’m not simple—my parents are English and English, respectively. While I’m definitely a “Mutt,” with ancestry in places like Ireland, Scotland, Russia and the like, I identify as Canadian. So, in my twenty-fourth Anglo-dominated year I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn my country’s other official language.
Enter Rosetta Stone and a $400 hit to my bank account.
Enter Duolingo, a popular language-learning application that can be used pretty much anywhere. A friend who’s learning German introduced it to me. While there’s only ten languages uploaded thus far—including English—it’s given my talentless tongue hope for a bilingual tomorrow.
Here’s why it rocks:
It Features Great Incentives to Keep Learning
The setup is simple: there are five “Coaching” options, each demanding slightly more time out of your day. I’ve graduated to the ‘insane’ level recently, which asks for 50 experience points a day—or slightly over 20 minutes. Meeting these demands will help you build a streak, which I think brings the greatest sense of accomplishment and fun to proceedings. My personal best was fourteen days, which proved that I could be a lazy good-for-nothing P.O.S. in my parents’ eyes while still bettering myself as a good lil’ member of society.
But that’s just me.
It Lets you Compete with Friends Over Social Media
The app lets you share your progress on social media, which can bring a friendly sense of competition to those of us who need our rivals—*ahem*—friends to push us. I’m a relatively self-motivated guy, but I can understand the need to compliment your learning by co-struggling with other app users.
It Tries to Calculate Exactly How Fluent you are
The art of comparing’s made easy as the program calculates your overall fluency using percentage points. I’ve been stuck on 44% fluency with French for sometime, proving my dedication to the language of love matches my success with love itself—which is to say: not that impressive.
But enough about me. For those of us who want to learn a new language, I highly recommend Duolingo. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s true—Duolingo is paying me an enormous sum of money to recommend their product to you. Be cool and bottle that jealousy for now—I’m really a financially-challenged man-child who’s writing this blog to help others achieve their bilingual dreams.
I’m not entirely sure if the app’s 100% accurate, but I’m guessing any experience is good experience when it comes to language learnin’. I truly hope it doesn’t ‘accidentally’ force me to tell a Francophone to go f%$k himself while I’m really just looking for the washroom.
Only Negative: The Tests aren’t Randomized and the Voice Recordings Suck
Sometimes I wonder if the program’s taught me that “je dois aller aux toilettes” means “I have to go to the washroom,” or if I’ve memorized the test’s enough to subconsciously predict the answer. The tests aren’t randomized, so it’s tough to tell whether or not you’re actually learning the language or the tests themselves.
Plus, the program often prompts you to speak into your computer’s mic to test your pronunciation. My computer’s mic isn’t good, so those of you with high quality recording devices should have more success than I did.
Can’t say I didn’t warn you otherwise.
Anyway, bonne chance, Viel Glück and come questo post! Hint: French, German, Italian.
(Submit witty and equally thought-provoking sign off here)