Imagine you had seen people dancing and you really liked it. It looked like they were having a lot of fun and you wanted to try dancing yourself, but you weren’t sure how to do it, you didn’t know any moves. You mostly just wanted to be able to participate, like get on the dance floor at a wedding with a bunch of friends. But the only method you could find was a ballet academy where you would be learning rigorous technique for years before anything like actual dancing started happening. Just endless preparation for an unforgiving graded contest on a stage. It was too hard, and the outcome was scary, you didn’t want to perform a highly choreographed dance in front of a lot of people who were mostly concerned with your mistakes. You gave up and decided dancing was awesome but clearly for other people.
Then you found a mobile app that taught you really easy and simple little dance moves. It was set to the beat, and you were dancing right away. Nothing fancy or impressive, but music was playing, and you were moving. Wow! You thought! I didn’t know it could be this simple. It was so fun you couldn’t stop. You wanted to practice your new moves all the time, and so you did. Practicing and dancing were the same.
That’s me and language learning. The app is Duolingo.
I have been learning French on the Duolingo App for 40 straight days! What? That is not possible.
Oui and there is more, I am loving it! I am obsessed!
You might think that’s normal, but it is not. It’s like walking outside and seeing the sky filled with flying pigs.
I’ve been telling myself the same story for three decades. It starts like this; Learning a language is excruciating. The action of the story is me successfully avoiding language learning and the moral of the story; To avoid extreme discomfort, don’t learn a language.
It’s bizarre that this has been my stupid story because I admire people who can speak more than one language and I frequently watch tv shows in other languages simply because I enjoy hearing them.
I studied Spanish in high school and went to Spain my senior year, which I remember as a fantastic experience. I signed up for Spanish in college. I remember dreading it, I don’t remember why but I am positive that dread was the correct word for how I felt. I was walking towards the class, which was starting in five minutes and I couldn’t make myself go in. This is totally unprecedented. I never skipped class, I was never late, I always did all my homework on time. I just couldn’t do it and instead went to the registrar and dropped it. That was the end of that.
I don’t recall a trauma around language, but I don’t think the teaching methods were enticing. Mostly just reading, memorizing, and verb conjugating. Lots of staring at lists of words and trying very hard to make myself remember them. Always being more concerned about what I didn’t know then reveling in what I did know.
Duolingo makes it fun. It’s fun because it is easy. It’s like playing a very satisfying video game except instead of the outcome being only the pleasure in the moment, you also start developing a legit real-world superpower. That’s crazy. You are having just as much fun as you would playing a game, but your reward is not make-believe, it’s real. The app has gamified the learning so there are lots of little sticky things that encourage you to spend more time than you expected. Now if you were wasting your time, that might be annoying, but since you are learning another language, it’s brilliant. It’s tricking you into doing what you actually want to do. Yes! That’s exactly what I need!
Merci Duolingo! Je parle Français!
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