Learning a new language can be hard, learning a new language as an adult even harder, and learning a new language as an adult via an app can prove to be an extreme sport. I have been learning French solely using the Duolingo app for five months. As a newly sworn-in corp member sitting in Ikare-Akoko orientation camp, Ondo state, Nigeria and receiving lectures on Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED), I wrote out some skills I had an interest in acquiring. Topmost on my list was to learn a foreign language.
I penned down my name with an organisation and made myself available for their first class. I was put off when we seemed to be learning multiple languages simultaneously without attention given to our individual preferences. A lot of the learning seemed to go on a WhatsApp group too – this was designed to be an extension of the physical class. Being poor with keeping up with WhatsApp groups and other inconsistencies of the physical class I soon lost interest and stopped attending.
My desire to learn a foreign language did not go away however, and that’s when I remembered Duolingo. I had heard about the app some years ago but didn’t develop enough interest to look it up. This time, it seemed a cheaper and more convenient alternative to a physical school, and I did the due diligence of downloading the app.
As I have come to realise from personal experience and those of others, it’s easy to lose motivation and question how much progress one is making and if they will ever become fluent in the new language using Duolingo alone. I have read reviews of persons who say that they have and I have recorded some progress too.
How To Stay Motivated As You Learn With Duolingo
I put in the most effort over the Christmas break and some weeks following this time, I found myself questioning where all of that motivation went. Completing my lessons became a struggle and a task I often accomplished before bedtime in order to maintain my streak. When I eventually lost a ninety-two-day streak, my zeal sank lower and lower, until I made a new friend who was also learning French on Duolingo. Attempting to drive a chit chat in French rekindled my interest in learning at a time my motivation was at its trough.
I found that another way to bolster your engagement and make learning easier, more interesting and productive is to get your friends to learn with you or make new friends who already speak the language or are learning it. I didn’t see the benefit of adding friends on Duolingo besides an opportunity to get free Duolingo Plus until lately. As little as having friends who can understand your struggle and laugh with you through a challenge is, these shared moments can serve as some form of encouragement. Nowadays, when I face difficulty while learning, I discuss them with friends who are learning the same language as I am, and It enhances my knowledge and understanding of the language. I also joined a WhatsApp group where most of the conversations are driven in French and physical hangouts occasionally organised. Even though I feel that my proficiency is subpar in comparison to some others, reading the conversation and other helpful resources shared on the group gives me hope that I won’t stay at the beginner level forever if I continue learning.
A third and great way to raise your interest in the new language is to watch a movie or series in the language (with subtitles). Watching Money Heist with my siblings brought to fore an admiration and love for Spanish so much that when my younger brother downloaded Duolingo to learn a new language, Spanish was his first choice. Watching a French movie could do the same for me. I have got some recommendations I look forward to trying out.
Lastly, a beautiful thing about Duolingo, even though it’s easy to forget as you go on and their reminders seem more like a nuisance than anything else, is that you select a reason for choosing to learn a new language. The options available range from job opportunities to travelling and culture and a form of brain exercise. Reminding yourself of your reason can help you put in some work on days you lack the motivation to. I watched this video of Bella Disu, executive vice-chairman of Globacom who learnt French in four months because she was heading a new project that had an alliance with France and she was going to be meeting with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and realised that she couldn’t speak French. I concluded that having a purpose in mind for learning the language is vital for growth and progress.
For now, I don’t know if I will attain fluidity in speaking the language prior to working and or living in an area where French is a dominant language, but I like the potential it holds for me, and I have also found out that straining to listen and get meaning out of my French listening exercises have made me a better listener in my first language.
Have you learnt a new language as an adult? How easy was it for you? Ever used Duolingo? What challenges did you face and what are some of the ways you use(d) to stay on course? Please, share your thoughts in the comment.