If you have recently tried to learn a new language, you are probably already familiar with Duolingo, the free app that can help you learn as many as fifteen languages if you are an English speaker. I would definitely advise you to give it a try if you haven’t, yet.
So the traditional way to use Duolingo, if you are fluent in English, is to scroll down your list of options and add, one, two, three, heck you could potentially add all of the fifteen languages available if so pleases you.
And, initially, in my “Learn Two Languages in Three Months” challenge strategy, I was almost going to do that: head over to the courses menu and add two more languages, ie. German and Spanish. But, a thought occurred to me, what better way to create urgency in my language learning process than to learn a new language from one I was also learning?
I know this might sound a bit contorted, but it has proved to work wonders with me so far, and you can get it to work for yourself as well. The secret lays in the selection of the pair of languages you choose to learn or the difference in proficiency that you have in your chosen languages. That is, if you are trying to learn two languages that are completely foreign to you from scratch using this method, you are probably going to get frustrated and give it up pretty soon. But if you have even a remote knowledge of one of the two languages, then you might really be satisfied with your results.
What I have ended up doing is learning German from a Spanish interface. This means that my translations and explanation would be only in those two languages, even in the forums. I honestly thought I would get lost and bored pretty soon, but what I have found out instead was that I was paying way more attention to details, much more than if I had had the translation in ol’ good English. I was admittedly slightly uncomfortable and a tad bit nervous with the fleeting thought that I was trying this out too soon, before even getting any basic course in Spanish, but the leap of faith was worth a try. The confidence boost I got after achieving the first few gold levels was truly rewarding.
I think that the reason this has worked so unexpectedly well, is because of the nature of the app itself, which depends heavily on repetition of block words that lead to sentences building.
So, again, if you want to challenge yourself as well and try to learn more than one language at once, I would suggest you to choose two languages that have a different level of difficulty with respect to your native language.
A variation of this technique to rev up your language skills would be, for example, if you have studied some French five years ago and want to pick it up again while learning a totally new language, you could spend a couple of days dusting up your French vocabulary as an English language speaker of Duolingo and then immerse yourself in the French interface to learn Bengali.
I have a word of warning though! If you are going to switch to French, know that all your language progresses as an English speaker will be reset, I found that the hard way. I had hoped that Duolingo would let me save my achieved levels, but I guess the app wasn’t designed to be used in this way anyway. What you could do to keep your current progress is simply to have two different accounts, one in which you learn with your native language and the other in which you ‘pretend’ to be a native French speaker (they say “Fake it till you make it” for a reason after all 😉 ).
Today marks the end of the second week of my two languages challenge, and the first week since I started using any app, and although far from fluent, I am happy of this whole experience. I am going to share my first thoughts, confusions and difficulties about each language in the next week, as well as my first shot at introducing myself in German and Spanish (if you have any degree of fluency in either language I would love to get your input after that!).
Well, let me know if you are in the mood to experiment a little with Duolingo, and if so, with which languages..