Last updated on June 2nd, 2023 at 07:41 am
I was thrilled! Definitely this was something to look forward to especially as this would be my first time travelling abroad. My French teacher was so impressed with my 100% score in the French exam that he promised me a trip to France.
Beaming with smiles in my creamed topped school uniform and coffee-coloured shorts, amidst about forty of my primary six classmates, I should have said ‘merci’ to my Monsieur but my imagination had already put me busily wandering on the streets of Paris.
My imagination lamentably couldn’t go beyond Junior High School. I didn’t hear any news about the trip to France. Seems Monsieur had forgotten about it or, was he trying to make me feel good? Well…
Then in High School, the option of studying French completely was completely obliterated as I studied General Science. I simply forgot about my love for French. Every now and then I would fantasize about finally learning the language and immediately feel guilty for dropping it. You have to redeem yourself! A voice kept telling me. You can’t let that 100% go to waste. The more troubling voice reminded me of the little white lie I always put in the language section of my CV – languages spoken English, French.
But how true was this when I have never really had a full-fledged conversation with any Francophone?,
Recently I learnt that French and Spanish are sister languages. Both originate from the Latin language. Then, it struck me! If French and Spanish are really sisters, learning one should make it easy learning the other! If I learn Spanish, learning French would be super easy. With that I set out, not to Spain or Mexico but to the very place I got introduced to French – THE CLASSROOM.
No, I didn’t go back to primary six – the school uniform wouldn’t fit me now. This classroom I am talking about doesn’t have tables, chairs, blackboards or windows. Rather, this classroom is portable. It can fit into your pocket or bag. If like me, you have a language you have always wanted to learn but for one reason or another have not been able to, this portable classroom is for you. You don’t have to go back to school. Just take a look in your pocket or your bag. If you own a smartphone or a laptop, you can learn any language.
I present to you – Duolingo – a language learning application.
Thanks to Duolingo maintenant je peux parler en trois langues, français, espagnol et portugais. ¡Sí! ¿No es genial? Y además es muy fácil de usar. Espero que você me entenda até agora? Sorry if you couldn’t understand these last sentences which were in three different languages, all of which I learnt on Duolingo.
First download the app by clicking here and set up your account.
Now that you have downloaded the app, let me explain how to make the best out of this app. I hoped you clicked on the link? If you haven’t here are three reasons to download it.
Do you want to be multinlingual without travelling?
- Duolingo is free: Unlike most of the language learning apps out there, Duolingo is free – you don’t have to pay any subscription fee to access the application. However, you can opt for the premium version. The free version is the same as the premium version in terms of the course content. The difference between the two version is that the free version is infested with ads (advertisements). It also provides 5 lives for practice, meaning should you make a mistake in any lesson you lose one life, but you can do a practice lesson to recover a life. A life lost is automatically restored after 4 hours. The premium version, now called Super Duolingo, has infinite lives and is not infested with ads.
- Duolingo is interactive: I am very sure that my ability to hold conversations in Spanish was due to the interactive nature of Duolingo. What happens in a typical classroom? Teacher speaks, students listen, read, write, etc. Duolingo employs voice activation; there are read-out-loud exercises, type what you hear exercises, translate from one language to the other, etc. Another beautiful thing is that before every interactive lesson, there are tips given about the topic you are about to learn. More interesting is the section dedicated to short stories! You know what just download the app. Plus, you can follow other users on Duolingo.
Spoiler alert: Duolingo can be funny at times. Get ready for funny sentences. Feel free to also participate in the weekly leagues where you compete with other users for scoring the highest points in a week. See it as a way of boosting your momentum to learn much.
- Duolingo is global: Duolingo currently offers 41 different languages. German, Japanese, Hindi, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Welsh, Swahili, Danish, Greek, Swedish… sorry but I am running out of breath. Just download the application and start learning the language of your choice. And you can follow me on Duolingo. My username is PeterDankwa. But you don’t always need the app. You can access Duolingo on the website version.
Now that you have a great tool there are some tips that should make you successful in learning any language. This worked for me and even language tutors strongly recommend it. I call these tips the GRILL HIM method. Note that Duolingo is just a tool to learn the basics of language just like any other learning app. You have to do some extra things to be fluent. The Grill Him method is a pneumonic I have created. It stands for:
Grammar, Read, Listen, Have conversations, Movies and Music.
If you want to be fluent in any language, get the grammar right. This is a no-brainer. There are some grammar rules that you will easily remember and always get right. But there are other rules you will struggle with. Befriend those rules, read more about them. There are thousands of forums on the web that will give you a better understanding of the rules. Rather than give up when you struggle with some grammar rules, practice them and know that it is normal to struggle with some rules.
Read often in the language you are learning. Get storybooks if possible. One thing I did for a period of time while learning Spanish was changing the default language on my phone from English to Spanish. That forced me to get used to reading Spanish words on my screen.
Another helpful tool is a dictionary. It comes in handy. One popular site language enthusiasts use is Reverso, and if you will be learning Spanish, download the SpanishDict app.
Take your time to listen to sentences you hear spoken in the language you are learning. Fortunately, you can slow down the audio on Duolingo to make out words better. Even if the lessons are translation exercises where you read a sentence before translating, make sure to listen to the audio accompanying the sentence. This helps you get accustomed to the speaking styles and patterns. Audiobooks are very great tools to help improve your listening skills.
Why are your learning another language? Obviously to speak with others. Thus, make friends who can speak the language you are learning. You don’t have to travel to a country before you can have conversations. A good site to help you hold conversations is Omegle (pronounced O-me-gul). On Omegle you have conversations with complete strangers, either by chat or by video. Once you define the parameters for your search, it pairs you with another stranger who has keyed in those parameters. Also, there are hundreds of Facebook groups for language enthusiasts. You can make friends there to help you hold real conversations with natives. I regularly have conversations with friends I have made in Venezuela, El Salvador, Indonesia and other Spanish speaking countries.
Don’t miss the chance to watch movies made in the language you are learning. Netflix is a great place to find movies from all over the world. Consider documentaries too. They are helpful. Listen to the movie in the language you are learning and put on the subtitles in order to not get lost. You can do the reverse. Listen to the movie in your own language, and put on the subtitles in the language you are learning. And oh, if you want to really make the best of movies, go for series that way you don’t run out of movies.
Music is a universal language they say. Learn a couple of songs in the language you are learning. It builds confidence and it one of the simplest ways to learn new vocabulary. Try listening to the song several times before checking out the lyrics. Also try to interpret the song before getting the translation. The most fun thing you have to definitely try is to sing karaoke by watching video lyrics on YouTube.
Multilingual without Travelling
Consistency is key to learning anything. I completed the Spanish course on Duolingo in exactly 8 months and 17 days, practicing at least 4 hours every day. Since 1st July 2021 I practice my languages on Duolingo for at least 4 hours every day. Today is my 396th day. Find the schedule that works for you and KEEP TO IT. Feel free to learn all the 41 languages if you can.
Now you can call me Pedro Vilades Aguilar because my blood is now Spanish. Gracias por leer este blog y te deseo todo lo mejor.
What’s next in Peter’s Box? ¡Hasta luego amigos!