How to effectively use Duolingo

Duolingo is the most downloaded language. While they do a great job of making language acquisition fun. Their programs are based on translation which is an inefficient way to learn a language. 

There are few applications for learning Czech; that’s why two years ago, I downloaded Duolingo. Since making that decision two years ago, I have found ways to use Duolingo more effectively. By supplementing it with other materials and methods, my 30-minutes-a-day language habit has become an ability to have simple conversations. 

Duolingo has been a frustrating application to work with; frustration is the enemy of habit development. As James Clear so brilliantly elucidates in Atomic Habits, the keys to making a habit stick are to make it: easy, obvious, attractive and satisfying. 

Duolingo takes care of most of these key points. Notifications make it obvious. Leaderboards make gaining experience attractive. Completing a lesson is satisfying. But that last point – easy – is the one that needs extra attention. 

Duolingo tries to make it as easy as possible, but learning a language is still hard. That being said, there are methods to make it easier and more sticky. These methods include:

  • Writing down your mistakes
  • Repeating the audio out load
  • Changing the settings

Writing down mistakes.

Duolingo gets more challenging as you progress through the levels. At first, you select the correct answer, then you must either write from audio or write the translation. As these tasks become more challenging, it is beneficial to write down the right answer when you make a mistake. 

It is difficult to remember the exact spelling of foreign words, which makes this technique very useful. This adds practice as you rewrite the correct answer, preventing you from getting stuck on a single translation. Suppose you want to give yourself an added challenge. In that case, you can limit this technique to the second time you get something wrong or only write down the answer when translating from your native to your target language.

Repeating the audio out load

Practicing out load is the easiest practice to avoid while using Duolingo. Still, it is vital to say things out loud. Many people lazily make their way through Duolingo, never repeating any of the audio – don’t be one of those people. 

It may be easier to stay quiet, but your ability to speak your target language will improve faster when you are comfortable talking to yourself. Duolingo’s audio may sound robotic, but it is an excellent place to start.

It’s essential to start with pronunciation early in your language learning because it is how you will use it. Think of learning a language in comparison to riding a bike. You could study the mechanics, watch biking videos and become very familiar with the theory of how a bike is ridden. But until you have gotten on a bike, you will never know how to ride it.

The theory is an essential aspect of learning a language but so is making utterances. The more utterances you make, the more comfortable you will become with speaking that language. Immersion yourself in the language. 

Netflix and Disney Plus are great resources when learning a language. They offer media in a variety of languages and have subtitles. When working on improving your listening skills, it is better to watch these services without subtitles. For this reason, Disney is the better option as they have a more comprehensive range of languages available for their content.

Changing the settings

Some of the Duolingo default settings are frustrating and annoying. It is up to you which one you find helpful or hurtful, but it is essential to know that many of these settings are alterable. The main settings that can cause frustration are the sound effects and reminders. 

If you want to use the reminder to help you, leave it on your screen until you have time to do your daily practice. Alternatively, if you find these notifications untimely and annoying, you can easily deactivate them.

Instead of notifications, you could make Duolingo a part of your morning or evening routine as an alternative to the notification. By making it part of your daily routine, you are guaranteed to accomplish your task daily. Making this decision will decrease your frustration by making your practice regular.

Another setting worth mentioning is the sound effects. The success sound makes you feel great, but the sound of getting something wrong can be demoralizing. If you find these frustrating, then the solution is easy: turn them off. This will decrease your frustration which will make you more likely to persist.

Conclusion

Duolingo is a great way to get started with a language. Still, it is important to supplement it with additional material as you get deeper in your studies. These materials can include live/ online classes, tutoring, books, shows, and language exchange penpals. 

Reach out to me in the comment section if you have any questions about starting to learn a language, or join my Longevity community by signing up for my newsletter below.

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