4 Steps To Learning a New Language
Remember when dictionaries were famous? Well, times have changed and so has our society. Just as any innovation, the internet used to be the “new” thing in town. The web has come a long way. Unfortunately, there are negative effects to the vast usage of the internet. Since new websites, apps and softwares are constantly being invented, things like books are becoming outdated. Now if you want to practice your French, there are different websites, such as Duolingo, which allow you to do so through your computer screen. Not only is the website free of cost, but it also comes with a variety of languages that you can learn online. How does Duolingo work exactly, you might be thinking?
Step 1: Select Your Language
When you select “get started” on the website, a list consisting of 12 languages show up. Some of them are English, Spanish, French etc. At this point, you are asked to select the language that which you want to learn.
Step 2: Set Goal Time
After you have made your selection, you are automatically redirected to a page that asks you to choose how many minutes you want to spend on practicing your chosen language. The page asks you to choose a goal time, in order to create a sense of structure/routine.
Step 3: Choose Beginners/Experienced
On the third page, you are basically asked to select between a beginner’s course or a course for people who are fairly experienced in the field.
Step 4: Lesson Begins
After making your selections above, you can finally begin on practicing your chosen language. Who knows the next step might include travelling!
Duolingo provides you with vocabulary questions. An example would be, you are given a phrase such as “man”. Below your phrase are three images, one of them includes an image of a man and the word that is used to say “man” in your chosen language. This is a visual learning strategy. Your brain sees the word man, then sees the image of the man and memorizes the word that is used to say man in the foreign language. This process repeats, where you are given images and words and asked to choose the right ones. If you make a mistake, you can retry. This gives you the freedom to make mistakes and to have fun learning a new language.
Another exercise includes listening. A word or phrase is spoken by a robot in the language of your choosing, then you are asked to translate it in English. You are also able to do this the opposite way, so from English to the chosen language. It is known that all websites, apps etc have positive and negative aspects about them. Let’s review these aspects for Duolingo:
- Senses and Learning
There are many visual learners and it is hard for them to learn in a school-like environment. Learning a new language is even harder in such a structured system. Duolingo, provides it’s users with the combination of pictures and words. Not only does this help your brain’s memorization process, but it also makes the learning experience enjoyable. You have greater concentration, rather than feeling stressed out staring at big words all day. Everything is more fun with pictures!
Duolingo also has programs which requiring listening. This strengthens your hearing, because you need to focus on the robots words. It can also be easier to remember the answer to the questions if you hear someone say the word out loud.
- Help Center
The helping center is very detailed and includes all sorts of questions. This shows the amount of respect they have for their customers. They want to help you with any concerns you may have. This an attractive attribute and a positive fact about the site.
- Mobile App
Duolingo does not include a well constructed website, but they also have their own app. If you are a passionate learner and love languages, then this is the platform for you. If you feel like you do not have any time to pursue your hobbies, due to work or school, then just download the app on your phone or tablet and continue your sessions on the go.
- Too long
The exercises are very helpful, but run too long. You’re answering the questions, but then you realize that there is just no end. This can be very discouraging. Your attention span may be effected, if you keep going around in circles in each exercise.
In order to advance to the next level, you must pass all of the grammatical, vocabulary questions. The problem is that you can only get three questions wrong. If you continue making mistakes and exceed this limit, you will have to wait until the next day to continue with the learning. This can be especially irritating, if you are not a patient person. It is also very hard to pass all of the questions when you are just a beginner.
- Textbook Phrases
The words that are used in the exercises seem like they came out of a vocabulary textbook. Although they are easy to memorize and could be helpful in the future, they are quite stiff words that may not be used in an every day conversation. The words are almost too formal to be merged into a casual talk with a friend.
As I talked about the senses being used as a teaching method, Duolingo presented a lot of different ways of learning. Pictures should be used in classrooms more often, especially in French class. In kindergarten pictures were used for everything, why did that stop? Class is so much more interesting with visuals to go with the content. This is the best teaching method that Duolingo knows all about.
Creating content that is less textbook and more casual is the biggest improvement that can be applied to this platform. It would make it easier for the student to form sentences. Cutting down on the lessons per day. Upgrade Duolingo’s exercises to become less of repetitive and long content. These improvements will make the platform more enjoyable and create a better name for the website itself!