As an aspiring polyglot, I am constantly trying to find new ways to learn languages in a way that is convenient, simple and fun. School has been a liability to my progress, since a lot of my focus and effort has to be shifted to that. Nevertheless, my prayers have been answered when I stumbled upon Duolingo, a website specifically catered to learning foreign languages from scratch!
The interface is user-friendly and appealing for children and adult learners alike. Duolingo gives a series of ‘skills’ starting from basic words and phrases to more complex sentence building and vocabulary. These skills are then further divided into a series of short exercises. To answer the exercises, you would primarily rely on translation from that language to English (or vice versa), listening then typing, listening then translating and reading the words yourself in that language using a microphone. It’s really simple – you’ll be familiar with it in no time. As you progress in the exercises, you get levelled up as your knowledge in your language increases. Right now, I am a Level 4 German and a Level 2 French.
The best thing about Duolingo is that it is free to use and convenient! Its website are user-sourced, so it does not rely on any advertising on site. You don’t have to buy those expensive language-learning packages from bookstores. The website also releases free applications downloadable from the Play Store and App Store. This way, you can do the exercises anywhere on your smartphone, anytime! You could always kill time in a bus or waiting for a doctor’s appointment by doing an exercise – it will only take you ten minutes at most.
Right now, I am learning German and French using Duolingo. German is a completely new language for me, meaning I have no previous experience learning it whatsoever. I know a few words here and there and that’s it. Duolingo helped me expand my knowledge of German to a much deeper level. Now I can construct basic sentences based around greetings and topics such as food and animals. Here is a paragraph I wrote based on the vocab I have already learnt:
Guten tag und willkommen! Ich bin Ahmad. Für mein Frühstück, ich esse Brot, Käse und Apfel. Ich trinke Kaffee. Der Brot ist salzig und der Apfel ist süß. Für mein Mittagessen, ich esse Reis, Fisch und Tomaten. Ich trinke Wasser und Orangesaft. Mein Bruder isst Nudeln und Suppe und trinke Milch. Meine Schwester isst Kartoffeln und Fleisch. Ich liebe das Frühstück und das Mittagessen.
German is an awesome language to learn, and isn’t particularly difficult for English speakers. Many words in German sound similar to their English counterparts, such as ‘Fisch’ and ‘fish’ or ‘Ich habe’ and ‘I have’. Just remember to alter the pronunciations and spell them differently and you get a German word. Conjugations are slightly trickier, but having experience in conjugating other languages before, it wasn’t particularly daunting.
French is another language I am trying to ‘re-learn’ since I stopped studying it two years ago. I gave up on French because I didn’t like the conjugations and irregular verbs, and also because I wanted to focus on Arabic more. Now since I’m going back to basics, the French exercises are very easy for me (I didn’t forget everything!) but German is still my primary focus here.
If you have read the Author’s page, you would know that I am also learning Russian and Japanese as well. To say that I am ‘learning’ in a strict sense would be a lie. I don’t take proper lessons for either of those languages and I don’t sit down trying to memorise words or anything anymore. I want to, but I couldn’t find a proper way to do it, considering my timetable at school right now. Unfortunately, Duolingo has yet to offer Russian or Japanese lessons in their system. Russian lessons are in the process of being uploaded into Duolingo, but not Japanese. I hope it does get added soon – it’s such a clever method of learning that it would be a pity if these important languages are excluded.
To wrap it up for this month, I seriously recommend this website/app for anyone out there who are interested in picking up a second or third language. Maybe you want to impress your mates, or have better job prospects, or travel the world. Right now, Duolingo offers a choice of learning 10 different languages simultaneously. They are French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Italian and Irish (Irish Gaelic). If you are a native speaker of another language other than English, you could choose your Duolingo interface in that language and learn English, French and others. Do you have a great way of learning a foreign language? Do you use a special website or application on your phone to aid you in your studies? Let me know in the comments below! Danke, und Auf Wiedersehen!