The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Did you always want to learn another language? Have you’ve tried for a few days, maybe weeks, and then quit? I’ve done this multiple times and it was mostly because I would get frustrated or couldn’t find time. Another excuse was I needed Rosetta Stone, but the price was too high. Then, I was in the Army and part of their e-learning suite included Rosetta Stone, so that excuse was no longer relevant. I tried Rosetta stone, but also quit. I’m sure if it was because I lacked motivation, or if I was lazy (I would have to make an effort to get in fromt of a computer to study). Maybe if it was on the phone and I could use it in the “office,” I would stick with it.
I can now say that I am on day 32 learning another language (Italian), which I have been tracking with HabitBull (Android app). I am still motivating, my retention and recall is great, and I’m doing this all on an app and online, when I want.
This is all done, with Duolingo, a free (and ad-free), brilliant, amazing application. What makes it different and amazing?
There is a reason why it’s been around since 2011, and as of Today, has 54 different languages courses (including Klingon and Esperanto).
The gamification is top notch. It starts off with selecting a daily goal, which is how much you want to study each day. The levels include Basic, Casual, Regular, Serious and Insane. It really goes by how many of the little segments you learn.
I started with Regular, which means I need 20 XP per day (or two segments). Each segment takes about 5-10 minutes of studying. If you miss a day, you lose your streak. This is where gamification comes in.
For completing segments, you gain XP. When gaining XP, you gain levels. With levels, streaks and other variables you gain Lingots, in which you can add upgrades and skills, such as idioms and proverbs or flirting packages.
You can also add your friends and it will display a leaderboard, which will show how much you and your friends gained in XP. Nothing is more encouraging than positive reinforcement or leveling up. They also are slowly introducing a fluency percentage, which based on your progress is award a percentage that you can post on LinkedIn, or just brag to your friends and family.
Another brilliant aspect of it, is it’s built in space repetition system (SRS). There is too much to go over why SRS helps learning, but it basically states that when learning something new, over a period of time, you need to recall and train what you’re learning in order to retain it.
When using Duolingo, you will notice one of skills will slowly weaken and depreciate. THis is all part of the SRS, in which you will need to “train” them to gain them to full strength. It’s brilliant, it’s built it, and it’s taken care of for you. You do not have to set up index cards or put it on a schedule and mark it as easy, normal, or hard. Duolingo takes care of it for you.
Goal Setting, Gamification and Space Repetition all add up to learning a new language easily. The best part is that it’s free, both in terms of purchase and advertisement.
The way Duolingo makes money is off reselling translations, as well as their test center. The translation part is brilliant, as when the users translate the text to their native language, Duolingo resells the translated text to other sites like Buzzfeed.
The test center is also brilliant because what use to take thousands of dollars to get certified in, you can now get your certification, which is recognized by LinkedIn, Harvard, Uber, and Carnegie Mellon at a fraction of a cost. When you think about how many people need to be certified in English and the cost, it’s extremely brilliant.
This makes it free, and well worth it. You can learn more from Luis von Ahn’s TedTalk titled, “Massive-scale online collaboration”.