Throughout the years before the internet, people discovered new languages through exercise books, evening classes and even language courses on a cassette (remember them?)
Some were lucky enough to visit the target country and immerse themselves into the language (often armed with a phrase book). But fast-forward to today and one can find plenty of online tutorials, apps and videos where you can learn to speak a language with immersion and for free.
DuoLingo is one of the more popular online apps where you can learn a new language. But, where does one start? Visit the website and register. Then choose a username and a password and naturally, the target language you wish to learn.
All the big languages are covered here: French, German, Italian, Spanish and more besides. There are even some languages used in film and television epics to learn too. High Valerian and Klingon are featured, as well as ancient Latin – just recently introduced.
Among English speakers, Spanish is most popular, followed by French then German. Once you are all registered, sign in at least once a day to learn your new language. The lessons will start with the basics.
You will learn how to pronounce certain parts of a word by selecting the right answer from a multiple choice set. So, you will need to put your headphones on or use the speakers on your desktop PC.
A language is not mastered from exercise books alone. You must speak. You must listen. There will be a test to speak. Simply tap the microphone symbol and start talking. You will be told if you made any sense.
Be careful not to rush through the exercises and gain “Crown” points. The aim is to practice every day and keep on going through the old stuff you have done in the previous days or weeks. It is pointless learning new segments of your language, if you don’t practice all the grammar and oral lessons you have learned weeks earlier.
Why is it when someone asks you, “Can you speak any Spanish or French?” You reply, “I did a bit at school, but I have forgotten it all now.”
Of course you have. Learning a new language requires constant practice and a daily input. Click on the icon that looks like a dumbbell to practice random stuff you have learned throughout your course.
It has also been recommended by language teaching professors that students should be studying about three skills all at once. You should toggle between the three – and for every lesson within a Crown Level exercise, you must do two sets of practices (the dumbbell icon).
Think of a piano player or guitarist who only plays one chorus over and over again. They would not master all the verses unless they were practiced occasionally too. If you struggle to get started on the DuoLingo app – just remember language learning improves concentration, cognitive skills and strengthens the memory. It can also delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.