Duolingo, the foreign language learning game, is one of the many learning tools I’ve reviewed on this site. I found it to be one of the more effective tools, even for learning a new language from scratch, but only if you follow the essential rules of perfect practice.
One question remains, though: how do you keep learning after you beat Duolingo (or gotten far along)? Or, more importantly, how to you learn outside the game so that you can actually use the language?
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The Joy of Craft
1. Nobody to Speak With?
Normally, this is the part where I’d tell you to go speak the language with someone.
That advice ignores the obvious fact that many people are unable, unwilling or just uncertain of themselves. Finding someone to speak a foreign language with can be a little scary and a lot of work. If you find yourself struggling to actually practice with, try the following techniques.
First, try reading a book in a foreign language. I wrote a post about how I did this after just a month or so of studying French, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best things to improve my language skills. I began to gain an appreciation of the natural flow of the language, and these days I truly enjoy reading books in French. Pro tip: read a book that you’re already familiar with and enjoy. I re-read the Harry Potter series in French; not only did I enjoy the story, but my familiarity meant that I could guess the meaning of words (which is a lot of fun!)
2. Passive Learning
The idea of “passive learning” is to absorb information organically throughout the day.
Creating a language bubble is a way to surround yourself with the foreign language. You’d be surprised how much information you can pick up from just being exposed to the language consistently throughout your day.
“Passive” is a bit of a misnomer, though. All learning requires a certain amount of deliberate practice. You cannot expect to just absorb the information through osmosis. The language bubble technique only works if you are inquisitive and constantly ask yourself “what does this mean? Why was this word used here?”
3. Practice Better
Just because you’ve gotten far along in Duolingo doesn’t mean you’re done practicing.
Quite the opposite, actually: good practice is most useful for solidifying memories before you forget them. Most students make 3 mistakes with flashcards. Moreover, there are some great tools for preventing forgetting. Most important of all is to vary your practice, so that you gain exposure to all forms of the topic.
Finally, consider how you want to use the language.
Some people have no intention of using a language to speak. Maybe you’re simply working in the language. In that case, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to study techniques that mirror your usage. If you’re looking to get out there in the world and start using the language with other humans, though, check out Fluent in 3 Months, a great resource for aspiring polyglots.
No matter how you use the language, learning is a lifelong journey. There’s no such thing as being “done” learning a language. If you subscribe to get all of the study tips, you’ll receive tons of resources to help you keep learning!