While I’m writing my bachelor thesis on EU language policy, I’m again finding myself interested in learning a new language. Having no real time to go to any language classes, I’ve settled for using this great app: Duolingo. Many of you that in any way keep themselves busy with learning new languages may be familiar with it already. I’ve discovered the app a few months ago and so far it has not let me down.
Duolingo to me is a great way to delve into a language I’ve long been interested in learning, but have simply not had the chance to with other languages keeping me occupied: French. I’ve had French for four years back in high school, but it has not quite led to anything audible (except for the occassional “Bonjour!” and “Croissant et baguette!”).
I must look like a zombie each time I open Duolingo and start practising, as I tend to do a quick lesson right before I plunge into a deep sleep. Even so, I’ve noticed my French has improved. Duolingo is quite easy to understand and it gradually makes you remember words, simply by having you translate sentences. The perk is: you can click on each word if you do not know it and the translation pops up below.
Sounds like that wouldn’t be effective? How could you learn if all you do is write down what the translation says? Well, to me it is looking like I am learning. After having seen a word pop up during different lessons, you remember it fast enough. In addition, a robotic – and quite comical – woman’s voice reads the sentence to you. Well that voice definitely gets stuck in your head.
Yesterday evening I had quite a revelation. I was heading to the Movies That Matter festival in The Hague with some friends to watch the film Hope. A wonderful, spine-chilling film about the harsh reality of people from Cameroon and Nigeria trying to cross the border to Europe from Morocco. Of all languages spoken in the film, French was the most dominant one. Believe me, before Duolingo I did not understand even the simplest sentence that seemed to roll from a Frenchman’s mouth (words which seemed to come with a flowery scent, since there was such arrogance and charm in its singing pronunciation). To my utter surprise, halfway through the film, I did not need any subtitles anymore. Truth be told: it wasn’t exactly academical French that I was trying to understand, but to me it was a small victory.
I’m convinced you cannot solely rely on Duolingo to learn a language properly, but it can certainly help with retrieving some basic skills before you head off to get yourself some pain and vin rouge in the Dordogne. Ah, oui!