Duolingo Challenge: Volunteers needed!

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So, maybe you’re already tired of people telling you about all the great ways you can spend your time in isolation right now. Get fit, start knitting, declutter your house, sew your own face mask, count your toilet rolls….

Learning a language is something people would often like to do but never find the time to do. Along with getting fit and learning to play a musical instrument, it’s normally in the top 3 of most desired skills. So, if it’s been on your bucket list for a while, this could be your chance!

Maybe you fancy starting a new language or picking up something you learnt back in school. I’m looking for as many volunteers as possible to join in and see just how effective it is to learn a language with an app. Duolingo is the biggest and most popular free app/website for learning a language with over 300 million users. It’s easy to use and aims to make learning fun.  Whether you’re an experienced language leaner or a complete language muppet, Duolingo’s mission is to provide free, easy, language tuition for everyone.

What is the challenge?

It’s pretty simple. Try to complete 24 hours of learning with the app before Sunday May 31st. If you start today and learn every day that would be around 24 minutes a day. Duolingo doesn’t track time but according to their website, one lesson = approx. 10 minutes so you can use this as a guideline.

Back in 2018 I carried out a 24-hour Polish project. The rules were the same but I only had lessons with a native speaker and used books and cards. No apps or online tools. I would now like to compare that experience with a completely online/no human interaction/social distancing experience. This time, I’m going to spend 24 hours learning Turkish, but only using Duolingo.

How does it work?

  • First of all, download the app (available for both iOS and Android) or go to Duolingo.com
  • Choose a language you want to learn (they have a great selection)
  • Set a daily goal (you can change this later) and then set up a profile (name, email address and a password)
  • Join my experiment class by going to your Profile, press Progress Sharing and add the Class Code GQVAAD. (If you have any problems joining the group, just let me know). That means I can see who is taking part and the progress they are making. Alternatively, you can just drop me a mail here at the website or on Facebook or Xing. Let me know what language you are doing and your email address and you can join the challange without being in the online group. Just keep track of how many lessons/hours you do. At the end of the challenge, each participant (whether they complete the challenge or not) will receive a short questionnaire from me to give their feedback on the experience. I plan to use this feedback to write a post reviewing the Duolingo app and the general experience of learning a language online.

Why should I take part?

Well, first of all because it’s always fun to learn something new, set yourself a challenge and you can impress everyone this summer with your new language skills! It also means that at the end of the journey, my review of Duolingo will be based on numerous opinions and not just mine. I would be extremely grateful for your support.

What language should I choose?

Absolutely anything that takes your fancy. Duolingo has a great selection from standards like French and Spanish to much more exotic things like Vietnamese and even High Valyrian!  I’m planning to do Turkish i.e. a level 2 language like Polish (see list below) and a language where I’m a complete beginner. But feel free to choose anything you like the sound of. Whether you’ve learnt it before or it’s completely new. To stay motivated, keep in mind the following things when you are making your choice: Do I like the sound of the language? Is the language used in a country I like or would like to visit one day? How difficult is it? The list below gives you a rough guidleine:

Level 3 (most challenging for English native speakers)

Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic

Level 2

Russian, Hindi, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Hebrew, Czech, Hungarian, Ukranian, Vietnamese

Level 1.5

German, Indonesian, Swahili

Level 1 (least challenging for English native speakers)

French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Romanian

What is the start/finish date?

You can join in at any time. However, the end date of the challenge is May 31st.

What if I don’t manage my 24 hours?

Nothing of course, this is not school! It’s just supposed to be a bit of fun. If you don’t manage the 24 hours, I will still be interested in your feedback at the end, to find out what you think of the app and why you didn’t make the 24 hours (frustration, boredom, lack of time etc.)

Any tips?

I’ve used Duolingo a lot in the past. My advice would be:

  1. Add the new language to your language settings on your phone. This helps with typing different characters and predictive text.
  2. Always have the sound switched on so you can hear AND see what you’re learning.
  3. Try to speak out loud as often as possible to get used to hearing your new language “voice” and get used to pronunciation.
  4. Think carefully before deciding which language you want to do. This helps you to stay motivated in the long run

So that’s it. If you have any questions, please let me know. Looking forward to learning with you!

Setting New Goals for 2019

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Road ahead

So, here we are at the beginning of a new year, looking ahead at what we want to achieve and once again, I’m making a new list of goals. You may remember I did the same last year. I had 9 goals on my list and here’s how I got on:

  • 2 goals ticked off 100% (Japanese and slow cooking)
  • 3 goals adapted and then ticked off 100% (I started learning Polish instead of Italian, I learned to loom instead of knit and loomed a jumper for Polo, my dog)
  • 1 goal got 30% ticked off (still a few more kilos to go)
  • 3 goals were complete failures (guitar, book proposal and (gasp) my cake decorating skills! Still no idea how the hell that didn’t happen.)

Despite those 3 flops, I’m pretty happy with what I achieved. So, I decided to make a list again, consider what went right and what went wrong last year and make a few adjustments to my strategy.

My list for 2019 turned out to be very “language learning” dominant, so I thought I would share a separate “language goal list” with you and my tips for sticking with it. When people make their bucket lists, learning a language often comes high up along with travel, learning a musical instrument and getting healthy/losing weight. Surprisingly, when I recently took a look at dayzero (a website where people share their bucket lists) “Kissing in the rain” was also featured very highly! Just head to Sheffield on a Friday night and have a few drinks. Job done.

But moving away from the random targets, why is it that things like learning a language, playing an instrument and losing weight are often on these lists. Unfortunately, it’s because they are often the things that elude us. They take time, dedication, some discipline and are long-term projects. While my 24-hour Polish Project had its advantages, I know a lot of what I learned has already slipped away as I have been totally focussed on my Japanese for the last few months. In many ways, languages are the same as health and music. They are never really short-term projects, but rather a way of life. While that all sounds a bit daunting (especially the health part as cinnamon rolls are currently my “way of life”), let me share my language targets for this year plus some tips on how I intend to reach them:

1. Do the next JLPT (Japanese Proficiency) certificate in December

How? So, this is a good example of smart goal. The key here is the deadline. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of language exams in another post soon but registering for and taking part in an official exam really kept me on track last year. Finally getting my certificate also gave me a real motivation boost.

2. Refresh my conversational Spanish by mid-March

How? Again, I have a deadline (wedding in Madrid in March) but I have also tried to make the language focus quite specific. I initially wrote “Refresh my Spanish” but then realised that is way too vague. What does it even mean? How much? Refresh what exactly? Better to prioritise exactly what I want to use it for. In my case, to chat to any Spanish people on our table (although the bride is actually English. Hopefully we are not on a Brexit table!)

3. Refresh my Polish for a trip to Warsaw in June

How? Once again there is a date. It isn’t fixed yet but I am definitely going to Warsaw with a friend sometime around June. As I am still very much a beginner, my focus here will be on travel survival phrases and some basic small talk. Again, I have already planned what I need to focus on.

4. Start learning Turkish

selective focus of turkish teacup filled with tea

How? Turkish is going to be another 24-hour experiment (like the Polish Project) but this time only using the Duolingo app. No idea yet where this journey will take me but I’m excited to start something totally new (the only word I know is Döner) and get more experience of using apps to learn languages which I can also pass onto my clients.

5. Read at least 4 books in German

How? One of my non-language learning targets for this year is to read more fiction. I realised that I’ve spent the last few years mainly reading coaching books and I really miss reading fiction. Luckily, my German is good enough to do this quite easily and I feel that it’s a good way to keep my language level up in a passive way. The key here is fun. It‘s something I like doing that takes little effort.


So what are your goals? Do you have any language learning plans for 2019? Feel free to add your targets in the comments below. Sometimes just writing them down can give you the motivation to get moving. And as always, if you would like my posts sent straight to your inbox, feel free to follow me by using the box on the right.