Duolingo- The “Why”

ASSIGNMENT: Earn 50 XP on the app before Thursday (May 26th). You got this!

Language-Learning Tip

I have never led a Duolingo parent/adult class before (at least not formally with an XP classroom), so this was a first for me. I hope that this year has proven fruitful for at least some of you, despite my inconsistent posts. If anything, I think that developing the habit of working on an app reinforces 1) how much of a journey language-learning really is, and 2) how much motivation matters.

Perhaps it makes more sense to you now that I should want my [Lower School] classes to be “exciting” and “fun” and “novel”: you see, I know how long the road to proficiency/ fluency is, and I know that students will need a backpack of motivation and some serious inspiration to get them where they want to go. It is easy to start off like a rocket; but language-learning is not a sprint: you can’t train for 14,000 Ironman marathons in only one or two nights! It doesn’t quite work that way. We need to build the habit, and then somehow push ourselves to keep going.

As adults, this doesn’t really change all that much. We have jobs and dishes and laundry and bills and grocery shopping and kids running all over the house and appointments and soccer games and this and that and the other; maybe we started out very competitively in the fall and then our sprint fizzled out and we abandoned the app. But let’s be honest: if we really want to accomplish a goal, we have to make it a priority. And a habit. And we have to have a serious reason and motivation for doing so. Why is this important to you? If your “why” is lukewarm, it is unlikely that you will accomplish said goal, or at least you will not reach your goals on the original timeline.

It may seem like I am babbling on like a brook here, but my final language-learning tip of the year is, simply, a question: Why are you trying to learn another language? What is your reason? Mine can be summed up by the following quote, which I have shared before, but absolutely love. If you have learned a lot this year, or only a little, know that it has been time well spent, and that you can always revisit it when you are ready. Have a wonderful summer, and see you in the fall!

Here is a motivational quote by the Hungarian hyperpolyglot, Kató Lomb:

“We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly. If someone knows how to play the violin only a little, he will find that the painful minutes he causes are not in proportion to the possible joy he gains from his playing. The amateur chemist spares himself ridicule only as long as he doesn’t aspire for professional laurels. The man somewhat skilled in medicine will not go far, and if he tries to trade on his knowledge without certification, he will be locked up as a quack doctor.

Solely in the world of languages is the amateur of value. Well-intentioned sentences full of mistakes can still build bridges between people. Asking in broken Italian which train we are supposed to board at the Venice railway station is far from useless. Indeed, it is better to do that than to remain uncertain and silent and end up back in Budapest rather than in Milan.”