I’m taking Duolingo lessons for Portuguese, and the sentences I’ve had to translate make me laugh: After writing “butter is good” I speculate Paula Deen is heading Duollingo, but then I realized if that were true I would have translated racist words—yikes.
In the past week I shared Duolingo with my friend here on our Kenya study abroad program, and he is now taking French lessons after struggling to find websites or programs geared for teaching Afrikaans.
I’ve kept up with Duolingo since last summer after leaving Spanish class, but I’ve only recently come across some astounding research: According to professors at the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, 34 hours of Duolingo equates to 130 hours of a first-year college semester course.
I’m cashing in. I must be saving thousands of dollars by practicing multiple languages through Duolingo. I keep a notebook handy and refuse to take motorbikes so that I can focus on translating sentences in my head during my walks to work—in this case, literally going the extra mile. Then I might take out my notebook during my long commutes to work and exercise unfamiliar vocab (for more on long commutes, see blog post “No, I am pretty sure I’m not Chinese“).
Duolingo’s options for languages are limited. I can’t practice Swahili, but then again I’m extraordinarily fortunate to practice in Kenya, though now I have two and a half weeks left. I’ll probably have to look into Rosetta Stone for Japanese, mostly to appease my Japanese mother, but when it comes to Romance Languages Duolingo’s got your back.
Okay, okay. Get this. Now it wants to me to translate “He cuts the cheese.”
Between ordering in Swahili at restaurants and practicing Portuguese whenever I can, I’m actually becoming addicted to learning languages. Lately I’ve been writing on a Apple Pages document in Spanish, filling up more than a page (single spaced) at a time. But, as I type this entry it’s 4:20 pm and my idea of post-work relief is through practicing Português. Duolingo is my biggest vice outside of sampling stouts, so I think I turned out alright.
Why would someone be addicted to Duolingo? For the same reason World of Warcraft is more addictive than crack cocaine. It’s because of its very essential mechanism of frequently rewarding you (in Warcraft’s case, constantly). I level up. I unlock new lessons. I expand my skill tree. When you’re on a streak you get “lingots,” these red rubies that serve as Duolingo’s currency that I use to refill my tries (“hearts”). They’ve got me like one of B.F. Skinner’s pigeons. Pressing that damn lever again and again.
But we’re smarter than mice and pigeons. Right now I’ll practice Swahili.