Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Little Every Day

Today I hit the illustrious milestone of a 100-day streak on Duolingo. While this number is slightly misleading, as I did use the “streak-freeze” option to save me on a few particularly busy days, for the most part I’ve used the app every day for the past 100 days.

I started using the app again this summer in order to brush up on my French in preparation for volunteering on a bilingual camp in Belgium. I’ve been learning French practically all my life, so the app was simply a way to refresh what I already knew.

After I got my French up to speed, though, I decided to switch tack and try learning some Spanish. I was, somewhat embarrassingly, rather nervous about trying a new language. Other than French, I’d never tried learning a new language, and I didn’t (don’t!) consider myself particularly good at languages. I knew Duolingo was good for refreshing a language, but I doubted it would be good for learning.

Fast-forward several months, and Duolingo now claims that I’m 37% fluent in Spanish. I highly doubt that’s true, but I can confidently state that I have some Spanish skill, whereas two months ago I had absolutely none. I know some basic verbs (tengo, quiero), some helpful food vocabulary (pescado, ensalada), and I’m starting to get a feel for sentence structure. I would definitely still struggle in a proper conversation with a Spanish speaker, but I’d be able to order dinner in a restaurant without an English menu.

While I’m still a long ways away from fluency in Spanish, it is really exciting to go from nothing to basic proficiency in just two months, especially considering I spent only ten minutes a day working through two quick lessons. I never sat down with a thick textbook and poured through lists of conjugations. All I did was take a few minutes every day that I probably would have wasted on facebook anyways and instead open up the Duolingo app.

It amazes me just how much we can accomplish by just dedicating a few minutes every day. How taking five minutes before bed every night for journaling has filled a dozen volumes over a few years. How 100 days on duolingo grants me basic proficiency in a whole new language. How writing for an hour every evening results in a 119,000-word novel in two months.

As I prepare for NaNoWriMo again this November, it really helps to see how far I’ve managed to get in Duolingo with just a few minutes a day. Writing a novel, like learning a language, is a mammoth task, and it’s so encouraging to be reminded of how much we can do by just keeping at it every day. 

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