I’m proud to boast that I’m bilingual. Growing up and living in North America means knowing a second language is an asset in your professional and personal life. Just a quick jump over the pond to Europe though, and I feel rather simple. Most people I’ve met from Europe know at least three languages, most of them know more. Take my husband for instance, he is fluent in Dutch, English and German and understands a bit of French. I envy people who can communicate in several languages.
I grew up in Montreal and my husband is from the Netherlands. We speak to our son in English, Dutch and French. While we make an effort to expose him to three languages, this also means my husband speaks Dutch to my son and I don’t understand most of it. This will for sure become problematic once he’s a teenager and can use his language skills to censor his conversations, as smart teenagers often do!
Apply language now
I’ve dedicated less than 30 minutes a day to learning Dutch with my smart phone. So far I’m impressed with Duolingo. It’s intuitive app offers short, stimulating bursts to encourage vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar and common usage. I’m no millennial but I do appreciate the quick learning with cute reward messages. The app reminds me to get my daily dose in but is easy to ignore if needed. It uses several simple techniques to smart phone learning; typing, reading, multiple choice and dictation.
In addition to the app
While I do appreciate independent learning with my smart phone that I can do anywhere, there is nothing like applying my language skills with a native speaker. The opportunity to use the vocabulary with my husband provides me with a priceless learning advantage. My only advice or criticism to Duolingo is to perhaps make it easy to introduce language students to each other. Not necessarily a match-making service, but something to bring users together with similar skill levels, time commitments and conversation interests, allowing them to practice with dynamic use and back-and-forth speaking.