Whether you find Duolingo to be a green-feathered friend in your pocket or an intimidating monster lurking outside your door waiting to pounce on you for not meeting your daily study goal, there’s no denying the app’s ubiquity and widespread cultural influence. Even Saturday Night Live has done a skit about it! Given its popularity, I am frequently asked whether I use Duolingo myself and what I think about it as a path to foreign language fluency. The answer to the first part of this question is easy: yes. Every single day. The answer to the second half, however, is far more nuanced and chock-full of caveats. Read on to see why Duolingo (alone) won’t get you fluent in Japanese, but why I think you should use it anyway…
On August 28, 1963, The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., an American activist, humanitarian, and pastor gave what would become one of the most famous speeches of all time and a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The masterful address, usually known simply as I Have a Dream, was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in front hundreds of thousands of people who had joined the “March on Washington.” If you’ve never watched the speech, or haven’t seen it in a while, please take a moment now to relive a bit of history and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And for extra points, follow the links in the post to read the speech in Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish!
Interview with Michael & Ellen Robinson from Uncommon Dream on Learning Spanish & Raising Children Bilingually
Michael and Ellen Robinson first met in 2004 while they were studying Spanish in Mexico. Though Ellen had intended not to spend time with any other native English speakers while abroad, Michael’s charm and sufficient command of the Spanish language were enough to overcome her initial objections. They are now married, have two children, have visited 23 countries, and have lived abroad nine times. In the interview, they share key lessons they’ve learned while acquiring Spanish, living abroad, and raising children bilingually.
Ruben Adery is a pronunciation and dialect coach who helps learners, actors, singers, etc. develop native-like foreign accents. I first met him at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava where he gave a talk titled The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Immitating Foreign Accents to Help Master Any Language. The content of the talk itself was great, but the really impressive part was that he had the audience fooled for the first five minutes that he was from Israel when he is in fact from Los Angeles!
Katie Harris is the founder of Joy of Languages, a site dedicated to helping make language learning a joy instead of a chore. She was bored to tears with languages in school, but eventually figured out a more fun, effective approach to language learning that is focused on communicating with people and enjoying authentic listening and reading content. With a Masters in Linguistics from Cambridge University and an MRes in Speech, Language and Cognition from University College London, Katie does a great job peppering in just enough linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience to help language learners, but always keeping the focus on fun and efficacy. We first met at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava where I attended her talk How to Learn a Language by Watching TV and Film. Her philosophy was right in line with my “Anywhere Immersion” approach and I was eager to get her on the podcast.
Gabriel Gelman is the founder of Sprachheld, a popular language learning website for Germans learning foreign languages (and―as an added bonus―non-Germans learning German as a foreign language). On the site, Gabriel shares useful language learning tips and tools, inspirational interviews with polyglots and linguists, and a dialogue-based Spanish course (with other languages slated for production in the future). I’ve followed his work for some time and was delighted to finally meet him in person at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava.