Slow Learner Quest

100 days of Duolingo

A few days ago, I reached an exciting milestone. 100 days of Duolingo.

So for the past few months, I have been learning Dutch. Graduation is coming up for me, so I am thinking about various career pathways. And since last year, I caught Dutch fever. I thought it would be interesting to work in the Netherlands someday.

The last 100 days have gone by so quickly. Practising daily Duolingo has been a memorable journey so far - a core memory is grinding it during my rural rotation. I remember practising it on the Vline train on the commute to my rural placement, and practising late at night in the accommodation.

Practising Duolingo has been a delight because the company has invested quite heavily in the interface. Prior to learning Dutch, I was only familiar with the memes about Duo the Owl menacingly threatening you to maintain the streak. But the company lives up to its reputation - the animations, the haptic feedback and overall cohesiveness of the different screens blew me away back then and blows me away 100 days later. As an aspiring developer, the interface is something worth admiring and trying to emulate. They have even really nailed the gamification aspects of the app.

However, it is not without its flaws. I'm not complaining about its freemium model, but I'm annoyed how some ads don't load correctly after completing a lesson. This results in my having to evoke either the home screen or swipe down to bring the Notifications Center. Additionally, I think the speech-to-text interface can be improved. While it is a novel idea, there have been too many occasions where the app cannot pick up what I've said. As a result, I'm unsure whether my pronunciation is actually accurate and, though speaking is an important part of learning a language, I try to avoid practising it.

My last critique is the learning content of Duolingo. A core part of the learning experience in Duolingo is just constant exposure, which can lead to a lot of grinding. This is good, but I'm disappointed that Duolingo only tries to teach by showing vocabulary. I wish that there was a quick preview moment where the app demonstrates how the grammar works before exposing learners to the vocabulary. I've made many mistakes where my grammar was incorrect and it was difficult to understand why. Luckily, in these cases, I reached out for a textbook which helped a lot. But without additional resources, I would've struggled a lot more and for no reason.

Nevertheless, I've been enjoying learning Dutch and Duolingo has been a big part of it. I tried to initially learn Dutch last year by downloading an Anki, but it was quite daunting and difficult to maintain that habit. So I think Duolingo is a great way to break down any daunting barriers of learning something new. Starting anything is uncomfortable and difficult, and I appreciate how Duolingo is essentially a framework that sets up safe guard rails for ensuring that you stay on track. I look forward to keep practising and hopefully provide another update at the 200 day mark.