In my 7th grade Spanish class, I had to download the app Duolingo and complete its Spanish lessons for homework. Back then, I just viewed Duolingo as simply a grade, something I had to do for school. However, over the years and especially in college, I have kindled in myself a love for language and find myself on this app everyday, currently holding the 2nd place title in experience points (xp) in the Gold League. For me, learning a language is the intersection between fun & engaging, and practical & professional. The skills gained from learning a language are essentially tenfold, and in doing so you can greatly support future goals and ambitions in the realms of travel & cultural enrichment, diplomacy, business, etc. The best part is, you don't have to be enrolled in any formal classroom setting to reap these benefits - it all can be achieved through your phone.
This might as well be an endorsement for Duolingo. There's so much to do within the app and I really do attribute a lot of my passion for learning languages to it. To begin, they have almost every language you would want to learn readily available to click on: Chinese, Arabic, German, French, even Esperanto (a man-made language created a few centuries ago with the intention of being used for "international peacemaking," but the language itself never really took off). I'm actively learning Spanish and Portuguese because of my familial ties to Latin America and because I want to study abroad in Brazil next year, but I also have tried my hand at Indonesian, Turkish, and Thai.
Secondly, the platform itself is very addicting in the way it gets you to learn the language. Every lesson can earn you up to 15 XP, and the app encourages you to set an XP goal to meet everyday. If you maintain a streak for a certain amount of time, you earn coins called "lingots" that can unlock "Flirting" and "Idioms" lessons, as well as streak-savers and outfits for Duo. If you can maintain Snapchat streaks, you can maintain a Duolingo streak! Currently my XP goal is set at 20 a day, but just a few days ago I had reached 450.
Once you've reached Level 1 mastery of your chosen language, you unlock "stories," quirky dialogues describing a date gone wrong, or a surprise birthday party, all with dramatic voice actors that make the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Then, they have an entire discussion forum where you can post questions on just about anything related to specific lesson questions, confusing aspects of the language, or maybe just a cool fact or news article about the language. Even more, there is a whole forum about asking Duolingo to add the Quechua language to its platform, a language predominantly spoken by the indigenous people of Andean Perú. I hope Duolingo listens, because I would love to learn that language for the next time I visit Perú!
Machu Picchu, Perú Giphy
Although there's so much more to talk about, the last thing I'm going to mention is that there are Duolingo events! If you would like a practical application of speaking your language of choice, this is it. Upon searching events in my city, titles like "Italian Conversations," "Spanish Meetup," and "Duolingo Spanish at the Columbia Restaurant" popped up. The last one is especially helpful for practicing how to order food in Spanish, which is one of the first lessons you will learn in the app!
I hope you have already downloaded the app if you don't have it already. It's honestly one of my favorite pastimes that is actually not mindless at all.
My username is @gillianolortegui if anyone would like to be Duolingo friends!