As most people that have attended education in the United Kingdom, I learnt a secondary language apart from my native English throughout my school career. In my primary school I learnt French, which I literally remember none of whatsoever, and in secondary school I switched to learning Spanish. I switched as I had either a choice of learning Spanish or French and my dad lived in Spain for 4 years in his twenties and advised me to learn it as he could help me with it, that didn’t actual help in the long run but the thought was there.
Over the 5 years I spent learning Spanish I was never exactly what I would call bilingual in any sense of the word, I struggled and still do struggle to get my head around how to learn these new words and speak them fluently and recall them without serious thought. Sure it probably didn’t help that there was no enthusiasm for learning Spanish, I learnt it because I had to learn a language and had no chance to drop it until I left secondary education. I also only learnt Spanish as I recall twice a week which isn’t really enough time for me to pick up a language at all.
Every year since dropping Spanish I have said I would learn another language and that language was German. Every summer since the end of Year 11 I have installed the app Duolingo, spent a week trying to learn the language and then promptly gave up and uninstalled the app without another thought about it until the next summer when I swore I would try again.
Maybe my sudden re-interest in history has sparked my new thirst to start learning German but I’ve really started learning again. I reinstalled the Duolingo app for the third time and have kept up a 17 day streak on the app which includes completing a session for that day and it doesn’t have to be one you haven’t learnt yet, it can be one you have already learnt but are unsure on. I’ve also taken to grabbing a notebook and filling it with the words I learn from each lesson. I’ve actually gone so far as to start learning about conjugating German verbs which was the bane of my existence when learning Spanish.
This time it is different though, I find it, aye, stressful when conjugating verbs but I find it oddly fun too as though the pain it causes my brain to recall these verbs is just my own kind of fun! When I get Ihr and Ich mixed up I mentally, and often audibly, scold myself and become determined to correct my mistake at the next available chance. And when I do remember something I was struggling to recall I often can’t help but do a semi-jig in my seat.
I really would advise the Duolingo app to anybody thinking of learning a new language, it’s really handy and has come a long way since I first installed it a few years back. There are paid aspects to the app but the web version is very helpful if you want to talk with people that are also using the app to learn and people of all abilities are on there and happy to help, I rarely see anybody that is there to preach. Other users are always in cheery debates and answering questions such as why we say Das Mädchen and not Die Mädchen or how to conjugate a certain set of verbs.
It’s definitely a worthwhile app that has aided me greatly in my learning, without it I probably wouldn’t know any of the stuff I know now and would have thoroughly given up.
I have found that when you aren’t forced to study something and actually actively want to learn about it, it is much easier and more enjoyable.