28 April 2017

Language loss

About four months ago I decided to refresh my Spanish, and started using an app called Duolingo - "free, fun, and science-based". The initial test told me I knew 29% of Spanish (whatever that means!) - and as I worked through the bite-sized lessons, reaching checkpoints, my score became 25%, 22%, 21%. Turns out it's not because of getting things wrong but because of not practising enough!

My daily goal was to do two of the bite-sized lessons, which isn't a lot - you don't get fluent in a language with just 15 minutes' practice a day, or rather, whenever it suits you. So I decided to "do my Spanish" every evening, in bed - sleep seems to improve language learning - and to do at least three lessons, or as many as I could stay awake for. (The repetition can be soporific...)

The end was in sight - only 10 lessons-groups to go. Some evenings, the screen would be dotted with lots of little lessons that needed revisiting - it's keeping up with these, keeping the skill bars full, that gets you points (sometimes people reach 60%). And if you reach your daily goal every day, you build up a streak.

My streak reached 101 days yesterday - and then I stayed up later than usual and suddenly realised it was nearly midnight - uh oh -
Message received at three minutes past midnight
Reader, what would you do - pay £9.99 to repair, or say "no thanks"?  I had no option - the screen is locked. Neither works.

It was good to practise regularly and also to be able to speak, repeat, compare pronunciation. The emphasis on the oral, on having to figure things out - rather than read a list declensions etc, that traditional grammar-based approach - was a big leap forward for me. I feel quite devastated that I've lost it - through inattention, through getting away from useful routine.

Maybe I'll put the app on my phone, and start again (it's all practice, right?) and use the "test out" option on the groups of lessons, which can whizz you through them. Maybe I'll have a break. Maybe I'll start a new language - Dutch, Welsh, Norwegian? Vietnamese? It's a shame they don't do Mandarin.

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