Apps like Duolingo make lockdown the time to learn a language

With Coronavirus cases starting to spike in certain parts of the world, it looks like lockdown life might still be around for a while. But this does not need to be a bad thing! Many are looking for new activities to keep themselves sharp… or at least distracted. One such activity — one that I’ve been enjoying myself — is taking time to learn a language. And Duolingo makes lockdown the ideal time to get started! Whether your Portuguese is getting rusty, or you’ve just always wanted to learn Swahili, there’s no reason you can’t get started today!

Benefits

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Learning a language is something you’ll take with you. Photo by Christina Wocintechchat/Unsplash

For one, the benefits of learning a language at any time are monumental. Watching yourself start learning a language provides important boosts of confidence and competence. In other words, the challenge of learning a language is all the more reason to go after it! It may seem tricky at first, but those moments when something just clicks make it absolutely worth it.

Studies also indicate that learning a new language also has benefits for your brain. Dr Jonathan Groff-Radford of the Mayo Clinic suggests that bilingualism may help to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, physically stimulating the brain by “enriching blood flow, enhancing the activity of neurons and putting more of your brain to use.” Just as a body in motion tends to stay in motion, putting your brain to work helps keep it working harder and longer.

Besides the personal mental benefits, though, language-learning opens cultural doors wide open. Even basic proficiency in a language can open up opportunities to travel to new places abroad. Not to mention that, in our increasingly diverse society, learning a new language can help you to make new connections at home. I’ve also found that understanding how others think about the world give a fresh perspective in day-to-day life. For example, my mind was blown when I learned that the way to say a phrase like “I have the book” in Irish — Tá an leabhar agam — would literally translate back to English as, “The book is at me.” What an interesting way to look at the world!

Opportunity

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What else are you spending your time on? Photo by Thom Holmes/Unsplash

So, clearly, anytime is a great time to learn a language — and apps like Duolingo make lockdown an excellent opportunity to jump in. If you’ve been spending too much time with your screens set to Netflix, now is a great time to switch over to a language-learning app. 

There are plenty of services out there: Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Memrise, and Duolingo are a few of the more popular ones. As it happens, I decided way back in January that I would start learning Irish on Duolingo. I’m glad that I did because I’ve been able to stick with it through the pandemic. My Irish friends always tell me that I probably know the language better than they do! Duolingo is very proud of their Irish course, too, claiming the title of “ The world’s most popular way to learn Irish online.” And I don’t doubt it; a quick Google search of the phrase “Learn Irish” pulls up Duolingo as #1.

Although I haven’t tried those other services, I must say that I’ve found Duolingo to be an excellent platform for learning a language. Both the website and the app are well-built and user-friendly. It’s a nice touch how they sprinkle their lessons with encouragement from their mascot, a green owl named Duo. Everything is free to use, but a small paid subscription unlocks perks like ad-free use and offline lessons. 

Keep in mind that you don’t need to be perfect! When I put language-learning on the back burner for a while, as I’m sure most of us do, I found it just as easy to pick right back up again. And don’t feel the need to focus on only one language! I’ve found that working on a few languages helps keep things from getting dry. Besides Irish, I’ve been brushing up on my Spanish and started learning French, Dutch, and Arabic! Whenever I start getting tired of one language, I’ll spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks on another so I can stay engaged and keep up my streak!

Diversion

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Language learning on a walk! Photo by Luke Porter/Unsplash

Needless to say, there are countless languages out there to learn — some that I’m not quite ready for yet! And you don’t need to limit yourself to learning a language in lockdown leisure time, either. If you’re not taking time to go for walks, do yourself a favor and get out there! Personally, I’ve recently taken to solving daily crossword puzzles; the challenge keeps me thinking and gives me something to look forward to each morning. Seeing myself improve week over week provides me with a much-needed sense of accomplishment, too. I’ve even been dabbling in constructing crosswords of my own!

Yet, as much as I love extending my mastery over my first language, I’ve enjoyed taking time to get a grasp on a few second languages as well. And you can too! Remember, it’s free to learn languages through Duolingo, so take advantage of the lockdown and start today!

Like everybody else, I’m hoping to see relief from this virus as soon as possible. One thing I know for sure: now is a great time to start something new that you’ll be able to take with you wherever you go.

Looking for more skills to hone during lockdown? Check out this article to learn more about how people are growing during quarantine!

About the author

Nicholas Boonstra

Nicholas is a freelance writer based out of the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area. He avidly loves all things Irish, and also keeps himself involved with music, faith, and West Ham United. He is ecstatic to be part of the Babylon team, and is proud to bring his own American flair to it!

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