Learning new language through Duolingo. Reflections on Daily Routine and Personalized Learning

Dinakaran Sankaranarayanan


Learning new language through Duolingo. Reflections on Daily Routine and Personalized Learning

I have been using a language learning app called Duolingo to learn Hindi. Duolingo has a really nifty app that provides an easy way to learn new languages bit by bit every day and the makers of the app have gamified the whole experience. I have been taking Hindi lessons for 50+ days and every day it is not more than 10-15 minutes. The app is fun and gets you interested to learn every day by sending pretty quirky and fun notifications. Here are some of the reflections after using the app.

1. Importance of Daily Routine

Daily Routine is what makes the app work with users. One can set alerts for notification to a pre-set time to nudge users to try out the daily lesson. And users can choose the timing based on preferences. This ensures the learning activity happens at the same time every day. Also if the same environment is available, it is easier to make this activity part of the daily day process. I personally take the lessons after the morning walk. This routine is almost fixed and in my daily routine, this 10- 15 minutes of learning is now happening by default. Since the time required is minimal, it is easier to commit as well.

One advantage of setting up this routine is that it helps to avoid taking decisions daily on when to perform this activity. We are already aware of this learning activity and can seamlessly embed into our daily routine.

2. Consistency and Gamification

There are easy days and then there are hard days. Whatever the kind of day it is, I never try to skip this. This ensures there is consistency and commitment to complete it without fail. And the whole experience is gamified with the concept of Streaks. If we take lessons without skipping a break, we get to maintain Streaks which indicates how many days of continuous learning activity done without skipping a day. If we skip days, we break the Streak and it may get reset. But here is the fun part, if we take lessons every day and earn points, we can fix the streak by parting away with points.

So the intrinsic motivation and rewards of keeping up the streaks help us feel engaged.In my 50+ days of using this app, I missed to take lessons on two occasions, but I was able to maintain the Streak as well by paying some points that I earned. This gamification is another major reason why the app ticks. It is relatively easier to maintain a commitment when the effort required is small and there are instant rewards.

3. Improving oneself a little bit every day. Atomic Habits and Atomic Improvements

Most of the times we set lofty goals and then follow it for a few days, weeks and then it becomes too challenging to follow it up for a varied number of reasons. But when the same goal is structured in such a way that one can attempt and feel the progress every now and then, it drives us to continue it. There is desire, motivation and rewards that feeds off each other.

The key is to try to break down goals into simpler tasks and then completing each of them, can help to witness the progress and rewards. If the app is suggesting 1 hour every day, then it may be too overwhelming to continue. But when the whole daily goal is planned around 10 - 15 minutes, it is easier to commit.I’m sure at the end of probably 6 months, I would have learnt far more words and sentences with a little bit of sustained, focussed effort every day that is easy to commit and follow through with instant rewards.

4. Personalized Learning

During my school and college days, I had a struggle with the learning process. Some of the subjects came naturally, while some of them were difficult. And teachers too have limited time to repeat the same concepts again and again. So I was kind of stuck with some concepts and not being able to understand it fully and had to cram it.

But with technology, this is now possible. Whatever new words or sentences I learnt two weeks ago can be easily revisited any number of times. This idea of personalized learning that technology can offer will make learning accessible to a lot of students instead of the learning process being felt like a dull boring chore. One can learn at their own comfortable pace without any challenges. Learning a new language feels like a game and with the right kind of research and curriculum on these apps, students can start enjoying the whole learning process really well.

5. Can Online Tools and Technology can revolutionize Learning?

Schools and Colleges will be here to stay for the next decade. But the tools that the technology offers can easily complement the learning process. This is especially important for slow learners who want to assimilate the knowledge at their own pace and re-visiting the same topics multiple times. Has it happened to you that the exams are the next day and you open the book to only realize that you remember nothing? Generally, parents get frustrated and it may make us feel guilty about not remembering anything from the previous learning lessons. It also wrongly gives us the impression that we are not good and not smart enough to learn new things. But it is essentially a memory issue more than anything. Having a good memory is not a talent and the learning should not be optimized for this. The technology is here to make learning more personalized, accessible and inclusive with options to scale infinitely. Therefore it is upon us - whether we want to embrace the technology and the tools it offers to make learning more fun, enjoyable and accessible.