I don’t think I ever laid out the line of thinking that led me to embrace Duolingo as my central language learning tool.
In a way, it might seem a surprising choice. Most people who use Duolingo seem to want to be able to hold conversations in the languages they’re studying. That’s really not at all my motivation.
There’s another group of people who might be attracted to Duolingo who would say they want to learn to speak and write the language (rather than just reading it) because that’s the fastest way to learn to read it. I’m sympathetic to that approach, but it’s another reason for Duolingo that isn’t that interesting to me at this time.
Perhaps some people would just point to the research showing that Duolingo teaches a language as well as or better than a college class, and will say that’s as good a reason as any to learn a language for free on an enjoyable app that only takes up a few minutes of your day. This third reason is the closest to my own view. Sometimes I do think exactly like this.
But when I was debating with myself several years ago whether to continue with Duolingo or to break the streak and put the time into something different, it was another line of thinking entirely that attracted me to Duolingo.
I want to learn languages so that I can read things written in those languages. Everything else is secondary to that. That’s my starting point.
It seems to me that the best way to learn to read a language is to read a lot of it. But more specifically, the ideal approach would be to work through a guided reader, where the texts are initially less challenging and then grow slowly more difficult.
It’s really hard to find good resources like that. You can scour the earth and meet with disappointment after disappointment.
And then one day it struck me. It’s possible to view Duolingo as exactly that. It’s a chance to read several short texts every day in your chosen language, and to have the difficulty slowly increase over time.
Ever since the moment I learned to think of Duolingo in that way, I’ve never had a second thought.