I took four years of German in high school. I had such a fun class and a very gifted teacher. I loved the feeling of German compound nouns on my tongue, but once I left high school my studies of the language ended. Without practice, what skills I had learned quickly disappeared. I can still recall phrases, and remember the correct usage of das, die and der but can I hold my own in a conversation with a native speaker? No.
I want that to change. Living in the UAE, I am surrounded by people who speak at least two languages fluently. For many of the better jobs here, you need both English and Arabic — with English being the absolute requirement every where you go. I figure as I have more free time in my life now than I ever had before, and very likely will again, why not do my best to pick up some more language skills?
After checking out a few free language sites, I ended up choosing creating an account on Duolingo. The site focuses on daily practice, but in very doable increments (as little as 5 minutes a day). It’s easy to use and incorporates identifying vocabulary, translating, and speaking/pronunciation (using your computer’s microphone). Because I already have basic German skills, I’ve chosen the German course but you could choose from French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Russian, etc.
I just created my account this week so I can’t yet say if a year’s daily practice will leave me feeling confident speaking in German on our travels next winter — but I can say that the lessons are fun and practical. I’m enjoying recalling my German vocabulary, and Duolingo’s lessons focus on real world language application. I’ve set a goal of practicing my German for 30 minutes each day, but the site allows you to customize your goal based on what works for your schedule.
I think this site will be helpful to me on all of my coming travels. I’d like to learn at least a few common phrases in the native language of each country we travel to — coming up we have the UK (covered there!) and Amsterdam. In my limited travel experience, locals do get a kick out of a tourist attempting the language of the land. It shows appreciation and effort — two things that can make you instantly likable in a foreign country. So my goal is to continue brushing up on my German skills, and add in a few phrases of other languages as we continue to visit as many different countries as we can.
How about you? Do you already speak a second language, or is it something you’ve always wanted to learn? Have you ever tried learning on your own, either through books, an online source, or another way?