The Dueling ow, known as Duo, serves as the iconic mascot for the language learning app. Morgan Huber / THE SNAPPER
Social media is a great way to stay connected with friends, especially when made and quick and easy through posts and “streaks.” On popular platforms such as Snapchat, friends, and even complete strangers, remain in contact by sending pictures to each other each day, maintaining a “streak” for every subsequent day of exchanging images. While such activities can be something fun to look forward to in the day, there are, at least in my opinion, much more meaningful streaks in reach at the touch of one’s fingertips.
Since middle school, I always had a passion for learning new languages. Growing up in a multicultural family, I wanted to understand cultures both like and unlike mine. I took Spanish classes, which did not work out too well, followed by five years of German classes in high school and college. While I connected with the German language and culture due to my heritage and my teachers’ interest in showing her life as a native speaker to eager students, it was still not a walk in the park. During my freshman year of college, I decided I wanted to learn Spanish again and practice my German, finding Duolingo as my educational companion.
I have much respect and enthusiasm for language-learning apps due to their implementation of elements from social media and mobile games to make learning a new language fun and exciting. There is also a unique and enlightening method of connecting with loved ones, by encouraging each other to make progress on their learning through competitive quests and the ability to “high five” a friend when they reach a learning goal or get back to studying a language after taking a hiatus.
Even if you already know or have no interest in learning Spanish, there are dozens of languages available to learn on Duolingo and other apps, including Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Navajo, and Latin. If you are an avid Trekkie or “Game of Thrones” fan, Duolingo has you covered with courses in Klingon and High Valyrian.
Users can also reach personal goals with quests, such as scoring high enough in lessons, playing minigames, or seeing colorful cartoon characters a certain number of times as you play lessons. Each day a user maintains a “streak,” similar to Snapchat, but instead of sending pictures each day, one must practice learning a language. Streaks are necessary for progressing through the language one is learning and earn them experience, or “XP” points, which leads to a competitive edge of Duolingo.
There are 10 leagues on the app, starting with bronze and moving up eventually to the coveted diamond league. Once a user starts practicing, they are placed in a “league” with 30 players, and must earn enough XP by the end of the week to place in the top and advance to the next league. This provides further motivations for players to practice and progress faster through their language.
As a disclaimer, this is not an advertisement for Duolingo. I simply love the app and it is the one I use most to learn languages and know the most about. There are also a multitude of similar apps, games, and websites which utilize gaming and social media elements to make language learning more fun for people of all skill levels. Examples include Babbel, Drops, Falou, and HelloTalk, which all provide a fun and user-friendly language learning experience that is either at low cost or free.
A multitude of benefits exist for learning a new language. Not only does it make a person more enlightened and informed of other languages and cultures, but it also has the potential to improve one’s memory, increase performance in classes, and prepare people for career fields where they may encounter native speakers of other languages.
While keeping up with Snap streaks may be fun, they do not provide quite the same experience or value of one’s time as learning a language. A person does not need to drop their life savings to travel the world or enroll in expensive courses, but rather close their social media app and open a new one. No worries – you can still maintain streaks with your best friend, but also while opening your mind to dozens of languages along the way.