Today marks the two-year anniversary of my Duolingo streak! Since March 21st, 2018, I have done at least one lesson on Duolingo every single day. Somehow, I haven't missed a single day (I did lose a streak freeze somehow during hurricane Dorian but the streak is fixed, I did it I swear!)!
Two years ago I was a student who wanted to go on a school trip to a French university. The rule was if you spoke English during the trip, you were kicked out. The problem? My French was AWFUL! Sure, none of my classmates' French was any better, but my French definitely was not ready to be used as my sole language. At this time I had been using Duolingo on and off for about a year. I figured my best way to learn enough French to survive was to practice on Duolingo, so I did. I never, EVER thought I'd build up a streak. I still remember how proud I was showing off my 10-day streak to my friends. With each day, my streak grew and grew. The first milestone I reached was day 19. This was officially my largest streak yet. Each day I hopped onto Duolingo to practice my French. On day 90 (completely unintentional), the trip rolled around. I was so nervous. Was my French good enough? Those next few days were such an incredible experience, and it was all in French! I actually survived!
Once the trip was over, I had a decision to make: What should I do with my streak? Three months of daily work was too valuable for me to throw away, so I didn't. I kept learning French every day. My one-year anniversary came around and I couldn't have been more excited. I studied French every single day for an ENTIRE YEAR! By this point, my French was pretty good. Certainly far from perfect, but it was good enough for me to do well in French class. Around this time I had another trip to prepare for: Québec. This time I didn't have to just know French, I had to understand Québécois French. This was very scary for me. My listening comprehension in French was AWFUL. I could understand my teachers perfectly fine, but real world French? Complete gibberish. So, I started watching Québécois YouTube videos and shows on top of doing Duolingo every day.
When I arrived in Québec, our first stop was at Tim Hortons. My heart was racing. Will they understand me? Will I understand them? I order my food. When I got my order, it was almost exactly what I wanted! I messed up a vocabulary term, making my everything bagel into a plain bagel, but it was still a bagel! That first day in Québec, I spoke A LOT of French. At restaurants, to our tour guide, to people on the street, it was a good amount of French. I certainly had my problems (I even had one woman switch to English when she found out I wasn't a native speaker), but I could still communicate in French. It was that day that I realized something.
On May 29th, 2019, I started calling myself bilingual. I DID IT! I actually speak French now! Becoming fluent in French was one of my biggest life goals and I actually did it! I started announcing to all my friends and family that I was bilingual. My parents were proud, my friends were happy for me, I had one friend tell me "Yeah I know. You've been bilingual for a while". My life goal was complete. Now what do I do?
Since then, I've been slowly working on my French, it's more maintenance than anything. I've also started to learn Spanish and Norwegian. It took me 6 years to learn French (I only consider it 3 though, I learned virtually nothing the first three years), I'm hoping I can learn Norwegian and Spanish a lot faster than that. Over these past two years, I've learned a lot of things, not just French. Here are a few of the lessons I've learned:
Lesson #1: We do things for two reasons: Because we need to, or we want to
This is probably one of the biggest reasons it took me so long to learn French. The French university trip was a HUGE motivator for me to learn French. It's one of (if not, the only) reason I have this streak. French wasn't just a desire for me anymore, it was a need. I wouldn't survive without it. The amount of progress I made those few months was substantial. I definitely wasn't fluent, but it was pretty good coming from where I started. After that, the streak was my motivator. I couldn't abandon the months of work I put in!
Lesson #2: Small steps add up to big progress
I didn't do Duolingo for hours a day. Most days I do just one lesson to keep up my streak. But one lesson a day for two years, that adds up to a lot. Let's say one Duolingo lesson is two minutes long. 2x730 (excluding the leap day) = 1460 minutes. 1460/60= 24 hours. 24 hours of dedicated practice. And that's just spending two minutes a day on it!
Lesson #3: You're never alone
The Duolingo community has been so helpful and is a good part as to why I can speak French. When I have a question I can post it here and get it answered within a day or so! The age of the Internet has brought so many people closer together and has paved a way for support to be more accessible than ever before.
Are the lessons super deep and though provoking? Absolutely not. They're pretty basic and general. I'm still amazed by how much a free site has taught me, regardless of how elementary the lessons are.
That brings us to today. Two years on Duolingo. Wow. If you're still reading, thank you so much! Thank you so much to Duolingo and the Duolingo community, you truly have changed my life.