1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. A Letter to the Unmotivated


A Letter to the Unmotivated

Hey Duolingo!

Headphones23 here! I hope you'll be willing to read all of this! I just wanted to share a little motivation with you all, but before I get started, I have to share a bit of back story.

I had been homeschooled up until the beginning of this school year, and I really wanted to learn a language. I didn't have the money for Rosetta Stone (I was only around 12-13), I had searched around on Google, and yet I couldn't find anything. The worst part? I really wanted to learn Brazilian Portuguese. My reasoning, you ask? I have always loved the Brazilian culture. Carnival, the celebrations, the formality of their social settings, and the list goes on. There was just one problem. Where are you supposed to find an internet course on Brazilian Portuguese? Then, one day, Duolingo popped up. I tried it out and instantly fell in love. I got pretty far in the course, around the half-way point, then school started up again. I was going into my 8th grade year, and I decided that I would rather go to public school than home school. I thought, "I'll have time to practice after school, it'll be fine." Oh, I wish.

I have severe anxiety, which makes school really difficult for me. By December of 2014, I wasn't practicing at all. I had a hard enough time with school, and I really couldn't add anything else onto my plate. My anxiety got so bad that my parents transferred me to an online school, which made an incredible improvement. Even though I was feeling better, classes still took up the majority of my life, and I lost the importance of practicing. "I'll pick it back up in the summer," I told myself, trying to make myself feel better about it. It didn't work, and I decided that I needed to start practicing again. I looked at my schedule of an average day, and I started to wonder if I really could get this back into my busy schedule somehow.

I don't know what caused it, but that's when it hit me. Why am I letting myself take this for granted? There are people in different countries that have no education at all, much less education for leisure, or fun. The fact that I would rather play The Sims for two hours than doing something that would benefit my learning abilities started to sicken me! How could I do such a thing?

So here's my challenge for you. Say you have anxiety like me. Say you have a schedule that's stuffed to the brim. Say you lost your interest in your language. Say you don't have a reason to learn, other than that you were interested in learning it when you started. Ready to have your mind blown? You don't need a reason to learn. Boom. That hit me one day, sitting on an uncomfortable table-thing after my doctor asked why I had picked such a useless language. Yeah. She said that. So tell yourself why you chose it. Why you loved it so much. Maybe you're like me and you need a little push. So incorporate your practice into other things you love! Like people? Get a penpal! Like to write? Write about why you like it or try writing in your new language. Totally immerse yourself in it. Listen to language lessons while traveling. If you would like, I made a post a while back about language lessons on Spotify here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3359935

~In order to really enjoy something, you need to give yourself a reason to love it.~

I hope you all liked this! I had a great time writing this, and I hope you had just as great a time reading this! Now go learn!


April 23, 2015



Wait a sec... Your doctor said that Portuguese is useless? It's spoken by hundreds of millions of people! I feel like Portuguese is one of the most underrated languages out there. And nobody should say that a language is useless. Every language is special.


Exactly! I was so mad when she said that! I definitely agree that it's underrated :). It's such a beautiful language! Thanks for reading this!


I am rather new member of Duolingo, however I had 3 months streak. Some bad things have happened over a few days, and I forgot to practice, resulting in loss of my streak. I got heavily discouraged to continue, at least for a few weeks, just to get my head clear. Almost a month has passed since, and I still could not find motivation to start over.

Then I ran by this post. You made me wonder a bit... As a medicine student, I am very busy, but even so, I find time to waste on gaming when I could be doing more useful things. And the whole point of learning language was to have fun and be able to work in Sweden one day. I had forgotten that... Thank you for this post, you made my day, and made me return to learning! I might even bookmark this should I ever lose motivation again :)



Jag är glad du lär sig svenska!


Thank you so much for reading! I'm glad I could help!


I'm learning a new language (Italian) just because I want to. I will probably never have any use for it, but I suppose it's helping to keep my brain sharp. And I'm 79 years old. As for Portuguese, it's spoken in South America (Brazil) as well as Portugal. Never know when you might be able to use it. I have a brother-in-law who was born of Portuguese parents, and who grew up in Brazil.


Exactly my reasoning! That's so cool! Thanks for reading!


This is an inspiring story. This is why I like to come to the discussions forum, because some days I get to know stories like yours.

I would recommend you to listen to podcasts in Portuguese while you eat, while your are in the car, waiting in line for something, in the bathroom. I had the same problem, I tought I did not have time to study a language but then it hit me, I spent almost four hours a day doing nothing productive, like going to the Uni by train, eating, waiting in line at supermarkets. Then it hit me, why not listen to French podcasts while I do those things. And thats how I study almost four hours a day of French without neglecting my other things.

LingQ.com is great for finding podcasts depending on your level and you interests. Listen and read at the same time, click on words you dont know and see the meaning in English, create flashcards to study them later. But the most important is that you can download the podcasts and listen to them on you MP3 player when ever you want.

Do this and you will be amazed of how much you will learn.

Good Luck with your studies and allways stay positive! :D


Thank you so much! It makes me so happy that I could make at least one person's day just a little better! I definitely will have to check this out!


De nada!

E boa sorte com o Português! :D


I will answer that in the three languages I know, so bear with me.

Eu não tenho ansiedade como você tem, mas eu posso entender quando alguém diz que você está praticando algo que é inutil. Eu estudo sueco todo dia, e muita gente se espanta quando eu falo isso. É uma língua muito exótica, não é uma habilidade "necessária" que as pessoas procuram no seu currículo, e esse é o problema: Dinheiro

"Por que sueco?! Por que não inglês?!" - A melhor resposta é sempre: "Por que não?" Sueco é uma língua legal, eu gosto da Suécia, eu já fui pra lá, eu quero morar lá, ponto. Isso já é motivo o suficiente. Não é da conta de mais ninguém. Se eu quisesse aprender Zulu, Dothraki ou Maori, é um desejo meu, ninguém pode me dizer que é errado.

Então vá em frente, continue praticando, porque você não está fazendo isso pelos outros e se não é por você, por que fazer?


I don't have anxiety problems like you, but I can understand when someone tells you're practicing something worthless. I study Swedish everyday, and a lot of people get shocked when I say that. It's a very exotic language, it isn't a "necessary" ability which employers might look in your CV, and that's the problem: Money.

"Why Swedish? Why not English?!" - The best answer for this question is always: "Why not?" Swedish is a cool language, I like Sweden, I've been to Sweden, I wanna live there, that's it. This is enough reason. It isn't anyone else's business. If I wanted to learn Zulu, Dothraki or Maori, it's my desire, no one can say it's wrong.

So go ahead, keep practicing, because you're not doing this for anyone else after all, and why do it if not for yourself?


Jag har inget bekymer problem liksom dig, men jag kan förstår när någon berättar att du övar något värdelöst. Jag pluggar svenska varje dag, och många manniskor blir chockade när jag säger det. Det är ett jätte exotiskt språk, Det är inte en "nödvändig" förmåga att arbetsgivare kanske sök i din läroplan. Och detta är problemet: Pengar.

"Värför Svenska?" - Det basta svaret på denna fråga är: "Värför inte?" Svenska är ett coolt språk, jag tycker om Sverige, Jag har funnits i Sverige, jag vill bo där, det är allt. Detta ar skäl nog. Det är inte någon annans affär. Om jag ville att lära mig Zulu, Dothraki eller Maori, Det är min önskan, ingen kan säga att det är fel.

Så varsågod, förtsatt att öva eftersom du är inte gör detta för någon annat, och värför gör det om inte för dig själv?

(Might contain some mistakes.)


That's so cool! You have a great point here, "it's my desire, no one can say it's wrong." I love that! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!


What a great post! You're so right that you don't need a reason to learn a language. It's great to find a post like this :D


Thank you! I'm glad I'm not alone! Thanks for the read!


The conversation you had with your doctor made me remember a chat I had with an English teacher back in 2002. She asked me why I wanted to learn English, and I told her: "Because I think it's beautiful!". She smiled, looked at me, made a gesture with her shoulders and hands as if she was saying "what?! just because of that?!". In fact, I remember I was the only one in that class that was trying to pick up English just for fun. All others were there because of college or because they believed it could help them with finding a good job.

Now, what happened?! I - the guy who was just having fun - was the only one who actually persevered. Believe it or not, none of them speak English. I don't say they had the wrong motivation, just think the motivation they had wasn't enough for something that requires time and dedication.

BTW, good to know you're fond of Portuguese! ;-)


I'm glad I'm not alone! I'm so sorry about that! It sucks :(. Thanks for reading!


So glad you've found your motivation and are on the lookout wherever you can find more. In the future, if you do get burnt out, don't get discouraged. Many successful language learners start to feel that several times throughout their language journeys. Push through it! Bring yourself back to why you love it. Recently, I made some new friends with my new language skills. So, that has become my latest motivation. I also wanted to say that I too live with severe anxiety. And I'm so glad that you made this post! :)


Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


thankyou for that! I love to find a good post!


Thank you for reading this! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!


You have a fantastic attitude, keep hold of that it's precious. Well done for the post and happy learning .... Have a lingot, you've earned it :-))


Thank you! I had so much fun writing this and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this! Thanks for the read!


I did enjoy reading it, thank you for writing it. :-)


I just wanted to say that you write very elegantly for a (14? 15?) year old :) You also seem to be very mature for your age and if you keep an attitude like that you will achieve great things!


Thank you so much! I'm 14. I love to write, so I get a lot of practice. Thank you for the read and your comment! It definitely made me smile :).


You're welcome! :) Continue being awesome.


Thanks for sharing this- I think that this post can inspire people to really prioritize Duolingo over less beneficial tasks. I can relate to most of this except for being home/online schooled- it's motivating to see how you really got back into Duo. :)


Thank you for reading! I'm glad you liked it!


I have severe anxiety disorder and depression, and languages help me stay relatively calm. After all, there's nothing like learning an entire new vocabulary to take up your days so you don't have time for stress! Besides it being therapeutic, because of Duolingo, I'm learning the two languages of my anscestors: Irish and German in a fun way. "Go raibh maith agat" and "danke" for this positive post :)


Exactly! I find it so soothing when I'm anxious! I keep waiting for them to come out with a Scottish Gaelic course so I can do exactly that! I'm Scottish and German, so I'm going to start German after BP. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!


Very inspirational story-- have a few lingots! There is really no such thing as a useless language if you love the language and the culture. One of my co-workers said something similar to what your doctor said when I mentioned I was learning French and Italian, and I found this really discouraging for a few days. After thinking about it, though, I realized that people who don't have a use for languages other than English or whatever their native language is are really limiting themselves in life-- I say quel dommage! and che peccato! for them. Thanks for sharing this story and good luck with your Portuguese.


Thank you for reading!! I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's always annoying when people don't understand you!


Thank you for the marvelously inspirational story, Headphones! And a huge congratulations on your success thus far, and your admirable dedication! Keep up the great work. Excellent advice: taking something and making it relevant to your interests can be absolutely critical when attempting to learn something.

I can relate to much of what you wrote. I'm now learning not because I need to, but purely because I want to.

I've wanted to learn more languages for years: they've always fascinated me, and they've always beckoned from afar. I took courses in Hebrew in my High School years, but I had so much going on that it didn't stick. I took ASL in university, but by the end I was simply "surviving" through it due to the collective course load, and I've retained very little.

However, a few months back, after I had graduated university, I realized that throughout the past 1.5 years, I had beaten nearly EVERY level in Candy Crush alone while attending full time and working. Nearly all 1500 levels. That blew my mind. My thoughts then turned to, "What if I could use that time to do something simply to better myself? What if I could use that time to pursue something I love? Why not do that?" That very moment I searched for a game-like language-learning app, discovered Duolingo, did my first lesson, and never looked back. I started learning French (specifically) on a heartfelt whim, simply because I loved it: it was romantic, intimately enticing, and would encourage me to travel to France when I could afford it (since I adore world travel).

Except for a 2-minute-late streak break, I haven't missed a single day of practice. I'm reading French articles, watching French TV and YouTube videos, listening to French music and podcasts, and writing French friends. C'est fantastique! I couldn't be happier!


That's so cool! It's so strange that we as humans can do that-make time for leisure, and not even realize that we could be doing something useful with that time! Thank you for reading and for your story!


You, headphones23, are a bit of an inspiration. Nice post.


Thank you so much!!


I will say something. I was thinking about leaving for a couple months because I'm starting to lose motivation. I have anxiety, in 8th grade, and learning Portuguese. I related with this post so much. I think the main reason I was so unmotivated was because in a week in a half, I'm going on a school trip that lasts a couple days and I cannot bring my phone, so I will have to lose my huge streak. However, I think I can build it again.


Awe! I'm so sorry you have to lose your streak! That sucks :(. I'm glad I could help! Thanks for reading!


Don't lose heart! Someday you'll meet a friend because of your ability to speak Portuguese. :)


I think you may have gotten me motivated to do Duolingo again. Thank you so much. cries How can I repay you? 5 lingots just isn't enough!


Aww, thank you! I'm so glad I could help!


Great post! thank you for sharing :) Really encouraging.


Thank you for reading!!


Thanks for reading!


I have severe anxiety, too. I’m homeschooled, and I want to learn languages for a hobby. I’m fascinated in different languages, and I want to learn so many. Then, as I was searching some things about languages, I realized: “Younger children pick up languages more easily..basically without any effort. It takes so little time for them.” So, then I started to ask myself “What’s the point? I want to learn so many languages, and I’m not going to be able to do it all. It takes years to become fluent in a language. Just one.” I become unmovivated, and then I searched for advice the same day that happened. I found this post. Thank you. You have a beautiful story.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.