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I’m living with my mother at the moment, and I’ve introduced Duolingo to her.


She liked to use her touch screen smartphone to play traditional solo card games like freecell and solitaire. However, after witnessing me and my brother (who now lives in Germany incidentally) use duolingo to learn German, she surprised herself by how much German she could remember from when she studied it for a year when we she was a teenager.

I made the suggestion for her to try substituting the card games she usually plays on her smartphone for Duolingo. At the time of writing she now has more than a 60 day streak and is past the halfway point on her skill tree! She says she gets a lot more satisfaction from learning German than from wasting time on card games. There is also a personal reason for learning a language: her side of the family has a history of Alzheimers, and there is research that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia and alzheimers.

Different approaches to learning

It has been interesting to compare our habits of duolingo. Because I see it as more of a game than a learning tool, I try to get high scores in words learned and skills completed. I did the occasional ‘skill refresh’ but generally I would rush onto the next topic. My Mother does a lot more skill refreshing than I do, and I’ve learnt from her how important it is to do this!

I was also extremely surprised to hear that she was so curious about how the language works that she bought a German grammar book to complement her studies!

Communicative reinforcement

We actually find ourselves using some of the duolingo sentences in a natural context. Some topics, such as food and family are really common. Other times, the broken German conversations are a bit strained as we attempt to shoehorn words we’ve recently learnt into practice. It’s all a lot of fun though!

Tree race

Who’d have thought that she could learn German faster than me? I had a huge head start on both the skill tree and overall xp points, but she has overtaken me on duolingo German level! At one point she even progressed further on the skill tree than me – and then at that point we began to get a bit competitive about who is better at German. I am currently ahead of her on the skill tree again, but it could easily change if I get too lazy or complacent!


We’ve also recently progressed along the Duolingo skill tree to do translations on the duolingo website. I love Duolingo’s exposure to natural, real world content in the target language you are learning. When I’m learning a language and I can apply it to the real world, it gives me an overwhelming amount of satisfaction. I’m delighted to say that she also shares this opinion after having surprised herself by being able to do her own translations!

This whole thing has been such a fun and fantastic experience so far. We have plans to visit my brother in Germany and attempt to put what we’ve learnt to use in a genuine German environment, hopefully later this year.

One final thing I’d like to mention before I finish this blog post is that I do still use Duolingo to learn more than just German. I also currently use it to learn French, and my Mother has also declared that once she feels competent in German she would love to learn other languages too (she has expressed an interest in learning Italian!). I may have accidentally started her off on her own personal polyglot journey!

Oh, and in case you are wondering – she no longer plays solitaire and freecell on her phone anymore. She now uses that precious time to review her German lessons.