This is the perfect SUPER simple language study plan that you can use to learn a language for barely any money while also never leaving your house or home country! When you pair Duolingo, iTalki, and Netflix, you have all you need to become fluent in a language from the comfort of your own home! I’ve broken this down into steps you can follow and in which order you need to start incorporating each resource, so let’s go!
1. First Step of Language Study Plan: 2 Weeks of Lots of Duolingo
After using Duolingo to help me learn Italian and French and gaining almost 50,000 XP, 3 golden owls, and over 700 crowns, I can definitely say that Duolingo DOES help you learn a language. (Here’s the best way to use Duolingo effectively!)
If you have little to no experience with a language, the best way to start is on Duolingo.
Before I do anything else (meaning before I add any other language learning resources to my study schedule) I just commit to using Duolingo every day for 2 weeks as much as humanly possible.
When you are first starting, it is important to get familiar with basic vocabulary, main phrases, and simple grammar structures before anything else.
This is where Duolingo shines because that’s all it is: repeating those things over and over.
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No explanations is a good thing
One of the most common arguments against using Duolingo is that it doesn’t explain grammar concepts to you. However, I think that’s the exact reason why it is perfect.
The goal of learning a language and Duolingo practice is to repeat something over and over so many times that you just instinctively learn what is right and what is wrong.
You aren’t trying to remember and memorize every grammar rule out there so that you can think through your responses. Instead, you are just trying to recognize patterns.
I have found that it is WAY more powerful to complete Duolingo lessons and just gradually begin to realize that… hey, in Spanish whenever I use the “we” form of a present tense verb, it ends in -mos.
So instead of being taught that directly, your brain just starts to associate the two words together. Like with Spanish you’ll just see “Nosotros hablamos” and understand that that is correct.
Meanwhile, when you see “Nosotros hablan” you start to feel that that sounds wrong.
Gamify Grammar Instead of Worrying About Why Things are that Way
Have you ever tried to help someone learn your native language? I am an English teacher with VIPKid and I still struggle when I come across a student that wants to know “why” things are the way they are.
For example, in English when we ask a question we phrase it “What does he have?” using “have” as the verb. However, when we answer we say “He has a pencil” using “has.”
This confuses the crap out of my adorable Chinese students and takes quite a bit for them to figure out.
I’m sure there is a reason why we do this in English, but I don’t care and neither should the student.
The main idea here is just to repeat it often enough and be corrected often enough that you wouldn’t even imagine replying with “He have a pencil.”
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My Strategy For the First 2 Weeks of Duolingo
During the 2 weeks, make the first set of bubbles “gold” by getting all of the crowns. Then move on and focus on getting one crown for each subject bubble.
If you notice you are struggling with a certain concept (plurals, prepositions, etc.) then do extra lessons there and try to earn the 2nd crown.
Spend as much time as you can completing lessons to expose yourself to as many grammar constructs and vocabulary words as possible in those two weeks.
By this I mean, while you are watching TV, going to the bathroom, on public transport, etc.
Just get in as much time as possible and don’t worry about whether this is a “waste” of your time. It’s not. You are learning and exposing yourself to a language and I promise this will help.
One of the main goals of Duolingo is to earn your “Golden Owl” which is when you get at least one crown in every single subject.
Keep that in mind as motivation as you are completing lessons! I find this way more motivating than keeping a streak (which I’ve always struggled with, whoops!).
2. After the First 2 weeks of Duolingo, Start Taking Italki classes
After the two weeks of using Duolingo as much as possible, the next step of this language learning plan is to start taking one or two Italki classes per week alongside using Duolingo daily (we’ll talk more about that strategy in a minute). I would suggest one Italki lesson per week at first.
Never heard of Italki? Italki is basically just paying about $5 to $10 an hour to speak with a native speaker and is THE REASON I have been able to learn languages.
There are so many reasons why Italki is absolutely essential to learning a language. (Seriously, it’s even better to use Italki than to move to the country itself!!)
Tips for Your iTalki Class
I recommend taking a basic conversation class, not a formal class, as they are much cheaper. Also, the main goal of these classes is to get you talking.
During your class, use whatever words and phrases you have learned, keep Google Translate open to look up a word that you may not know, but NEVER speak in English to your teacher.
Let them know from the beginning that no matter how rough it may be, you are only going to be speaking in that language.
If you feel like this is too difficult for you, you are severely underestimating yourself. I PROMISE that you will be shocked at how much you are able to say when you have no other choice. No English as a crutch.
Each week you should be spending the whole week preparing for that conversation on iTalki.
Strategy for Duolingo After the First Two Weeks
Continue with Duolingo lessons (at least the 50 XP per day) even while watching TV or doing other things if possible.
Why? Because any contact you have with the language will help you to speak it better during your next lesson.
During this period, you should be using Duolingo to build vocabulary as well as to practice conjugating in the present and the past tense before focusing on anything else.
I go more into detail about my exact Duolingo strategy in this blog post.
Duolingo is perfect for practicing those topics because the lessons that are prioritized earlier in the language tree are vocabulary-based and mostly simple present tense and past tense.
Also, at this level, make sure to check out these Duolingo tricks & tips that most users aren’t aware of.
You can tell from my Italian language tree that I don’t have an equal amount of crowns in each subject. I recommend that you spend more time on the basic parts of conversation by going back and earning more crowns if you have already earned the first crown.
I prioritize learning verb conjugations first. When you are having a conversation with your Italki teacher, it will be much easier to express yourself when you know how to conjugate a few main verbs.
If you are missing a vocabulary word, you can look it up quickly or talk around the word.
Talking around a word is one of the best things you can do to learn a language. It basically means that instead of saying “backpack” you could describe it by saying “that thing you put on your back when you go to school.”
The person will understand you and usually tell you the vocabulary word. You will remember it so much better by doing it that way and you will get your point across!
Why You Should Still Use Duolingo Daily
It may seem like doing a few lessons in Duolingo every day doesn’t make a difference, but let me tell you something that happened to me that may change your mind.
I lived in Chile for almost 2 years and learned Spanish fluently. A few years later, I decided I wanted to learn Italian and dedicated all my time to that (and even got my golden owl for Italian on Duolingo!).
One day, I was in Italy and came across someone who wanted to speak with me in Spanish. I tried so hard, but honestly, no Spanish would come out! I was so frustrated and thought that I had lost my Spanish.
The next day, I focused on doing a few lessons on Duolingo in Spanish just to get my mind back into the language. I didn’t do anything else but those lessons, yet I ran into another Spanish speaker the next day and all of a sudden I could speak Spanish again!
Also, before you think me living in Italy was how I learned Italian, that is NOT HOW. I actually learned Italian when we moved to Turkey and I started the language schedule that I’m laying out for you now.
It was incredibly difficult to get native speakers to speak to me in Italian especially since my level was so low.
I talk about this a lot in my post about Italki, but basically, it is much better to learn a language at home first and then head to Italy or wherever you want to go and practice once you are at a higher conversational level.
3. Add in Native Language Activities & Listen, Listen, Listen
This is extremely important. I don’t waste my time or money on a bunch of language learning courses and apps. I stick to the ones that have proven to work: Duolingo and Italki.
From there, everything else that you add should be things that a native speaker of that language would use.
You can do this with podcasts, watching Netflix in the target language (without subtitles if you are focusing on listening, not vocabulary!), reading the news or whatever you are interested in in your target language.
Check out my recommendations for Italian shows you should watch on Netflix to help you learn!
Instead of focusing so much on “learning” the language, focus on falling in love with TV shows, books, music, and whatever you can get your hands on in that language.
Even when I get sick of Italki classes or even Duolingo, I still find myself watching Netflix series in the languages I’ve learned because I love the characters and the storylines.
I listen to popular artists and memorize the lyrics because the songs are freaking awesome.
Your goal is to add in as much listening as you can.
Start with things that may be easier. For example, when I watch Rick and Morty in French I feel like I’m drowning and can’t keep up. But when I turn on Peppa Pig (free on Youtube!) I finally feel like I am able to pick up some words.
This is called “Comprehensible Input” which basically means that you are listening to things that are more for your level of learning and therefore are actually able to learn more and much faster.
You can use Duolingo for comprehensible input as well by listening to “Stories” or using their podcasts if they are made in the language that you are learning.
4. Use Duolingo, Italki & Native Resources Side By Side
As you get more advanced, these resources get more advanced with you.
You get to higher levels of Duolingo and start to come across more complex grammar, you and your Italki teacher will move on and start to talk about subjects besides just the basics, you will start to understand the music and TV shows that you listen to.
Basically, your new language has become a part of your life. Even if you go through phases of dedicating more time to learning and other times when you are focusing on other aspects of life, the understanding of the language will not go away.
I still use Duolingo as much as possible and try to have at least 1 ITalki class a week in order to keep learning.
However, even when I don’t I still am addicted to Spanish TV, Italian pop songs, and French cartoons.
Basically, you don’t need to use a ton of apps and websites and courses to learn a language! I hope this helped you realize that your language study plan can be super simple and also very affordable!
MORE ABOUT LANGUAGE LEARNING:
- Find Out Your Duolingo Language Level (It’s Not in the App!)
- How to Get 40XP Per Lesson With the Duolingo XP Ramp-Up Challenge
- Should You Upgrade to Duolingo Plus?
- The Ultimate Guide to Changing Your Duolingo Daily Goal
- How to Use Netflix to Learn Italian
- 14 Gifts for Spanish Learners that They Actually Want
- Audiobooks for Learning Spanish Quick!
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