A Year of Small Experiments: DuoLingo
The stores of digital pictures went untouched in May, but I did get started with DuoLingo Spanish. This feels like accomplishment enough for a month that always ends up busier than I anticipate at the outset.
For a good nine years now, my husband has been encouraging me to learn Spanish. The encouragement started when I first traveled with him to Ecuador in June 2009. We visited the family he lived with when he studied abroad and explored the city he had called home. I've traveled in Ecuador four more times since that first trip, and with each visit I'm reminded that I could love the place and the people so much more if I spoke the language. As it goes, I easily lose track of that sentiment when I return home and become re-immersed in my normal daily life.
We've also made a short visit to Colombia and a more extended visit to Spain in the course of those years. Each time I wished I would have started learning the language at the first encouragement. For the past two plus years the reminders and wishing have come on a daily basis, as my husband speaks Spanish to our daughter. It's inspiring to watch both her English vocabulary and sentence formation blossom and her Spanish comprehension, repetition and pronunciation make progress.
While I can't offer her all Spanish all the time, I can finally take the leap and start learning myself. I've already got a strong handle on colors, fruits, and animals (obvious priorities with the toddler crowd), and there are a few basic greetings and directives I've picked up, but it's time I focus and start to learn for the purpose of real interaction and conversation.
DuoLingo was an obvious choice for this, as it's free and seems to include substantial content. I've heard good reviews from people I know who have used it. A few weeks into near daily practice, I actually love it and feel like I'm learning meaningful skills. It took a little trial and error to figure out the best way to navigate the lessons, but I think I've landed on a method that works for me. And isn't that the point? Work toward the goal in a way that fits you.
I have no illusions that free internet software is going to turn me into a fluent speaker who can provide non-stop Spanish immersion in our home. I hope and expect that these basics will give me a jump start and enough knowledge to start practicing. I also trust that our family prioritizes both travel and language enough that in the coming years there will be opportunities for both my daughter and me to hone our language skills through real cultural immersion, in Ecuador or elsewhere.
I've spent plenty of time imagining how great my language could be if I had started nine years ago. Since I can't change what 23 year old me did or didn't do, I'm choosing to start now and avoid the same longing and regret five or ten years in the future.
As I move through these monthly experiments, the ones I happily anticipated as well as the ones that made me nervous, I'm finding again and again that the first day and the choice to start is the hardest moment. Once I start, I see that it all breaks down into small manageable steps, and I am capable of moving forward.
So, what have you been putting off? What do you wish you had started years ago?
First set of images: 2009 trip to Quito, Ecuador
Second set: Cartagena, Colombia in 2011 for a friend's wedding
Third set: 2012 hiking trip in northern Spain
Check out the other posts in this series: A Year of Small Experiments