I’m currently learning French using Duolingo. I’ve dabbled in the language before, but dabbled is the key word: never fully committing to learning French… until now. Novice level? Oui. I’m 49 days into a streak of Duolingo French lessons, trying to spend a minimum of 20 minutes on it every day. Sure, I won’t be on the French lecture circuit anytime soon, but those 20 minutes add up over time (100 minutes or 16+ hours) and I can see progress. Repetition penetrates the dullest of minds, and slowly I see it making a difference. As with reading I catch the bug and wanted to jump into Spanish, Portuguese and German too, but I’m holding them all at bay and focusing on incremental improvement in French. You master nothing when you’re distracted by everything.
Learning as an adult requires an open mind, patience with yourself, discipline and a good sense of humor. It’s become another part of my daily habit routine, admittedly not at the level of immersion but good enough to move forward in a busy stack of days. Duolingo is a better version of a game on your phone; some days I’m clicking right along getting everything right, some days it’s a struggle, but every day I learn something new. Perhaps I’ll book a trip to Quebec City or Paris as both incentive and reward for sticking with it if I start to slow my pace, but for now 20 minutes a day seems to be moving me along the path to fluency à la vitesse d’un escargot.
I read the book Atomic Habits just over a year ago, and it’s remained hugely influential for me. Habit formation is either conscious or unconscious, but we all have them. I’ve removed some bad habits, unfortunately kept a few I need to separate myself from, and added some great habits that offer tremendous upside to my life. I’d count my Duolingo sessions as a great habit addition, just as reading more and writing every day have been. Novice level for sure, but I’m keeping the streak alive and we’ll see how it goes. French, un pas après l’autre….
“L’attention est le début de la dévotion (Attention is the beginning of devotion.)” – Mary Oliver