Prepare for Your Next Overseas Excursion with This Free Language Learning App
Fun fact for all those people out there who haven't studied psychology at some point in their lives: humans come preprogrammed with a set deadline for acquiring language abilities. As best I can remember without scouring the Internets, that deadline is somewhere around age 11 or 12. If you haven't learned to speak a language by then — any language at all, we're talking — it will be virtually impossible to do so after that point.
Of course, most everyone first starts to speak when they are toddlers, having spent copious amounts of time in the care of other living, breathing, speaking homo sapiens, and this is not an issue whatsoever. So why do I bring it up? Well, first of all, because I'm quite adept at trying to approach subjects in a roundabout manner — talking in circles is a talent of mine sometimes.
Second, because it allows me to put in context another fun fact, which is this: learning any language before the age of 11 or 12 is much, much easier than attempting to do so later in life. Your pre-teen mind is a sponge ready to soak up any language that's tossed your way, in fact.
And now that I have sufficiently buried the lede, we'll let you in on a little secret: even though it's more difficult to learn a second language after you've hit puberty, there's an app out there that's got you covered — especially if you think you're too busy to put in the work. If you're looking to become multilingual, you don't need to sign up for an online class or pay a fortune for a program like Rosetta Stone. No, you just need to pull that miniature computer out of your pocket and download the Duolingo app.
Some of you may be aware of this app already — it has been around since 2011, wouldn't you know — but for those of you who aren't familiar, Duolingo pretty much provides a perfectly passive way to learn a new language in five-minute intervals throughout the day. You can get started learning numerous languages either by jumping into the introductory lessons or by taking a placement quiz that gauges where your language abilities are currently at and going from there.
Everybody's busy these days and that's why this app is so useful. Whenever you're waiting for the bus or the train, sitting in the doctor's office, or otherwise have a few minutes to fill, you can pull it up on your phone and knock out a quick lesson, which means you can easily gear up your speaking skills for that next trip abroad.
Whether you're headed to Spain, France, Italy, Norway, Japan, Russia, Israel — wherever! — Duolingo is going to have you covered. If you head online to duolingo.com, you can even take lessons in High Valyrian — you know, because you have that trip to Westeros coming up, too (say hey to the Khaleesi for me while you're there).
The best part is that Duolingo is free, as long as you're willing to put up with ads every now and then. Honestly, they can be easily dismissed and aren't even that pesky, so it isn't anything to be worried about at all. All you need to concern yourself with is diving into a new language or brushing up on the one you've left collecting dust up on the shelf for a little too long.