Can you get fluent using DuoLingo?

Can you become a fluent speaker watching TV or listening to podcasts?


The basic answer to these questions is ‘no’.

I’d like to share some of my views on active learning vs passive learning.

What is active learning?

Active learning is essentially being creative with the language and actually using your brain to think carefully about what you’re doing through deep activities and study.

What is passive learning?

Passive learning could be, for example, listening to audio but not really thinking about it, or using a language app for 5 minutes a day while watching TV. Your brain isn’t really engaged in the activity.

The worst offender for passive learning is these YouTube videos that claim you can learn in your sleep by simply playing a 10-hour video throughout the night. As far as I’m aware, the benefits of doing this are next to none.

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Can passive learning help at all?

Well I do think passive learning can help in very minimal ways. Listening to hours of podcasts episodes in the background or watching TV shows while playing on your phone isn’t going to be so helpful, but it might help your ear get used to the sound of the language. I’m not sure if there have been many studies in this area, but I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time doing this.

As for apps like DuoLingo or Memrise, in my personal opinion, they can help especially in the beginner levels. I’m currently a beginner with the Cornish language and I just spend 5 minutes a day on the Memrise app. I find I’m learning and remembering so much, but that’s because my knowledge of the language is really basic.

Once you get to a higher level, I’d suggest being much more active in your learning.

What can I do instead?

There are many things you can do to be more active in your learning.

If you enjoy listening to podcasts, try transcribing parts of it by writing down everything you hear. You could also practice some shadowing and speak aloud as the podcaster is talking.
Even by simply listening you can practise your active learning – just listen carefully and try to understand as much as you can rather than listening in the background.

What other ways can you think of to practise more active learning?

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