What To Do When Duolingo Gets Boring

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Every other week on the Fluent Show, I put aside a little time to answer your listener questions. Email your question to me at kerstin@fluentlanguage.co.uk or tweet it to @thefluentshow

Luka asks:

I have been learning Spanish for 3 months. I started learning with Duolingo and was really into it, and recently I have been using a textbook as well but have become really demotivated - not because I give up, because I am bored of duo lingo. I’m tired of the way it’s trying to teach me and I don’t feel like I’m progressing. [..]

My question is, if I’m not using duo lingo, what can I actually do to learn Spanish? I’ve looked everywhere and all the websites have a lot of ‘tips’ but not an actual guide saying things like resources to use etc.

Does that sound familiar?

Listen to my answer and the best tips on how to learn a language here:

How To Refresh Your Duolingo Experience

Duolingo is a small app with a big promise, and largely it keeps its promise because it’s a game and it does correct you right in the lesson. Duolingo is nice enough, but it can become a monotonous experience and it sounds like you’re hitting a wall

Tips for dealing with Duolingo boredom - in Duolingo!

  1. Get on the web version so you can read explanations (more about this here)

  2. Restrict yourself to a few minutes a day - how about Duolingo while waiting for your kettle to boil or your bus to arrive?

  3. Try out one of the in-app clubs so you can compete with your friends and compare progress.

Duolingo is great, but…in all these scenarios, you’re still reacting to a screen and you maintain your sense that you don’t have a plan. So let’s address the other issue: Motivation!

How To Refresh Your Whole Language Learning Experience

Most projects, be they language learning or dieting or a new job, start with enthusiasm and optimism. You have reasons why you’re doing this.

But that initial motivation, that burst, does not last. Motivation is cyclical: It leads to an experience of success, and then that boosts you on to work through a boring period, and then you have another success experience. So in a way, you’re not having that experience of success.

How To Create A Sense Of Progress And Success

In order to feel successful in a predictable, sustainable way, you need to learn how to set good goals for yourself. Your success must be more than a vague sense of progress, it has to be “I achieved what I set out to do".

Your practical goals - I call them Path Goals - need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic…and whatever people say the T stands for. I go with Time-Bound.

I also advise learners to work with the 4 core skills listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Your start is to set yourself goals, think about where you want to be and what that looks like. Get specific! And then ask “what do I need to do to get there?"

Your goals can totally include Duolingo and your text book, but I would advise you to start where you are. Right now where you are is bored with no sense of progress. So your goal has to be:

  • Excited about Spanish learning

  • Feeling like I’m getting somewhere

So what will help you answer those two questions? That’s the interesting bit.

Example: Learning Spanish For Travel


In a coaching session, this is what we’d explore. What are you into? What is interesting you about Spanish?

Let’s say you’re dreaming of walking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. So you’re interested in travel, you dream of speaking Spanish to the locals there, to have the right words to talk about your religion and spirituality, and to feel confident sorting your own food and accommodation.

That’s your Vision goal - the big, inspiring thing you dream of.

To get a sense of your Path Goal, ask yourself how much time you have and what you want to tackle first. Let’s say it’s ordering food and learning about Northern Spanish food.

Your 3 month goals could be

  • to cook a meal for yourself

  • to role play a restaurant scenario with a tutor

  • to know 50 words for food items

  • to study a restaurant menu

  • to listen to 10 podcasts so you can understand the words

  • to pronounce every place name on the Camino.

These are specific goals. They’re way less boring than doing Duolingo forever in the hope you’ll finish a skill tree, because they are YOURS.

No app or textbook is leading you now because your routine is becoming personal. The next question? What do I need to get there? Duolingo becomes a part of the journey, rather than your leader.

No, a short-term goal approach won’t teach you all of Spanish instantly. But that’s because that doesn’t exist. Language is a long-term game.

Yes, you will have to think differently. But this is how to fire up your motivation and keep going.

The Language Habit Toolkit

If you want to learn more about this, the Language Habit Toolkit is designed to help you set up exactly this way of thinking and create a solid language learning routine.

There’s even a Resource Manager worksheet included, in which I’ve listed exactly what you need to set up a good and supportive set of resources. Duolingo is a good start, but I’d advise you add an input resource and a set of reference material.

A few final tips:

  • Practice with people, either native speakers or at least by finding like-minded folks. Feeling like you’re on your own with this makes motivation harder to maintain. Come and join our Facebook group for check-ins every Saturday.

  • I actually spoke to you Luka and you mentioned you’ve listened to Spanish music. That’s so awesome! Always look for interesting input from real life like stories, music, conversations. Lyrics are great for interest.

  • Always consider how far you’ve come - being aware of your progress from a few months ago is an instant cure for feeling like you’re getting nowhere.

For Spanish Learners

You can find my curated list of resources and articles for Spanish learners at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/for-spanish-learners.

The Fluent Show is supported by LiveLingua, where you can have your first Spanish lesson entirely for free. I tried it out, and spoke Spanish for a whole hour. And they have many other languages available like German, French and Russian. Get your free lesson by clicking here.

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