Professional Growth

“Full” Immersion

The summer after our first year teaching abroad in Korea the first question it always seemed we were asked was, “What was it like?” However, a close second was , “So, can you speak Korean?” The answer, invariably was, and remains to this day, “nope.”  

I spent eight years in a country and learned cab Korean.  I learned just enough to direct a cab driver to my house. Sure I learned a few others like “hello” (goodbye was harder), and “thank you”(critical!).  What an embarrassment!  Oh and, “one more please.” (That beer wasn’t gonna bring itself!). 

In my defense, Korean is not an easy language to learn. In addition, I lived on top of a mountain with other English speaking teachers, at a school(Seoul Foreign School-Amazing!) which prided itself in not only instructing in English, but also in having a population of students that used English on the playground.  Besides, in the back of my mind there was always a voice telling me that Korean was not a language that would “translate” well outside of Korea-meaning, where else was I going to use Korean except in Korea?

As part of my transformation this year I have made the commitment to rectify this situation.  Admittedly, Korean seems a bit beyond my reach at this point, but that doesn’t mean that all languages have to be.  What about Spanish? After all, I had a few years of Spanish in high school, there are many Spanish speakers and Spanish Speaking businesses in my own neighborhood-making it relevant, even now, and with as many Spanish speaking countries as there are the odds are not terrible that our next teaching assignment could wind up being in one of them.

Fifty-five days ago I restarted my Duolingo account.  (I had dabbled in it a little earlier, but this time, as I stated earlier, I’m all about achieving.)  Where my goal before was to practice each day by doing a lesson, my goal this time is to come out of Covid fluent in Spanish.  Boom!  There it is for the world to see! 

In addition to Duolingo I also purchased a lifetime membership to Rosetta StoneI’m not messing around!  Besides, at $179 for a lifetime membership with access to unlimited languages seems like a pretty wise investment in myself.

This is NOT an Either/Or Post.  It is a “why I prefer both” post.

Duolingo is obviously made by people who like video games.  Perhaps the most important feature of the program is that through it’s silly, but effective forms of reinforcement, one feels absolutely compelled to meet one’s daily goal. Here are some examples from my home page:

How many consecutive days have I practiced my Spanish?  How could I forget? I actually get emails reminding me of this streak.

How am I doing this week?  They are only too happy to tell me!

How did that stack up against my friends?  I intentionally left rest of the list off of here, but I can see I’ve almost reached level 10, and I can see where they are too!

How am I doing compared to other people in my league?  Again, Duolingo shows me that too?  Notice the “1D 6H 10M”-In 30 hours and ten minutes everyone in the top ten moves up to the next level.

They understand just how to play me.  I once had a fitbit and had to stop using it temporarily when I caught myself out in the garage at 11:30 pm “sneaking” steps in so my wife wouldn’t know what I was up to.  You see, I just had to get ahead of a friend who was competing on the app with me. You understand. Incidentally, she had to quit when she developed a foot problem trying to stay caught up with me!

Isn’t it amazing that I haven’t even mentioned how the program works?  All this is just the motivation.  As if learning a language isn’t motivation enough!(Read with Sarcasm).  Better to let them explain the process:

Duolingo: The Best Way to Learn a Language (2018)

Now, Rossetta Stone takes a very different approach to learning than Duolingo. Admittedly, I’ve only just begun the Rosetta program, but already it feels like its focus is unique. According to Money Magazine,

“Part of what makes the program so great at this is its teaching philosophy. Listening, reading, writing, speaking — Rosetta tries to combine all the basic elements of language learning into a cohesive, holistic program. Another reason why Rosetta excels in creating an immersive approach to language is its speech recognition technology, which has received praise for its accuracy and high degree of customizability. Learning to speak like native speakers is essential for learners to feel like they are making actual progress in their studies.”

I would very strongly agree with the second part of their assessment especially. It feels like Rosetta is much more about speaking. Pronunciation is a critical part of the program. There are small dials to indicate the degree of how precise a person’s pronunciation was for each word or phrase.

Notice the full green circle above the 6. I nailed it!

In addition, I feel like the pace of Rosetta Stone ensures that there are no gaps in one’s learning. This is not always the case with Duolingo. I find I rely on the discussion thread when I miss a question because, though I’m sure I forget plenty, sometimes it feels like new learning has been added without explanation.

There are many comparisons of the two programs, and others, on youtube. The bottom line for me is that the two programs complement each other in such a way that I feel like I’m getting a great education. With almost two months under my belt I don’t seem to have lost any motivation, and that’s saying something!


Images 1-4 Duolingo, Inc. (11th October, 2018). Spanish. 5900 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 United States of America

Duolingo. “Duolingo: The Best Way to Learn a Language (2018).” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Mar. 2018,

“The Best Language Learning Software for 2020.” Money,

Cambium Learning® Group Company.(1999-2020 ).Rosetta Stone. Spanish. 1621 N. Kent Street, Suite 1200 Arlington, VA 22209