[vimeo id="38429769" width="620" height="360"] The French language is extremely important to me. My wife is French and we want our children to be bilingual. There are numerous benefits to bilingualism but above all it's a way for our children to carry on the traditions of both our pasts. For a long time I was embarrassed out how bad my French was considering the amount of education in the language I have had and the methods I've tried. I went to the United Nations International School so I started learning French in 1st grade. I had teachers from so many backgrounds, French natives, as well as teachers from Lebanon, Vietnam, and Senegal. I had broad exposure to the language for 11 years before taking another two years of courses at college level when I went to UPENN. My comprehension was very good but I could barely speak it. I always assumed I just didn't have the cognitive faculties necessary to master another language. After college I tried audio tapes, Rossetta Stone, and even one on one tutoring with Berlitz but nothing seemed to stick.
Then I discovered Duolingo and I couldn't be more ecstatic. Duolingo was started by the same person who developed the CAPTCHA, that annoyingly weird jumble of words you see when you sign up for some new web service so they can verify that you are a human. Duolingo is completely free and quite comprehensive. By going through the lessons, little by little you confirm translations into your native language by completing lessons and taking context into account. For instance, "Je mange et je bois" is French for "I east and I drink" and if you were asked to translate that sentence but you didn't know the word for drink, you would probably be able to use context to figure it out and progress. In addition, Duolingo offers translations services for people who need to get documents transcribed in other languages. The app gives you one sentence out of thousands and asks you to translate it, it compares that with dozens of other translations that other users have made of that same sentence to give a confidence level. This enables Duolingo to crowdsource document translations to get them done quicker and cheaper.
The app and website sync up and you can get daily reminders to do a lesson or two whenever you have a chance. I do them on the subway, or whenever I have a few minutes. The lessons are reinforced in several different ways and I've seen unbelievable improvements in my comprehension, speaking, and even my writing abilities.
As someone who struggled with languages for so many years, I cannot recommend Duolingo highly enough to do it justice, give it a try today.