So today is my 900th consecutive day using Duolingo. Duolingo is a free, online language learning website. It tries to make a game out of learning, so it’s fun and addictive like most other online games, but with an arguably nobler goal than most addictive games online. I actually carried on using it the entire time we were traveling. I didn’t do a lot, but I still maintained my streak. I think some people might have thought traveling the country was good reason to just let it for for a few months, but after doing this for about 2 and a half years regardless of what else was happening, I see the value of streaks generally.
I haven’t done an equal amount of language learning every day, not by a long shot. Days when I was ill or when we were traveling, I may have only achieved between 1-10 points reviewing something simple. When we were on the road, I typically did one Norwegian lesson on my phone, which was 10 points and took about 2-3 minutes. It was nearly always review with the exception of when we spent 3 weeks in North Carolina waiting for Chris’s green card.
Even having my streak setting at just a single point kept me going for the days when I have studied much more thoroughly. It meant that even if there was a whole month when I felt low motivation, the desire to maintain the streak meant I would come back when I felt up for more and I would have a good base to dip back into properly so those days would be more productive than if I’d had a long break. I have not become completely rusty in any of the languages I’ve studied extensively due to the streak. If anything, I hadn’t touched Swedish in months, maybe a year, and last week, I was able to translate from most of the Swedish subtitling of Dothraki in Game of Thrones for Chris as our copy only had Swedish subtitling on the Dothraki. I was really pleased.
I have taken this streak idea on and use it in other areas of life as well now. So far, it has served me as well elsewhere as it has in Duolingo. Chris and I have both been trying to make ourselves go to the gym to get fit and I came up with the idea of a 3 times a week ‘streak’ for that as well. We have indeed been to the gym at least 3 times a week since September of last year. We have a whiteboard on our fridge and tick off the 3 times, so we have a regular visual reminder of how much we still need to do or that we are already fine for the week.
Basically, streaks really work with my psychology and I am grateful to Duolingo for integrating them into my life. It’s nearly always easier to keep doing something than to start doing something if there is any level of motivational difficulty present. The streak concept appears to be one solution to this.