If you haven’t discovered Duolingo yet, do yourself a favor and go download the app onto your phone. Right now. It’s a hell of a language-learning app — turning the whole experience into a sort-of video game — and it’s totally free. English speakers can learn anything from Spanish to Turkish to Russian. Heck, they’re working on getting a Klingon course started (“Klingon, A Least We’re More Popular Than Latin!”).
Point being, in my mind, Duolingo is the next best thing to the Babel fish! And the benefits are many: studies done on people who speak multiple languages regularly reveal that they tend to score better on standardized tasks, they’re better at multitasking, and they’re able to stave off dementia for longer. Also, they can order food when traveling without sounding like idiots.
I first became a serious Duolingo user in 2014, the summer before I visited Peru. I wanted to learn as much Spanish as I could, so I could interact with the locals in Lima. I didn’t want to automatically assume anyone could speak English. I was going to their country, and so I was going to at least try to speak their language (Quechua not included).
One thing that becomes apparent when you start spending a lot of time with Duolingo is that the app either has a sense of humor or a fragmented personality. A few months after returning from Peru I decided to try my hand at the new Turkish course (because, why not?) and eventually found myself facing sentences like the following: