Published on Mar 13, 2023
My daughter - who is a regular recurring character in this blog - recently discovered Duolingo. She's learning French at school, but thought Duolingo would be a more 'fun' way of doing it. And of constantly having access to her phone.
Regardless, she got quite hooked. And I was drafted in more than necessary to provide most of the answers. Mais oui.
And then she started getting the Duolingo nudges. Oh, it would say, you haven't done your Duolingo today. You've made me sad.
Come back! It would say. Come back and learn more. Don't go a day without doing your Duolingo.
Don't close the app - Duolingo will have to kill a kitten.
Suffice to say, I hate their marketing.
And yet, despite their pushiness, they do kind of have a point. Not the kitten-killing, obviously that was made up, but we always need a push to keep on learning, to keep motivating ourselves to learn, because the value of continually learning - whatever it may be - is huge.
For a start, it keeps the mind active. And that implies that it keeps the mind young. There's a good reason your grandparents always had to do the crossword or the Sudoku every day. At a more scientific level, this is about keeping brain cells working.
There is also a mental health element - the idea of completing a course, whether it be on Duolingo or a face-to-face course - is an achievement. A sense of completion and progression.
At a wider level - and I do always find it interesting to see what some of the more progressive African governments are doing - the country of Benin is implementing a root-and-branch review of its education system to facilitate lifelong learning. They've realised that the only way to re-engineer society is to bring formal education and lifelong education together - to give everyone access to skills they need throughout their entire life.
Their entire focus is on creating a society that educates people for the skills they will need from cradle to grave, and it's an ambitious project, but one worth keeping an eye on.
We don't have that in the UK, but it should never be an impediment to encouraging a culture of lifelong learning in ourselves or in our businesses.
A lot of these language apps are free - to a point. So it costs nothing, other than a bit of time, to sit down and learn something that may, one day, be useful.
And even if it's not useful, there's the sense of achievement and the knowledge that your brain has achieved a little workout. There's literally no harm in starting to learn Swedish or Japanese, for instance.
There's no harm in brushing up on your professional skills, even if you're looking at the minutiae of your job role, from learning how to write minutes to becoming a better project manager. Each new thing you learn flexes those brain muscles and gives you that sense of achievement that helps improve mental health.
Lifelong learning. It's the new gym. And you don't need an app telling you it's going to kill a kitten if you don't do it.
Published on Mar 13, 2023 by Gareth Cartman