Published on November 1st, 2020

Today is my 227th day learning Swahili on Duolingo. By the time this article goes up, I will be on my 234th day – only 16 days away from my next milestone. I wish I could say that after spending this much time learning a new language on the app, I can speak fluently but that would be a lie. The truth is, after my first 100 days, my learning has plateaued.

I feel like I learned so much in the first 70 days and now, I’m not really learning anything new. Yet, I cannot speak fluently and I’m not sure what the next phase should be. Moving to Nairobi has not helped so far because almost everyone I have encountered speaks English. So, ‘learning by immersion’ – at least a variation of it – isn’t really working out well for me at the moment.

When we first arrived in Nairobi, we forced ourselves to speak Swahili to everyone we met. We’d try to have small conversations with people around us but over time, that got repetitive and boring. It also doesn’t help that our practice pool is small since we’re not interacting with many people due to the pandemic.

If I’m being honest, attaining fluency in Swahili has been more difficult than I anticipated. I was under the impression that it was fairly easy to learn. But listening to Swahili based radio stations and actually listening to people speak has been a rude awakening. Kenya’s Swahili is also full of slangs – sort of like pidgin English, so the struggle has been real.

Learning Swahili – Our Language Experiment

Last month, in an effort to push ourselves to speak faster, Mark and I decided to only communicate in Swahili during weekdays. It was difficult, to say the least, and we gave up after only 1 week. I liked the experiment though so I think we might give it another go. Mark learned to speak French fluently in Benin and this was one of the ways he did it.

Learning Swahili – Why I am Still Learning on Duolingo

Learning Swahili on Duolingo

Well, simply speaking, I love maintaining my streak. I’m aware that I will not attain fluency using Duolingo alone but I’m glad I have something to keep me on my toes. So far, I have learned (but not mastered) 2,112 words on Duolingo. It’s true that they add new words even after you have completed the skill tree. The Swahili course is also being updated periodically which is great. I’m certainly looking forward to having ‘Swahili Stories’ featured soon.

Learning Swahili – Other Things I’m Trying

In my last post about my learning journey, myafrikanah suggested a few tips and resources. One of them was the Mimic Method by Idahosa Ness. I checked out some of his videos on YouTube and a particular one I watched talked about advancing your learning process by memorizing scripted conversations. This was something I started doing earlier but didn’t feel like it was very helpful, so it was great to hear an expert endorse it.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on relearning words, trying out the memorized scripted conversations and getting our language experiment back on track. I am also still using the resources I talked about in the last post to boost my learning process:

I hope I’ll have a better progress report learning Swahili by Day 300!

Tips for learning a new language for travel

Are you also learning a new language? Please share your experience and progress with me in the comment section below. Also, I’m still on the lookout for great Swahili audiobooks. Please send any recommendations you have my way.

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