One of the first apps I installed on my new iPad back in June was Duolingo. I had seen a Ted Talk by the founder and wanted to see what the app was like for myself. I started reviewing French and learning German.
Learning German has been a fascinating experience, both for the language itself (compound words? genius!) and for my own meta-learning. There is very little hand-holding. The first time you see a word, it is defined, but after that, you’re generally on your own. My meta-mind has been in overdrive, noticing the patterns of pluralizing (accents, “-en”, and “-e”), trying to deduce verb conjugation rules from individual examples, and lately, trying to figure out the difference between nominative and accusative pronouns.
It makes me wonder if this method would work for those who don’t have a meta structure like grammar (from their native or a learned language) in which to place the pieces of the new language. Or maybe a lack of meta structure would be a positive thing, as it prods the learner to develop an ear for what “sounds right”, mimicking the way that children learn language.