How stories with subtitles help us improve our language skills

As a kid most of my mischiefs had to be done quietly. Living close to the equator meant that between noon and 15:30 my grandmother was napping. And not in her bed of course but somewhere random. To this day I'm uncomfortable if someone is snoozing in the living room. 

Them pikney this a watch me like me mad
— grandma

What does that little insight have to do with any of this? Well when I'd break something, note "when" not "if", she would take to ranting again how I was able to break stuff just by looking at it. I could break iron she would say. She might have been on to something since years later someone would still call me a "Brise-fer". At first I didn't understand what I'd done and would stare questioningly. It was to be the origin of her famous expression "These kids are looking at me like I'm crazy!" or in proper creole English "Them pikney this a watch me like me mad".

To me, that expression lies at the heart of how we learn as kids. The adults around my sister and I were, to say the least, a far cry from communication experts. So often we'd stare keenly at their actions trying to match it with their comments. And of course us being kids, that bit " I'm crazy" didn't exactly demotivate us. In fact it only helped to drive our point home. After all, don't we refer to someone as crazy when we don't understand their actions?

Were we unique? By no means! Children do this all the time. And what do you do when you encounter a completely new and unfamiliar situation? You observe. Then, cautiously, mimic others to remain within the safe norm.

As any monkey knows, mimicking is at the heart of learning
— wise monk ey

As any monkey knows, mimicking is at the heart of learning. Reading our stories on Duolir, lets you do just that. Use the new language like a native would. Yet you set the pace. No one on the other end is waiting for a response. But how do you know if you understood correctly? That's where Duolir shines. The simple tap shows the sentence in your language.  It simply clarifies what the author is trying to convey. What's more, often it's the author self who will provide this interpretation. 

"What do you say?" we ask a child when she is given ice cream by someone. And if she's struggling we help by over pronouncing: "Thank you ..."

No long explanation as to why and how. No grammar and vocabulary lists. Instead a situation is presented and the appropriate behaviour is taught for it. As an adult learning a new language, that doesn't always fly. You can't run around being rude to people. 

Well you could but someone might will put something in your ice cream.

There's one place however where those mistakes won't have an impact. Stories tickle our imagination. A good book is almost always better than the movie. We get to create worlds in our minds. And by reading in a foreign language completely new worlds can be created.