A couple of weeks ago, I picked up Duolingo.
It’s a free language-learning app, and I like learning languages. Unsure of what to expect from it, I knew there would be one thing I could count on, at least: verb conjugation charts, the nightmare of my language-learning adolescence.
I remember spending weeks on those charts back in high-school French and Spanish. “I eat, he eats, she eats, they eat,” we’d drone. “Yo como, él come, ella come, ellos comen.” It was our job to memorize every possible verb conjugation. And only then could we use the verbs in sentences like adults, with a halting pause in the middle to mentally flip back to those cursed conjugation tables.
But Duolingo doesn’t do that. A few weeks into the app, I realized I was already translating verbs: Duolingo simply snuck them into sentences here and there. And although I’d seen nary a single verb-conjugation chart and hadn’t been taught the first thing about how to conjugate verbs, I already understood how to do it. I’d picked up the conjugations and verb endings innately simply through exposure and immersion. Through listening.
That process has made me think a lot about writing dialogue.