A few years ago, I tried Duolingo, the language learning app, as a way to keep up my French. Back then, they did not have a placement test, so it was very boring and repetitive for me to work through exercises as a beginner when I was not a beginner. I deleted it from my phone.

Since toddlerhood, my children have been exposed to French. Cute YouTube videos with children’s songs, talking to them in French as much as humanly possible while also using Romanian (around the house) and English (in public), reading them books in French, following a French curriculum for children complete with audio and video content — you name it, I have done it all. You don’t even want to know how much money we spent on French magazines for children, mailed to our house straight from France. It’s a racket.

The result? My children never became interested in French. We all have dreams, as parents. I imagined myself having conversations with them in three languages. Never happened. When they were preschoolers, they used to build sentences with words from all three languages, which is normal for that stage. However, they never graduated to the next level of mastery.

As I got over the disappointment and accepted the reality that I will never have French-speaking children, I also thought, why not — at least — teach them French for high school credit when the time comes? That time has come and that is what we are doing, but it is still like pulling teeth.

Enter my desire to learn Russian last December. Long story. Growing up in Romania, I turned my back to the east and Russia (you know, the occupiers) and looked west to France and England. In school, I learned French and English. The only vocabulary I knew in Russian came from movies: counting to 10, greetings, come here, beautiful, plus ordinary Russian words which sound like bad words in Romanian. Everybody knew those.

Out of the blue, I was looking for free resources to learn Russian. Duolingo plus YouTube videos came to mind. Guess what? When you are an absolute beginner in a language, that repetition in Duolingo helps and does not hinder. Duh! Spending about two hours a day on the app translated to advancing from the Bronze League to the Diamond League and bringing all the lessons up to level 5 in 100 days.

As they watched me get excited about learning a language on Duolingo, the children wondered if they, too, could learn a language with this app. My daughter wants to learn Romanian better. She already understands everything I say to her, but she wants to read, write, and pronounce it well. My son decided 15 minutes on Duolingo every day would enhance his French studies for high school credit, besides his regular curriculum. He tried Duolingo on his laptop and it was fun, but when he switched to the phone app, he got hooked.

Now, they both advance through their lessons every day, gathering points, losing hearts, gaining hearts, competing against other users, moving from leaderboard to leaderboard, and generally having fun while gathering knowledge in the process. “I don’t want to lose my streak” is their new motto. In this case, technology works better than traditional methods. Have you tried Duolingo? Are you in the diamond league?

Adriana Zoder resides in Gatlinburg. A homeschooling mom of two, Zoder is the author of eight books and blogs at HomeschoolWays.com. You can email her at aezoder@gmail.com.