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When your true-crime pod teaches you Spanish

Andy Uhler Oct 22, 2020
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People stuck at home during the pandemic are using their time on productive projects, like learning a new language. Fizkes/Getty Images
COVID-19

When your true-crime pod teaches you Spanish

Andy Uhler Oct 22, 2020
Heard on:
People stuck at home during the pandemic are using their time on productive projects, like learning a new language. Fizkes/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

With many parts of the country seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, reinstituting lockdowns in some form or fashion, a lot of people are stuck with time to fill. Many want to use that time to be productive, maybe learn a new language. 

That’s what the folks working for language learning apps are noticing. 

So with growing competition for users, developers are trying new ways to engage folks. Duolingo’s bid for more ears is a bilingual true-crime podcast.

The story is about a bank heist in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2006. 

“We knew that true crime was just such a popular genre,” said Michaela Kron, a spokesperson for Duolingo who worked on the podcast.

“We were trying to think through, really, how do we adapt this unique format that we’ve created for language learning, and adding this true crime element to kind of cross those over,” she said.

Clearly the pandemic presented an opportunity to grow the business. As lockdown orders came into place around the world in March, Kron said Duolingo saw a 100% increase in new users. 

Erik Linthorst has been trying to learn Spanish for about three years now. 

“I’ve spent thousands of dollars on language acquisition, some of which was a complete waste, and some of which was super valuable,” he said.

Linthorst said he used to use Duolingo quite a bit, but ran out of free content a while ago. The app is free, but you can pay for a subscription to unlock more stuff.

He’ll probably check out the Duolingo true crime podcast — as long as he doesn’t have to pay for it — but said there’s so much good free content on the internet already. 

Shawn Loewen, professor of second language acquisition at Michigan State University, said language programs tend to overpromise, whether you’re paying or not, but the long-form narrative might work.

“Any exposure to the target language is good,” he said. “If you understand the larger sense of things because part of it has been told to you in English, and then you hear something in Spanish, you’re more likely to understand that because you’re able to kind of fill in with some of your other background knowledge.”

Especially when it comes to vocabulary and simple phrases. 

Loewen said straddling the line of entertainment and education is something these apps do well, but whether you’ll be ready for that trip to Barcelona in 2022 is another question altogether.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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