Hack your commute: Learn a language in 20 minutes

In Marketing Week’s new ‘Hack your commute’ series we explore inspiring and fulfilling ways to spend your journeys to and from work that will expand your mind and broaden your horizons.

For most who grew up in Britain, language learning conjures images of cassette tapes, conjugations and phrases of dubious real-life relevance such as ‘mein Hamster ist gestorben’.

But for those who continue to feel guilt when their international colleagues switch effortlessly to fluent English on a conference call for the benefit of monolingual Brits, there are more modern alternatives.

Duolingo, a free app available on Android, iOS and desktop browsers, offers flexible ways to learn and test yourself at your own speed, meaning that you can adapt your learning to any situation and whatever free time you have.

You can set targets, for example, to practise for anything from five to 20 minutes per day; set email alerts for when you fail to do so; and turn the speaking exercises on or off depending on whether you’re in the privacy of your living room or packed like a sardine on the 07:56 to King’s Cross.

You can also choose the more formal approach of looking up the verb tables of each new word you learn and comparing translations on the discussion forum, or you can fly by the seat of your pants and take the ‘fail fast’ option.

If the practical benefits of having a second dictionary in your head for your next trip abroad aren’t sufficient to convince you, there are also scientific studies extolling the positive cognitive effects of language learning.

A Swedish MRI study has indicated that the process grows specific parts of the brain, while the University of Edinburgh found that it could slow brain ageing and delay the onset of dementia.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here