Being a digital nomad is more than a techie trend — it’s fast becoming a new kind of lifestyle for a new generation. But what exactly is a digital nomad? It has nothing to do with wandering through virtual reality environments or taking gaming consoles on a camping trip. All you need to be a digital nomad is a laptop, a decent internet connection and the willingness to work from anywhere (whether that’s a cabin in the Alps or a beach bungalow in Bali!).
This infographic analyzing the consumer trends of Millennials (people born between 1980-2000) shows that people in their 20s and 30s value access over ownership — which makes a lot of sense for a generation with huge student loans to pay off, little or no savings and an uncertain economic future. For young people, it’s not about working in order to buy stuff but about having access to services that make meaningful experiences possible. The dynamic of consumerism is changing: “to have” and “to buy” are being replaced by “to connect” and “to enjoy.” Do you need a ride across town or even across the country? You don’t need to own a car: Uber or BlablaCar have got you sorted. Need a place to spend the night while traveling? Connect to a community of travelers and hosts with the Couchsurfing app. Want to enjoy a week off in your vacation home… but don’t have a vacation home? Stay in someone else’s through Airbnb.
But what does this have to do with learning languages?
So what actually keeps you tied down these days? A job? A house? A relationship? A bunch of stuff? How much of what you value do you actually access through your phone or computer? These are “liquid times,” to use Zygmunt Bauman’s expression, and our generation doesn’t have the same barriers as the one before. We’re less “tied down” by property, which gives us more options about where to live and work than any previous generation has had.
Cecilia is a perfect example of a digital nomad. She comes from an Italian family in Argentina, studied in Switzerland and today works in Taiwan. Cecilia speaks eight languages, four of them fluently. And, with the help of our app, she is preparing to learn her ninth language. Digital nomads often call several places home, so the services they use must be dynamic as they are. For a nomad, learning a language with an app allows them to learn any time, literally anywhere on the planet. But it’s not just about ease of use and access — it’s also about having habits that fit your flexible lifestyle, for instance ensuring that you fit a little bit of language study into every day.
Ten minutes of language exercises a day might not seem like much, but this kind of practice is what motivated Cecilia to start learning her new language — and it contributed to her fluency in the others.
In the age of digital nomadism, the way to fluency is also changing. According to Miriam Plieninger, Director of Didactics at Babbel, our app not only teaches phrases that are used in everyday life, but gives them in small doses, so users can actually remember what they’ve been taught. Instead of memorizing dozens of grammar rules, the secret is to practice the language using relevant vocabulary. This is especially effective when studying a little bit every day.
For us here at Babbel, Cecilia is an inspiration: to see her success with learning languages is what motivates us to share our teaching principles. The psycholinguist Monique Flecken has a similar opinion about the path to success: “The important thing is to keep learning, do the exercises regularly and always try to practice what has been learned.”